H&F Biz show '05: Education offerings prove popular

The quality and quantity of education and seminars were beefed up on two mornings at the 2005 Health & Fitness Business Expo in response to both manufacturer and retailer requests, resulting in not only a new level of quality but also large participation and compliments from attendees.

The quality and quantity of education and seminars were beefed up on two mornings at the 2005 Health & Fitness Business Expo in response to both manufacturer and retailer requests, resulting in not only a new level of quality but also large participation and compliments from attendees.

On the first morning of the show in Denver, sales training guru Harry Friedman himself gave his entertaining and enlightening schpiel to nearly 300 attendees, followed by the GearTrends® Fitness Forum and no-holds-barred panel discussion with about 225 sitting in. On Saturday morning, former Nike marketing exec Kate Bednarski talked about how to reach women to more than 100 eager listeners.

In case you missed them or missed the show in general, here is a short summary of both the Friedman and Bednarski talks. Look for a presentation of the GearTrends® Forum in coming weeks as SNEWS® continues the best and most detailed show coverage -- you won't find more complete or more accurate reports anywhere else. We'll cover categories separately, including cardiovascular and strength equipment, accessories, yoga/Pilates, and other news and entertaining bits heard around the floor.

Getting Your Business in Shape to Succeed
Harry Friedman, The Friedman Group

Sponsored by Vision Fitness, sales guru Harry Friedman shared the gospel on sales the first morning of the show, making quite a few retailers in the jam-packed room believers. Friedman made it plain to attendees he's not an authority on fitness, but there was no doubt on the veracity of his faith as he conveyed sales techniques that could get cash registers ringing.

Friedman dove right into the 90-minute presentation saying retail has changed and competition is everywhere for specialty dealers. Big retail names, like the Gap and Banana Republic, are moving out of the malls in the 21st century and into high-street locations, eating up retail space once occupied exclusively by specialty retailers. He emphasized that retail is a merchandise-driven business and most retailers leave 30 percent additional revenue on the table because of a lack of investment, interest or knowledge of a professional sales organization.

To engineer growth and generate sales, he suggested:
>> building a sales culture internally, led by a key executive position who not only knows how to sell one-on-one, but also lives for it,
>> setting up a sales academy where you outline non-negotiable sales tactics and foster a high level of performance out of everyone,
>> opening a store with two people to generate a competitive spirit and challenge each other,
>> hiring support staff to handle the transaction details so salespeople can move on to the next sale, rather than get mired in the mundane details of working the register.

Friedman said the sale has two parts:
1. The first is the ability to open, or greet the customer, and lead them into a demo of the product.
2. The second half is closing the sale. He said most salespeople assume they blow it on the closing, but the reverse is actually true. Salespeople have a tendency to "run over" a customer when they hear an objection on price, he added. A price objection can be based on one of two things: budget or value, and the salesperson needs to identify which it is by asking value versus budget questions. Just saying "it's worth it" is worthless.

Friedman also spurred the audience to think of add-on sales in a new light. In Friedman's estimation, when you sell a treadmill, a heart-rate monitor or a floor mat isn't an add-on, it's part of the primary sale. Friedman said to think big: An add-on could be a home gym or an elliptical.

What Women Want
Kate Bednarski, asterixGROUP

Despite late parties, dinners and meetings, the number of people who showed up for the 8:30 a.m. session on the last day of the show gave the feeling that maybe people were catching on that marketing to women is important -- and that it's maybe a little different than selling men … and perhaps more important.

That is exactly the message delivered by Bednarski to the attentive, albeit bleary-eyed, crowd made up of retailers as well as quite a few vendors.

"The economic power of women is emerging as one of the biggest business stories of this decade," Bednarski said. "Despite their economic and purchasing power, they are too often ignored. They are even more often sold incorrectly."

Using examples from her successful run building Nike's women's division, Bednarski effectively brought home the point that selling to women takes a little bit more finesse, patience and emotional connection than selling to men.

"Women are emotional and purchase differently than men and need to be approached as such," she said. "Retailers and vendors need to keep in mind that women are emotive buyers, are very time sensitive, relationship oriented and have an eye for details."

But, even though they are emotional buyers, Bednarski cautioned those in attendance to still know their stuff.

"Women will research a product and know about it before purchasing. In fact, 47 percent regularly do research on the web," she said. "So when they come into your stores, your associates need to know their product and be patient because they will have to answer a lot of questions. Selling to women is a longer process than to a man."

That long-selling process starts long before a women walks into the front door of your store. Actually, Bednarski said it might start before they leave their front door.

"It starts with the website and then moves into the store. You have to appeal to a women's emotions and aesthetic nature from the beginning," said Bednarski. "In the store you need to tone down the environment with attractive colors, real plants, add lifestyle graphics. You'd also be smart to create inviting merchandising areas and mock rooms. Also, add private areas where your associates can sit with the customer and discuss goals and needs as women may be more comfortable that way."

In the end though, it comes down to the total package in turning a female shopper into a customer and a female customer into a disciple.

"You have to give consistent, high-quality personal service; give choices, invest in an informative and emotional website and don't waste time," said Bednarski. "But perhaps most importantly is to train your staff to sell the right way to women and their longer selling process with truthful and honest information. If you do all of this, you'll get women to be loyal and spread the word -- and word-of-mouth advertising is the most powerful form of marketing among women."

SNEWS® View:
Both sessions may not have been earth-shattering thinking, but who doesn't need a reminder of great tips and knowledge that can prod the imagination. Friedman's exuberance in his presentation lets attendees feel motivated again and really want to get out there and sell. Bednarski presents information that seems sorta no-brainer -- child-care, mock living rooms to see what equipment will look like, softer colors, etc. -- but most aren't doing this, so it's time to get on it. Some 60 percent to 80 percent of fitness purchases are made or influenced by women. Get them on your side. These sessions combined into a powerful double-whammy for attendees.


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