Who do you cater to?
The best dealers in the country have one very important ingredient. They cater to the guy who hasn’t yet made the decision. The entire business is set up for the Just Looker, not the Just Buyer. Most dealers simply staff to the number of bikes they are selling, not the ones they could be selling. Most dealers run events for those already on bikes, not those who could be. Most sit down customers who are ready to look at numbers, not causing that readiness through the sit down process. Most pencil the deal on a price tag, causing the price shopping culture. And hangtags … those damnable suggestions from OEMs …
Staffing — The biggest chronic deficiency in our industry continues to be an understaffed sales floor. Most staff based on the business you are currently getting, not based on how many customers you should be getting per transactional ratios. Most dealers need twice as many staff as they currently have, but they simply cannot stomach the “expense” of adding more employees. When you run understaffed, you can only get to the people who are ready to buy a bike and are most likely your price shoppers. The looker will buy if the emotional connection to powersports and your store is made. That takes time. That takes people. And those customers are the best customers you have. That’s where the margin is. That’s where the repeat business is. And that’s where all the referrals are. In short, by running understaffed, you are cutting out the very people who make your store profitable. Staff for the looker, not the buyer.
Events — I’m all for having events to bring your existing customer base back into the dealership. Let’s give them a reason to come back in and hang out. But what about the other 97 percent of America? What are you doing to drive them into your store? Tell me about the local 5K race packet pickup at your store. Tell me about outsourcing your training room to local charities and/or police services. Tell me about how you have face painting and jumpy tents for kids, therefore driving salivating dads into your stores. Why not? How far do you really think a bikini bike wash is going to get you? (FYI, all above events are actual dealer events run in 2014).
Sales Process — Old school = have salespeople take the deal all the way to commitment, and then involve the manager. New school = Have salespeople focus SOLELY on the relationship, and have another face do any/all negotiations. This allows for salespeople to do what we want them doing most … engaging the customer about something OTHER than the bike. Having the salesperson try to hold margin, present numbers or disclose trade allowances puts the salesperson in a bad spot, which encourages staff turnover. Let’s face it, relationship builders hate negotiating, and closers hate the relationship part. If you want to maximize … specialize. A two-person approach actually fuels employee retention. Have your process set up for the looker, not the buyer.
Pencil Strategy — When the deal is penciled, STOP putting a total price on the first pencil! Talk about CAUSING a guy to become a price shopper. Ninety percent of America finance these toys, so why not make it easy? Deals should be penciled with a payment (or payment options), leaving room for F&I to extend the term to put product into it. $10K for a toy sounds like a lot of money. So does $15K and $20K. But if you can make my escape come true for $200/month and $1K down … I’m IN! Cater to the emotion of the looker, not the logic of the buyer.
Hangtags — If you believe that most of the industry is chronically understaffed, then what do you think happens with price-oriented hangtags on your bikes? That’s right … you educate everyone coming in and they leave. The only people who stay are the ones ready to take you to the woodshed on your negotiating skills. Not having a hangtags forces a conversation, even if it’s a conversation about why you don’t have prices on bikes. Train your staff to overcome that objection and at least there’s a conversation happening. (To be clear — I’m cool with hangtags that list accessory or features on the bike … consider them a babysitter until the sales guy can get there.) SO MANY deals are missed by putting price-oriented hangtags on bikes.
According to the MIC, there are 4,700 dealers where I can go to have someone reactively allow me to buy a motorcycle. There are only a handful of dealers who are set up to proactively cause me to buy one. They have the staff, the events and the process to emotionally get me over the edge. Three percent of the U.S. plays in our powersports space. Are you catering to them, or the 97 percent who could be?
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.