I’ll admit it, I’ve been around for a while. Many years have been spent with floorplan finance companies, managing a territory for an OEM and running a few powersports dealerships. All those varied experiences have allowed me to visit hundreds of different dealerships and one of the things that sticks in my mind during those visits was the intense loyalty many dealers had towards a particular brand they represented in their dealership.
While that concept shouldn’t be too surprising at a single line dealership, I was intrigued with this way of thinking at multi line dealerships. I couldn’t grasp or understand why a dealer and their staff would gravitate towards a particular product line. I often wondered if the staff and sometimes the owner, worked for the manufacturer or the dealership. I viewed this as a red flag.
I understand that the majority of our industry is made up of passionate enthusiasts. I believe we need that in order to be successful and look after our customers, but one of the very few drawbacks of that passionate enthusiasm, is allegiance to a particular brand. That allegiance should be reserved for your business first. What you sell comes second.
What does that mean? It means that as an owner, general or sales manager, it shouldn’t matter what color of motorcycle or ATV that your customer is interested in, what matters is that your customer actually leaves your store after purchasing any of those motorcycles or ATV’s on your showroom floor.
There are all sorts of implications that arise when the brand focus is on a particular supplier instead of the actual dealership itself:
- Inventory turns suffer because other manufacturer product lines aren’t moving. Lower inventory turns is a profit killer.
- Interest expense goes up because other product lines sit on the floor longer. Interest rates go up higher if that product is there too long.
- Inventory from other product lines become non-current which makes them harder to sell and when they do, at much lower margins… if any.
- The potential of losing customers who are loyal to product lines not focused on or preferred by biased staff.
- The potential of OEM’s setting up more dealers or in some cases, losing a franchise because you aren’t providing adequate market share. This can reduce door swings at your dealership.
Just as the franchised product you represent is a brand, so is your dealership. As a powersports business; who you are, what you do, why and how you do it is just as important, if not more important than what you’re actually selling. Your customers are buying from you, not the manufacturer. Your customers deserve the best you can offer them, not the best your favorite manufacturer offers them.
Your brand should be to provide a strong, positive customer experience. Your brand should make your customers want to come back to your store to get parts and service for the particular product line they bought at your store based on the features and benefits they learned from your staff.
Your brand loyalty is to your business and your employer. That’s where you get your paycheck from and that’s where you go to work every day. The success and future of your business and employer is your success and future. By taking care of your customers and helping them purchase what they think is best for them as opposed to what you think is best for them based on your preference, will go a long way in building and strengthening your brand as a dealership.
If you’ve been involved in a multi-line dealership for any considerable length of time, can you ever think of a time when one manufacturer stood out as number one consistently? I know I can’t and I’ve been in this industry for over 30 years. Everyone has their turn at the top but do you know what does stay consistent? Your dealership and employer. That’s why your loyalty belongs there.
All of your OEM suppliers produce top quality product and they all have their own features and benefits. Learn those features and benefits for all the lines you carry and let your customers decide what is best for them. Your personal preference doesn’t matter, your customers personal preference does matter because you want their business.
Please make sure your staff is fully educated with all the brands you carry. Get your DSM’s into your store for some product knowledge seminars and make sure your staff doesn’t always push towards a particular product line. Your OEM’s will thank you. Your customers will appreciate that higher level of service and your financial statement will look a lot better.
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.