By John Stanley Peter Thomson of Garson Farm has a policy of cooking beetroot every morning, prior to opening the farm shop. The aroma is the equivalent of the aroma of bread in a supermarket. Aroma is the most memorable of the senses and something we should consider when developing a farm shop. Some of the odours on the farm may also be memorable; the smells of the farm can hit the nose and create a variety of farm reflections in the consumerï¿½s mind. Keep it Positive Positive aromas have such a vivid impact on the consumer; cook your beetroot and create a memorable experience. I have clients who have scented flower arrangements in their farm shop to create the same effect. Herbs may also be used to create a positive aroma. In the retail world many businesses are looking at introducing artificial, man-made aromas. In the farm shop you have natures and should therefore maximise the potential. Sell the Story Consumers love stories; train your team in storytelling. Let consumers know that you understand the origins of celery, its health benefits and unique ways of cooking it. Keep your signage simple, but ensure your team are great storytellers. Pete Luckett, Peteï¿½ Frootique in Nova Scotia, convinced me of the value of storytelling. He and his team are master storytellers and, as a result, his store has one of the highest average sales per customers that I am aware of. Cooking Heroes Our industry today is led by the cooking heroes. Jamie Oliver, Delia Smith and a host of other television cooking personalities. Food has become fashionable and cooking books have become hot sellers. Get involved in this cooking experience. If garden centers can expand their business with gardening classes, why canï¿½t farm shops do the same with cooking classes? Lifestyle, a client of mine in South Africa, has a highly successful garden center and produce retail outlet. Five years ago they opened a Garden and Cooking school. This started with two classes a week. The enterprise is now a profit center in its own right. It has a fully equipped cooking classroom and they run two workshops a day, seven days a week. You may not be able to achieve the same impact, but small demonstrations and cooking classes can enhance the customersï¿½ experience, get them involved and they cannot help but buy. But Where do you Start? Start with the team. Are you confident that all your team are fully equipped to sell the products you sell? Product knowledge sessions, should be weekly (they are at Peteï¿½s Frootqiue) These sessions should include the following:- Name of product Season it is in store Origins of the product Health benefits How to prepare it How to cook it, with at least three alternatives Associated stories Take three products a week and ensure all your team are involved. Get them to taste the produce. I recently worked with a farm retailer who had figs on the shelf. These figs were not selling and their sell by date was coming up rapidly. When I enquired of the staff, I was told they did not sell. Something that puzzled me, as it is one of my favourite fruits. When I quizzed the team about the taste they all squirmed, when I asked who had tasted one, nobody had. I donï¿½t mind them squirming, but how can you dislike something before you have tasted it. More important, how can you sell something before you have experienced it? Make it Fun Rather than one person organising the product knowledge session, share the responsibility out amongst the team. Give one product to each team member and let them do the research and prepare the presentation. The reason for this is that you will build the team, give individuals confidence and start to empower your team to make decisions. The benefits are far greater than the product knowledge itself. Plus, do make your product knowledge sessions fun, it makes learning so much easier. Once you have developed product knowledge sessions, then encourage your team to introduce tasting sessions with your customers. One of the easiest ways to sell is to allow customers to taste the freshly picked new season fruit. Who can resist the first strawberries of the year? 60% of decisions may be made with the eyes, but the real point of difference is when you include all your customersï¿½ senses. Coffee shops around the world have discovered the value of including all the senses. Itï¿½s time for you to boil those beetroots!