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Outdoor cooking | Selling tips | Orca Industries
January 2016

Selling more...

outdoor cooking products

Duncan Pattenden, owner of Orca Industries in Claremont, Cape Town, was nominated as a top salesman by Simon Larsen of Ram Mountaineering, local distributor of Jetboil. “While many may acknowledge Duncan as one of the country’s foremost experts in scuba diving, he is equally at home on land — and spends considerable time exploring our county’s wild places on foot, off road bike and 4x4,” says Larsen. “When speaking to Duncan it quickly becomes clear that he has tried and tested the gear that he sells — and because his experience is so broad, he knows what works best in a particular environment.”

YYour initial introduction to your customer is very important to sale success, says Duncan Pattenden from Orca Industries in Claremont, Cape Town.

A salesman should always smile and be polite with customers entering his store. You should greet the customer like you want him to be there, because otherwise it will be just as if he is walking into a shop where everybody ignores him: he will feel as if he is gate-crashing a private party, explains Pattenden. This is etiquette that should be instilled from the owner to the salesperson and it shouldn’t matter who is on the floor: when a customer walks in the door he should be greeted, he says. At his store there is always someone watching the front door to ensure that within a few seconds of someone walking in, he will be greeted.

Your appearance and product knowledge has to be on point when a customer approaches you. Because the whole outdoor industry is more of a family, if people get the wrong impression, or the impression that you don’t really know what you are talking about, they will just tell you they are browsing and five minutes later they are out the door, he warns.

A salesman should aim to keep his customers in the store beyond these critical few minutes — which can determine the outcome of a sale — by exercising good listening skills, he says. Let the customer know you are listening to him by finding out exactly where he is going, if he has an expedition lined up, and match the products you stock to his needs. This is where you need to be on the top of your game in terms of product knowledge.

Orca Industries offer after sale servicing as an add-on on a number of the products they sell, which has contributed to his own product knowledge and enables him to give customers informative answers to questions that often pop up, says Pattenden.

People want to know how a product works and that there is a reliable backup option, should anything go wrong. If a salesman can’t give them information regarding warranties, serviceability, etc. customers will not easily purchase the products. In a situation where a customer wants to know what could possibly go wrong with a product, Pattenden knows he is able to help them overcome any reservations by dismantling it completely and explaining what each piece does, what can cause damage to it, and how to put it back together again. Customers are usually quite impressed with how easily they can use and service their own products.

Pattenden often takes his entire staff on camping or trekking trips so that they can get to know the products and feel how they work, which helps everyone increase their existing knowledge of the products. He also welcomes any training or workshops from suppliers, because he believes that no one can know everything and it is always nice to improve his own and his staff’s knowledge whenever possible.

He believes honesty is the best policy. Being honest with customers can make or break a sale, says Pattenden. Some salesmen can sell well from an academic point of view and bamboozle customers into believing the product is right for them, only to realise when they use it that it is not at all the right product for them. He is not like that. Even if being honest means he has to lose a sale, he chooses to inform the customer properly, because in the future they will remember his advice and may return to purchase a product when it suits their needs or pocket.

A salesman has to remember is it is not just a matter of dumping dead stock on a customer. “He needs to feel that you have his best interest at heart and if he feels that you are genuine and honest you generally tend to keep him as a repeat customer,” he advises. Low staff turnaround is another important aspect that he feels has helped his store. His staff have been around so long that they build up a relationship with repeat customers, by remembering their faces and often their names as well, which usually makes the customers feel more welcome in the store.

More about Duncan Pattenden

Duncan Pattenden, who owns Orca Industries in Claremont, Cape Town, has spent the bulk of his adult life working in the retail industry. After completing school and his compulsory military service with the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), he joined sport and outdoor retailer Varsity Sports Adventure Centre in 1983 as a junior salesman of outdoor equipment.

After Varsity Sports Adventure Centre closed in 1993, he and Simon Larsen opened the Orca Industries store in the Claremont Medical Centre.

This has “become something of an institution in the diving scene in Cape Town,” says Larsen. “In all the years since inception, the outdoor store has consistently offered a well thought out range of quality outdoor equipment and has been staffed by well-informed sales people who take a very personal interest in their customers,” he says.

Many of the Varsity Sports staff moved with Pattenden to the new store, which specialises in climbing, diving and hiking. Since then, Larsen has gone into distribution and is one of the owners of Ram Mountaineering, and Orca Industries relocated to its own premises in Claremont, with Pattenden still at the helm.

Pattenden is not only a good salesman, but has also achieved many sport and outdoor related feats. During his school and SANDF days he played hockey, which led to him securing his position at Varsity Sports Adventure Centre. He has also completed most of the diving instructor certificates and is a qualified PADI, CMAS, and NAUI dive instructor. He uses this knowledge in his store everyday as a salesman, as well as at the Orca Diving Academy, which he runs from the same premises.

In addition to this, Pattenden also enjoys hiking and touring parts of Africa on his motorbike, and has had many experiences with a number of outdoor cooking products. “I come from a camping family and have fond memories of my father cooking crayfish on the beach using his Cadac cooker top and gigantic kreef pot. In true South African style, cooking outdoors was instilled in me from an early age,” he says.

Pattenden has been in the outdoor industry longer than anyone he knows and combines his technical abilities with real outdoor experiences to offer really insightful advice to his customers, says Larsen. He recently completed a more than 10 000km dirt bike trip from Cape Town to Malawi (and back), which included time in Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Tips for selling outdoor cooking products

When selling outdoor cooking products, determining the customer’s needs and reason for buying a product is important to the success of a sale, says Duncan Pattenden from Orca Industries in Claremont, Cape Town.

If a customer’s primary objective is buying a basic gas stove, which is sold everywhere and generally have standard fittings, do not to lecture him, as he might get offended and feel that you are talking down to him.

If, however, he wants something more technical and is unsure about his choice, ask him about his concerns about going ahead with the purchase. Often it is just that the customer is afraid of hurting himself or is scared of using a product he has no idea how to work with, which can be remedied by showing him how to use the product correctly.

A show-and-tell approach can be very important if a customer buys a stove from your store, because otherwise he will very likely worry about how he is actually going to start it. The best thing to do in such a case would be to take him outside for a demonstration and show him how easy it is, advises Pattenden.

He demonstrates products he sells and even tells customers to take it home and return it should they not be happy with it. But generally he finds that customers don’t return the products they have bought, because they have been given the proper advice.

Although you don’t need a competency course to run certain stoves, salesmen should warn customers that they could burn themselves if they don’t have the know-how to work with them.

Without being blunt, find out what is your customer’s budget and work out his price point in terms of the products you have to offer.

Although he tries to avoid selling cheaper ranges to customers where possible, it is a good thing to have a budget option for customers who just can’t afford to buy anything else, says Pattenden.

Use product features to your advantage by advising how customers will benefit from a certain pot, pan, kettle, etc. says Pattenden. Many customers compare pricey items with similar looking products from general retailers and the salesman should be able to explain the more subtle differences, for example insulated collapsible handles that make it easier to hold the pot, holes in the lid that prevent the pot from boiling over, etc.

There are a number of stoves on the market, but some are designed to be more suitable for one activity than another.

When weight is not critical — like a braai at home, camping with a vehicle or caravanning — a gas cooker that works with low pressure gas would be suitable, says Pattenden. Most people are already familiar with these type of products from home use and it is easy for anyone to manage.

Smaller multi-fuel stoves, on the other hand, are trickier and more of a one man operation. They have to be used by someone who is familiar with that type of cooking instrument.

If your customer will be cycling, motor biking, hiking, etc. — activities where weight becomes an issue — advise him to look at products using alternative fuel and smaller gas canisters.

For one person on a hike a 110g gas canister should ideally do, whereas a four man hike will require something a bit bigger. The salesman should advise his customers to avoid basic small gas stoves when hiking in cold weather and altitude, which will make them very inefficient, he says.

When cooking for larger groups of four or five people, or if your customer plans to cook a number of dishes, recommend that he takes more than one cooker top on the trip.

Integrated canister stoves are ideal for customers looking to save space and weight as everything packs into the pot, making it light and compact.

Stoves with a piezo auto ignition could be useful for non-smokers who may not always carry a lighter to start their stove.

If your customer likes to keep his options open, combination gas and liquid fuel stoves offer the option to cook with either benzene or gas.

Advise customers to purchase anodised cooking products, which are more durable and last longer than non-anodised products due to their protective coating.

When boiling water for tea or coffee, advise customers to measure the amount of liquid they need by filling their cup with it and then throwing it in the pot to boil, which will ensure that they are not wasting unnecessary gas, fuel or hot water.

Remind customers when working with gas to always first light their match/starter and then to turn the gas on, to avoid any gas pockets from forming. They should also always work in a well-ventilated area. Make customers aware of gas’ garlic odour, which can help them identify if they have a leak.

Don’t over tighten taps on a gas tank as it could shorten their lifespan. Assure customers that they do not need to worry as taps are balanced in the manufacturing stage and have special sealing to help prevent leaks.

When it comes to recommending items like cutlery and plates for the minimalist traveller, lightweight options like polycarbonate knives and forks are more suited to his needs than stainless steel.

For the more luxurious outdoor enthusiast there are a number of nice-to-haves like plastic pepper mills, wine glasses, egg lifts, etc., but BPA-free varieties are better than other plastic options which are known to be toxic, adds Pattenden.

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