I listened intently as legendary Keith Code led the session. We were about to take our first turns around the corkscrew at Laguna Seca, and he was walking us through the mechanics of the bike. The suspension conversation was obvious in that the further over the bike leans, the less effective the vertical suspension. But then he touched on something I’d experienced my entire riding life, but never understood. If you’re going into a hard right-hander, you need to initiate the turn by steering the handlebars to the left. Kicking the bars to the left causes the bike to “fall” to the right, which initiates the lean angle to pull the bike through the right-hander. “It’s called countersteering. And if you can’t get this concept, we’ll next be chatting about high-siding,” he added.
The notion of steering left to go right is so foreign to those who have never done it. But once you get the feel for it, you do it without question, basically unconsciously.
There is a fundamental concept I teach in every training. I typically hold up my coffee cup and say, “If you want to sell more of these, stop talking about these. In fact, talk about anything OTHER than these.” That comment is frequently met with blank stares, except by those who now execute that concept ... unconsciously. You see, if you work at a motorcycle shop, you don’t sell motorcycles. You don’t sell parts. You don’t sell clothing, and you don’t sell service. You sell escape. It just happens to represent itself in the form of a bike today, a part tomorrow and a new power commander next month.
Stay with me here. Disney doesn’t sell roller coaster rides, or cotton candy, or pictures with Snow White. They sell a fantasy, family vacation ... that also includes roller coasters, cotton candy and Snow White. Take it from my 3-year-old daughter, Abs: She doesn’t want to play with Snow White because the doll is so cool. She wants to play with the doll because the doll sparks her imagination and takes her to live in castles with unicorns and rainbows. That guy doesn’t want the new Ninja because it’s so cool (although it is WAY cool). He wants the bike because of the escape that the bike provides. Maybe he thinks he’s Rossi coming back from a broken leg and about to win the next MotoGP race. Maybe he needs to rip through the turns to burn off the argument that he just had with his wife. Or maybe he simply needs to putt around to clear his head from the ailing family member. It’s not the bike. It’s what the bike allows for. The escape.
Where was I? Countersteering, that’s right. If you go to engage the guy right out of the gate in a conversation about the bike, the horsepower, the dry weight and all the other CRAP that cut-rate salespeople think is important, you lose. He can get that information anywhere, and you are just another guy trying to take his cash. Connect with him on a personal level, though, and you may just be the only one who understands what he’s going through. Loyalty is a result of having an emotional experience somewhere. Not a best price experience, or a product-knowledge based experience ... but rather an EMOTIONAL experience. We are human beings. We crave emotional experiences. That’s why my wife drags me to movies like “Love Actually,” and why I know every line of “Crimson Tide.” We crave emotional engagement in our lives. When a true salesperson (read: artist) taps into the emotional connection that motorcycling brings to one’s life, he can use that to create an image of how exhilarating it would be to have that bike ... any bike! But the conversation isn’t about the bike. It’s about the person. If you want to sell more bikes, stop talking about bikes and start talking to people about themselves. The bike will ultimately sell itself if you can connect (truly connect) with the person. It’s countersteering in its purest fashion.
Countersteer to initiate the sequence. Talk about anything OTHER than the product you are selling. The bartender doesn’t tell you about the mixture of barley to hops in the beer you’re drinking. She asks you where you’re from and what you do for a living, etc., and what happens? Somehow divine intervention takes over and you buy another drink from her. The product sells itself if the escapism is provided, and the person feels like they are connecting with you.
No, I still can’t pick the right line to make it around the track. But the concession-stand girls dig me.
Sam Dantzler is the founder of Sam’s Powersports Garage, a membership website dedicated to best practices and all-staff training. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.