Outdoor Retailer Summer Market '09: Selling requires showmanship, says OIA Breakfast speaker

At a Best Buy in Ohio, there's an employee who thinks he's a super hero. No, really. He calls himself Kevin Peggy and "flies" around the store (well, runs actually), swooping in to save customers from one shopping dilemma after another. Kevin's a weird cat, no doubt about that. But outdoor industry folks could learn something from the blue-shirted crusader, said sales expert and street performer Carr Hagerman, who spoke at the OIA Industry Breakfast July 21 during Outdoor Retailer Summer Market.
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At a Best Buy in Ohio, there's an employee who thinks he's a super hero. No, really. He calls himself Kevin Peggy and "flies" around the store (well, runs actually), swooping in to save customers from one shopping dilemma after another.

Kevin's a weird cat, no doubt about that. But outdoor industry folks could learn something from the blue-shirted crusader, said sales expert and street performer Carr Hagerman, who spoke at the OIA Industry Breakfast July 21 during Outdoor Retailer Summer Market. To move product, said Hagerman, salespeople must deal with customers in a lively manner that involves "more than a sales exchange."

Hagerman described his encounter with Peggy a few years back while shopping for a head set, noting how the super hero salesman literally ran over to greet him, and then dashed away, returning with a pile of headsets, which he placed at Hagerman 's feet. After convincing Hagerman to buy the best product, he introduced him to everyone else in the checkout line and said, "Folks, this is Carr. He just bought a head set. Let's give him a round of applause!" After everyone clapped, Peggy informed Hagerman that he needed a soda and proceeded to fetch one for Hagerman and each of his new friends in line.

Hagerman admitted that the behavior was outlandish, but he was impressed that Peggy treated the store as his stage and considered everything in it -- from products to shoppers -- his props to put on an engaging performance that would lead to sales.

"Having great product is part of it, but having people who engage customers is just as important," said Hagerman, who for 30 years worked as a busker and co-wrote "Top Performer, a Bold Approach to Sales and Service."

Before Hagerman took the stage at the breakfast, his warm-up act was world champion juggler Mick Lunzer, who performed yo-yo tricks and even took requests from the crowd members who shouted, "Walk the dog!" and "Around the world!" Things got even livelier when Lunzer got a member of the crowd to join him in doing tricks with a diabolo, or giant yo-yo. There were great oohs and ahhs as they launched a diabolo 20 feet high, nearly taking out a chandelier.

"Did you notice how there was more energy when someone else was on the stage?" Lunzer said to the crowd, explaining that the key to engaging people is to raise the energy level. Any person can do this using his or her particular skill set, said Lunzer, adding, "My skill set is juggling, but it's just a delivery system to engage the audience."

Following Lunzer's performance, Hagerman took over and spoke about how there is always more energy to work with, and that business people should use their energy to engage people in more meaningful ways. He said this was even more important in a recession, and then equated the restrictive economy with the environment street performers face each day. During his days as a busker, Hagerman frequently worked with no props and utilized crowd members and their belongings to entertain people. In the end, the amount of money placed in his hat was determined not so much by his skills, but by his ability to connect with the crowd.

Hagerman related the story of violin virtuoso Joshua Bell, who sat in a Washington, D.C., metro station and over the course of 45 minutes played six Bach pieces. In that time, only six people stopped to listen, and he collected only $32. "This was because Bell was all about the violin," said Hagerman, adding that if you engage people you can "play a hack song and you'll fill the hat."

Hagerman ended his presentation by emphasizing that businesses must not only interact with customers on a more personal level, but also find unique ways to present themselves. "How do you make a brand stand out?" he asked. "You have to look at pioneers in art -- humans who did something notable." Jackson Pollock, said Hagerman, changed the way people view art by placing his canvas on the floor.

"The distance from being remarkable is going from the easel to the floor," said Hagerman.

Or, in the case of Kevin Peggy, it was a shift from salesperson to super hero.

--Marcus Woolf

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