Feb. 9, 2009 – In boom times or tough times, it all comes down to the dealer
February 9, 2009
Filed under Columns
Our industry has a lot of components, and a creative effort on all levels is required in the tough times we now face. But, as always, it all comes down to the dealer. You are the only one on the front line, dealing with the ultimate consumer face to face. Everyone in the industry is riding on how well, or not so well, you take care of the customers we are getting on the showroom.
I have always taken a great deal of pride in calling myself a “dealer advocate” and hence the title of this column. Many in the industry have labeled me as radical, sometimes confrontational and always unfair to suppliers. It has not been hard to take the unequivocal position that brings on all of those labels and the enmity of many, because of who the dealers are, and what they do.
In addition to being the front-line guy who has to make the sale happen, the dealers in our business take on an awesome responsibility that they handle very well. I can’t imagine any dealer I have ever met selling an ill-fitting helmet or inappropriate motorcycle or gear to anyone, regardless of the need to sell, incentive or pressure from a supplier. You promote the riding opportunities as well as the product. You live day-to-day with the customers in a relationship that truly makes our industry unique.
We have hit a point where being a nice guy and providing a comfortable and accommodating place for your customers to come is not enough. In the last column I wrote about pursuing the untapped market and not relying on just the surface business, which has largely gone away. Remember a very short time ago, when everyone had equity in their home, the Dow was at nearly 14,000 and we could get everyone with a pulse financed? When the Department of Commerce said that 28 percent of the public had an interest in what we sell? Well, only 0.5 percent of the public bought a motorcycle or ATV in the boom times. So, obviously there are issues other than the economy that need to be addressed.
So rather than ramble on myself, here are some quotes from dealers who have gone to the next level and what they are doing to make things work in these tough times.
“We had a good sales process going into the year, but recognized that to maintain or increase sales we had to do even more.”
“There is no question that there are less ready buyers out there right now. Many of our customers have issues to deal with that they did not have last year.”
“Rather than hibernate or cut back, we decided to ramp up, work harder and go after business we have missed in the past.”
“We know that there are not less people who want a Harley-Davidson, we just have to reach out to more people, invite them back into the dealership and make it easy for them to buy.”
“We have had to rethink a number of things, including our sales payroll budget. In the current environment it just costs more, since we have to reach more people to get the same number of sales.”
“The alternative is to sell less; we have chosen not to do that.”
“By staying busy and working all of our customer contacts this winter, we will go into spring with a seasoned team focused on providing a quality experience to every showroom visitor.”
“We have forced some business this winter. I know we have really stirred things up, and there will be more ready buyers for us in the spring as a result.”
“In today’s market, there are no easy answers. It has been really hard work.”
“We have found that no matter what their circumstances, everyone we call is glad to talk about a Harley. We have had all positive feedback and it has really been gratifying to help many people make the decision they really wanted to make and have been putting off.”
“My team feels like winners, and they are, but the real winners are the new riders. We have helped more of them have a truly memorable experience. The memory of buying their first Harley will last a lifetime, in the quest for new business, we never forget that.”
Please look me up at the Dealer Expo in Indy. psb
Ed Lemco has been involved with the powersports industry for more than 30 years. Lemco, the former owner of Lemco Management Group, is the founder and executive director of the National Council of Motorcycle Dealer Associations. Lemco currently operates a call center for dealers in St Croix.