Racquets: Making a Play Date
When it comes to selling racquets, the frame’s specs can take you only so far. The customer then has to get it out on the court.
You need your customers to buy new racquets. And racquet manufacturers need you to sell their frames. But in a world where consumers are more and more tight-fisted with their dollars, you need to make sure you’re getting the right racquets into your customers’ hands.
While price generally is a factor with recreational players, if they find a frame that truly works for them, they’ll most likely shell out. But if the frame they purchase ends up not working for their game, they’ll have wasted their money. If you can’t match up your customer with a frame that works, that player may well decide to take his business elsewhere, and the one thing you can’t afford to lose in today’s economy is a customer — any customer.
So, bottom line, you need to do everything you can to ensure your customer picks the frame that will best help their game. How do you do that? Well, one good way to start is to use our Racquet Selection Map to help you narrow down exactly what your customer is looking for.
Next, though, you need to keep in mind three things when it comes to helping your customer find the right frame: Demo, demo, demo.
Bruce Levine, the general manager of Courtside Racquet Club in Lebanon, N.J., who coordinates racquet playtesting for Tennis magazine and Tennis.com, says a player considering a new frame needs to hit with it on court — multiple times.
“Players need to test-drive the racquet to make sure it will help their game and feel right to them,” Levine says. Encourage your customers to playtest the racquet on every part of their game, hitting every type of shot they can. One way to help convince players to demo a frame is to apply demo fees to the purchase price once your customer decides on what to buy.
Levine recommends that you encourage customers and players to demo racquets in four stages:
- First, “They should go out and smack the ball around with their friends, which will give them a general feel for how the racquet plays,” he says. “But it most likely won’t be a true feeling for the frame, because you’ll be hitting in a pretty comfortable situation.”
- Second, Levine says, “Tell players to take a clinic or private lesson with the racquet to see how it performs in a situation in which they’re uncomfortable.” A clinic or lesson will mean working on new and different skills, or trying to improve on skills the player already has.
- Third, your customer should use the racquet to play an opponent that he typically beats. “If your player doesn’t win, he may give you the racquet back and determine it’s not the best for his game,” Levine says. “But if the player has an easy time of things, well, that’s good, and sort of what you should have expected to happen, because your customer usually beats the other player anyway.”
- Fourth, “Your customer should play against someone he is evenly matched with or who gives him a very difficult time on the court.” If there is a clear, positive difference in your customer’s game, then that might be the right racquet for him or her.
“When a customer thinks he’s found the right racquet for them, he should go out and play with it once more, just to make sure,” Levine says. “After all, it doesn’t do your business any good to sell people on the wrong piece of equipment for them. Ensuring that they have the right racquet for their games makes you a more credible tennis retailer, and helps to bring you repeat business.”
What Else to Consider?
Become as knowledgeable as possible on racquets and technologies, Levine says. Take every opportunity to go over the details provided by racquet manufacturers, and to question your sales reps about their products. And make sure you get your staff in on the education, too. Also, know the three main types of racquets:
- Power, or “game-improvement” frames: Generally lighter, stiffer and powerful, with large head sizes. They appeal to players with shorter swings.
- Control, or “player’s,” frames: Generally heavier in weight, more flexible, with a smaller head size. These appeal to better players.
- “Tweener” frames: Blending power and control, these frames appeal to intermediate to advanced players looking for more maneuverability.
And don’t forget the importance of strings — especially because strings mean high margins and repeat business. “Don’t sell a customer a fancy string if they don’t need it,” Levine says. “Sell them the closest string to gut they can afford and that fits their style and their level of play.”