When I started selling recycled (or used) golf balls, I asked myself, aside from providing good value and quality service, what else would make a customer choose my service? The answer I came up with was superior product knowledge.
Try asking a sports department sales person at one of the big retailers to explain the difference between the various golf balls they sell and it is very possible you’ll get a blank stare. In depth knowledge about individual brands of golf balls is my biggest advantage over big retail outlets. Interestingly, this specific knowledge is very easy to obtain and can bring a buyer’s mind to ease when knowing that he or she is using a ball designed most appropriately for them.
Sales clerks at big retail outlets typically have general knowledge about the various sporting goods they sell, but often lack detailed knowledge simply because they are selling too many items. In addition to golf balls, they may be selling golf bags, clubs, shoes, etc. It is hard to have in depth knowledge about each of these products.
Golf ball sellers, like myself, focus on one item and can make a "scientific" study of the merchandise. We know exactly which ball to use on each hole and how hard to hit the ball in certain situations. I regularly speak to golfers, making it easy to understand their needs; this enables me to make educated suggestions on what ball they should use. Clients will always comeback to someone who gives them helpful advice. They will always want to deal with a retailer who knows what he’s selling.
Specific knowledge as opposed to general knowledge is crucial when it comes time to answer the tough questions posed by a golfer regarding what ball he or she should use. Customers benefit by learning what ball suits them—with the right ball their golf game can improve dramatically. Having specific knowledge is also important when helping stubborn golfers change the ball they are using to better their golf game. There are many instances where golfers are hooked on one ball and will never change brands, even if the ball they are using doesn’t benefit them.
Many golfers also do not realize that there are golf balls made for slow swing speeds, and some for fast swing speeds. Many older men will use the expensive, fast swing golf balls because they think that the higher price might mean they are better performing balls. What good is it to have high speed golf balls if they do not benefit you at all? I explain to older customers that there are nice alternatives for slower swing speed golfers. In suggesting to potential buyers that they may want to consider another ball, it is important to understand their golf game and everything about the balls you are suggesting. Feedback comes when golfers tell me about their experiences using the new balls. The feedback also adds to my knowledge base.
Product knowledge is not difficult to obtain. Excellent sources for golf ball information can be found in trade journals or from expert opinions. One of the best sources of information for golf balls is Consumer Reports. They rate golf balls from every angle including distance from the tee, distance with woods or irons, spin and how they play on the greens. Their ratings tell golfers a great deal about a particular golf ball, and also rate the ball on value. Consumer Reports has their “sleeper picks,” which are golf balls that may be unpopular, but an excellent value for your money. Many people pick up information from the Golf Channel as well. They often review golf ball tests, and how golf balls are constructed. Also, corporate websites will break a golf ball down to the core and often rate their golf balls against the competition. You have to take their information with a grain of salt though because they may often have reason for bias.
Product knowledge is a key element to success any business. Customers want to buy from someone educated in their field. They want to have all their questions answered. Product knowledge is a big part of what has allowed my business to succeed. As any golfer will tell you, being able to help improve a person’s golf game by recommending the appropriate ball is something to be taken seriously. If you can help your customers, even a little bit, they will remember you and reward you with sales.
Evan Ruccolo is a tenth grade student at Saint John’s Preparatory School in Danvers, Massachusetts, USA. He is the proprietor of the Boston Area Golf Group.