How to Sell: Internal Frame Packs

Most of your customers will be familiar with the advantages of an internal frame pack: better fit, flexible frame, lighter weight, adjustable load transfer, and better load distribution. However, unless they already own an internal frame pack, they will likely be daunted by the complexity of the fit process. So the best place to start with a first-time internal frame pack customer is to take the fear away from the fit process. Do not show your customers the pack hangtag -- often times they look like a VCR operating instruction manual. Extol the benefits of the result of a well fit pack, not the multiple stages necessary to achieve it. Sell comfort, not complexity.
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This Training Center article is written by the editors of SNEWS®

Most of your customers will be familiar with the advantages of an internal frame pack: better fit, flexible frame, lighter weight, adjustable load transfer, and better load distribution. However, unless they already own an internal frame pack, they will likely be daunted by the complexity of the fit process. So the best place to start with a first-time internal frame pack customer is to take the fear away from the fit process. Do not show your customers the pack hangtag -- often times they look like a VCR operating instruction manual. Extol the benefits of the result of a well fit pack, not the multiple stages necessary to achieve it. Sell comfort, not complexity.

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Beging the sales presentation with your qualifying uestions:

  • Where will the pack be used? Desert, Mountain, Trail, Expedition, Trekking, Travel
  • What is the duration of trips planned? This influences pack size choices If the pack is only for 1 or 2 night overnight trips, anywhere from 3,000 to 4,000 cubic inches is about right. Up to three days, you will want to lean toward selecting 4,000 to 5,000 cubic inches. Up to a week, think in terms of 5,000 to 6,000 cubes. And for multi-day winter and expedition use, think mondo-pack, 6,000 cubes and more. Always advise the customer to not to overbuy capacity because the axiom holds true for all – if they have the space, they will fill it, no matter how short the trip. Less is more.
  • Who will be on the trips? If the person is a parent, the pack might need to be larger to accomodate the need to carry extra gear for the family for example.
  • Will there always be a buddy on the trips? How will loads be shared?
  • Who will use the pack? Will there be multiple users of the same pack? If packs will be shared, this indicates the need for an easily-adjustable suspension system.
  • When will the pack be used? Summer and winter? If summer, ventilation becomes more important. If winter, there is less need for highly padded suspensions.
  • What specific features are necessary or important? Expandability; hauling larger loads, ski carrier, shovel pocket, ice tool loops, hydration system compatible or built in, travel (you'll need to sell a travel pack or a duffel to protect the straps), detachable daypack, weight (for fast packing)...

Choose two packs to show:

Too many choices confuse customers. Choose two models that best meet the customer’s answers. Remove the two packs off the wall and lay them together side by side. Compare and contrast the two models slowly, working down the pack features, top to bottom, outside to harness side. Look at your customer, not the pack.

Forget the jargon. Carefully pointing out the reticulated foam back panel, laminated 500 denier cross weave expanded Kevlar fabric, and the 7075 aluminum alloy stave suspension will not sell a pack. Connecting the feature benefits of each pack with what your customer has identified as his or her need or expectation in step one above will sell a pack. Talk specifically about what you understand your customer’s needs to be. You may not have it right. Check to make sure. Ask them, “Is this feature what you were looking for?”

Don’t talk about the fitting process. Discount the apparent complexity of the harness adjustments. A car salesman does not explain how a computerized suspension system auto-adjusts itself to variable road or driving conditions – they just tell you the result: comfort. Selling internal frame packs is the same as selling cars, but packs use less gas.

Close the sale before you fit:

It is common practice to spend significant time on the fit of a pack as part of the sales pitch – a kind of assumptive close to the selling process. It is also too common for this process to distract the customer from making a buying decision. Does a men's store custom fit a suit before the purchase? Or a women's dress store? No. Basic fitting and trying on a pack to give a customer an idea of sizing and basic differences between pack choices is fine. Fine-tuning a fit is and should be an assumed part of the sale, only after the sale is made.

There simply is no good reason to demonstrate the fine points of an adjustable fit unless you have to because the bottom line is, every pack feels good in a store. Move the customer to the point of making a decision. “Do you like this pack or that one? Would you like to fit it now since you have decided on this red one?” The pack fitting process should be treated as an after-sale customizing event, not a proof of comfort during a sales presentation.

Of course some customers will want the “comfort” proof before deciding to buy, but not many.

The Fitting Process:

  1. Throughout the fitting process, always be very aware of touching a customer. Some people get uncomfortable quickly, particularly if gender differences are involved. Announce what you are going to do before you do it. Grapping a sternum strap to adjust it may result in some unexpected and stinging results.
  2. Find the right size. Most internal frame packs have multiple frame and waist belt size options. Measure the back from the top of the hips to the base of the neck and choose the correct frame size based on manufacturer recommendations. Measure the hips at the top of the hipbone and choose the correct waist belt size.
  3. Load the pack with at least 20 pounds, put the pack on the customer, and get in front of a full-length mirror. You are now going to slowly clinic the customer on how to adjust his or her new pack and how to check for fit errors.

Common fitting errors include:

  1. Shoulder strap load lifters pulled too tight: they should be at 45 degrees to the shoulder strap if the pack staves are above the shoulder height.
  2. Waist belt stabilizers pulled too tight: there should be no gaps anywhere on the waist belt. Waist belt worn too low: the belt should cup the hipbones.
  3. Sternum straps too high: they should be about 2 inches below the collarbones and 2 inches above the actual sternum.
  4. Shoulder straps worn too loose: the pack should be snug and high on the back.

Lastly, demonstrate each of these errors in the mirror so the customer may become the master of his or her new pack. Once done, demonstrate how to properly load the pack.

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