Perhaps some of you haven’t heard the expression, “separating the wheat from chaff.” Essentially, it means separating something that has worth from something that doesn’t have worth. In this example the grain itself has worth, while the husk that protects the grain has less or no worth.
I use this old expression because I think it’s important that you as a business owner or general manager understand that you need to step back, look at the big picture of your dealership and realize what and whom you have that has worth versus what and who you have that doesn’t have worth. The answers in that comparison will tell you why you are… or why you aren’t successful.
It is no revelation that our industry continues to deal with the affects and aftermath of a major recession from almost 8 years ago, not to mention an economy that many feel hasn’t fully rebounded back to full health. While some areas of North America have enjoyed some local growth and improvement, others have not. An excellent example are those communities whose economy is based on the oil industry. Business continues to be a struggle for many.
So how does a powersports dealership survive, let alone prosper and be profitable during these challenging times? Part of the answer involves your customers being able to separate the wheat from the chaff and that means separating your dealership from your competition. Powersports customers and enthusiasts need to see and experience your worth as compared to the worth or lack of worth from your competition. Give them a reason to do business with you.
To a consumer, your worth is determined by their experience visiting your dealership and the value you provide them in doing business with you. That worth I just described determines if they come back and what they tell their friends, family and fellow enthusiasts. Remember that most consumers make their purchasing decisions based on emotional, not rational thought. Talk about a game changer for the future of your dealership.
Value doesn’t just mean the lowest prices. Over the last 30 years, I haven’t seen many if any powersports dealerships survive on having the lowest price. I do however, recall repossessing a few when I worked in the floorplan financing industry who thought being the cheapest was a good idea. Being the cheapest isn’t a road you want to travel on and doesn’t allow you to take care of your customers.
Value also pertains to satisfaction from a positive experience. The perception of good value means a person is happy with their shopping experience and their needs were taken care of. When I visit a Wal-Mart or Target to buy laundry detergent, my value lies in the lowest price only. When I visit a men’s wear store to buy a suit, my value lies in the personal attention required to make the right purchase. When someone walks into your dealership to spend up to $10,000.00 or more on a motorcycle or side-by-side, what type of value do you think they are looking for?
We all know of competitive dealers who sell product for very small margins and it’s easy to get caught up in doing the same thing because you have too much inventory, the bills are piling up or sales are slow. I consider this the beginning of a death spiral that becomes increasingly difficult to get out of. Why? It will soon become apparent that low margin selling will not help you pay your bills; Will not allow you to pay the wages required to have quality staff on site and just as important, you can’t afford to look after customers who have issues with their purchase. See any value there for the customer?
Customers that have a solid, positive customer experience will separate you from your competition. I say this because a solid, positive customer experience is not common. Do you enjoy getting put through to voicemail when contacting a dealership? How about walking into a dealership where there is dust on the units, the showroom appearance hasn’t changed for months, staff is more interested in who they are chatting with on their cell phone than a customer on the floor. Ever see dirty bathroom or that the place needs a coat of paint?
Our customers pay our bills and provide the money for our paychecks. Without them, we’re out of business so let’s give them a reason to make a purchase, to come back again and to tell their friends why they visit your dealership. There are many people, myself included that don’t mind paying more when we are taken care of. Price is only important in the absence of value.
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.