It’s the start of a new year which means its show season. National motorcycle shows are rolling across the continent while RV and Marine shows are just getting started and regional sports & leisure shows will be starting in the next 60-90 days. The show season is important because it’s not only an opportunity to showcase new models, but an indicator of what can be expected for the upcoming year, plus it’s a great opportunity to move non-current inventory. You and your dealership have to be prepared and ready to make the most of these shows.
I can speak from experience as a district manager for a major OEM that not all dealers and their staff are ready to engage and close sales at these shows. Over the years, I have repeatedly witnessed some dealership staff not being able to explain features and benefits of new models, not sure of all the retail programs available, unsure of what carry over stock the store has and what they can actually sell that product for. Lack of preparation and strategy can and will sabotage the start of your retail season, so now is the best time to start preparing for how you plan on working the shows you are participating in.
Getting prepared and ready for these shows comes in two stages. The first stage involves the management of the dealership. You are the leader and provide the direction, so it all starts with you determining what your goals are for these shows, how you will achieve them and then sharing that direction with your staff. Some issues to consider:
- Have your salespeople had any training on new models?
- Have you reviewed your inventory and created a hit list for sales staff to focus on during the show?
- Have you reconciled your lowest acceptable prices for product on that hit list?
- Have you considered salesperson incentives to help that hit list retail at the show?
- Do you have F&I staff or a broker available to take credit apps at the show?
- Have you set sales goals for your staff?
- Have you scheduled social media updates leading up to and during the show?
The second stage involves sharing your direction and strategy with your staff just before each show. Everyone has to be on the same page. When your staff understands what you want to do and how you want to do it, they can then buy into it. That’s when you have a team. A few things to consider during this stage:
- Schedule a meeting with show staff during a time when there are no distractions or interruptions, so you can share your vision and plan for the show.
- Be clear and open about the objectives and goals for the team during the show. Your staff needs to understand what is expected of them and how this is to be achieved.
- Invite feedback. This interaction allows your staff to feel like they are contributing and part of the team. You also might hear a great idea.
- If no DSM is available to train staff on new models, assign new models to each salesperson, and they can research and then give a brief presentation to the sales team before the show.
- Review all retail programs available from your suppliers.
Your team should now be ready to have a successful show. In closing, I would like to offer a few suggestions in managing the show itself, based on my experiences:
- Your staff should stand out from the public. Everyone should be wearing an OEM pit or polo shirt that includes your dealership's name and logo. If co-op funds are available, ask your DSM to approve co-op funding to pay for the shirts. I was always happy to do it.
- Meet with your staff half an hour before the show opens to review the hit list, retail programs and any incentives you are offering staff for achieving goals or targets. Get them excited!
- Do not give your staff binders or books listing inventory and prices. They get lost or misplaced and can fall into the wrong hands. A two-page sheet (at most) of inventory noting year, model, color, price and stock number (which should actually be your bottom line acceptable price) can easily fit into a shirt or pants pocket.
- Do not use staff who are not salespeople. Nothing turns a customer off more when booth staff can’t answer questions about features, pricing or availability.
I wish you all the very best for a great show season.
Bruce Marcia is the director of Bruce Marcia and Associates, a retail management consulting firm that specializes in assisting and supporting dealerships in the RV/marine and powersports industries. As a recognized troubleshooter with over 30 years of experience in inventory finance, dealership general management and as a district manager for a major OEM, Bruce has had the unique opportunity to understand and learn from all three important fields that make these industries function.