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All aboard! Ship-shape dealer meeting an ideal mix

By Liz Keener

First annual event offers education, relaxation

Dealers can always benefit from more education to help them improve their businesses, and dealers also need time to relax. Knowing this, Bintelli combined those two needs into one event — a dealer meeting aboard a cruise to the Bahamas. 

The event marked Bintelli’s first-ever dealer meeting. Bintelli, a scooter, go-kart and electric vehicle company, wanted to base its meeting near its Charleston, South Carolina, headquarters. After researching hotel room prices in the area, the company discovered it would be less expensive to take dealers on a five-day cruise than it would be to put them up at a Charleston-area resort hotel for three nights. Plus, the cruise added time for dealers to relax. 

The six-day dealer meeting began in Charleston, where Bintelli staff welcomed 75-80 dealers to the company’s headquarters. There, dealers were able to see where Bintelli’s citEcar electric vehicles are manufactured, view the company’s inventory of scooters and go-karts, and tour the 15,000-square-foot parts warehouse. After that, they were treated to two hours of demos aboard all of Bintelli’s vehicles. 

Bintelli’s first-ever dealer meeting was held on a Carnival cruise from Charleston, South Carolina, to the Bahamas.

After lunch, the 60 dealers who signed up for the cruise were bussed to the Carnival Ecstasy ship. Once aboard, Bintelli hosted a one-hour private party with drinks, hors d’oeuvres and socializing for the dealers. 

Between departure and arrival back in Charleston, the cruise included two days at sea, a day in Nassau, Bahamas, and one in Half Moon Cay, Bahamas. 

Education

Though dealers participated in a variety of fun activities, including swimming, sunbathing, swimming with dolphins, horseback riding and more, the goal of the trip was to help dealers become more profitable and improve their customer service. 

Each day Bintelli ran three hours of seminars, and 100 percent of the dealers on board attended each class offered.

“The rest of the day the dealers had the entire day to do whatever they wanted to do — they could get off the boat; they could go have some fun; they could relax by the pool,” reported Justin Jackrel, president of Bintelli. “It was really cool to see the dealers were actually grouping up and hanging out with each other and helping each other out. We have exclusive territories, so everyone on the boat had an exclusive territory, so the guy in Gainesville, Florida, wasn’t worried about the guy in Iowa City, Iowa, taking his ideas and using them against him. Everyone was really able to free flow ideas. It was awesome to see all the dealers interacting with each other and helping each other bring the needle up.”

John Phillips of Rock Road Scooters in St. Louis, Missouri, entertained fellow dealers with his harmonica while aboard the Bintelli dealer meeting cruise.

Kiersten Geloneck of Jaguar Power Sports in Jacksonville, Florida, said she appreciated networking with other dealers. “I was surprised with how open everyone was and how willing everyone — from Bintelli staff to the other dealers — was to answer any and all questions I had and to hear how the other dealers are doing things in their areas. It was great interaction with everyone. I really enjoyed later in the week when after the sessions dealers were sticking around to chit chat with one another. I mean, we were on a cruise for goodness sakes — people could have left to enjoy the cruise, but instead they stuck around to chit chat and discuss with other dealers and Bintelli staff,” she said. 

Bintelli employees taught each of the seminars, with dealers adding to the discussions as well. Jackrel relied on his 15 years of experience in retail, as well as his team’s experience, when developing the speaker lineup. Dealers were also asked in advance what topics they would’ve liked to have learned about, and Bintelli accommodated those requests as well. 

Sessions delved into the programs for Bintelli’s new products, Bintelli’s new websites, the new dealer portal, new vehicle features, marketing, employee management, how to hire, how to fire, how to retain employees, upselling, the future of the powersports industry and more. 

“I can guarantee that the amount of money any one of these dealers can make in five days at their dealership in January or February would be turned over five or 10 times with the information that we’re giving at these summits. We’re not just saying ‘Try harder,’ or ‘Make an Instagram page.’ We’re giving actionable marketing strategies and actionable things that I did in my dealership that brought us a 900-scooter order,” Jackrel said.

The feedback the Bintelli staff received during the event and after the cruise concluded was all positive, they reported. 

“I tell all of my dealers I care about two things: more profitable dealerships and happier customers. And when I asked at the end of the seminars, ‘Who here is leaving with something actionable that they can go home and apply to either give better customer service or improve the profitability of their dealership,’ 100 percent of the hands went up,” said Jackson Haskell, dealer support specialist at Bintelli. 

Kyle Jay, of Connecticut Scooter Pros in Vernon, Connecticut, said, “I came back from the trip with my gears turning at 100 mph and tons of new ideas.”

The dealer attendees on the ship ranged in age from 21 to about 70, and those of all ages reported taking him new information. 

“We learned more about how to grow and expand our dealership in one week than we learned doing it ourselves in nine years,” said Tim Bluhm of Ecofun Motorsports in Forest Lake, Minnesota. “Mingling with other dealers, you can learn what they do and how you can apply it to your business model.”

Kelly’s Auto Sales of Iowa City, Iowa, was named the 2016 Bintelli Dealer of the Year. From left: Sheila Kelly, Timothy Kelly, Tyler Kelly and Hannah Heitshusen.

New models

Before the group left for the Bahamas, Bintelli revealed two new product lines at the Charleston headquarters. A line of electric ATVs for kids was introduced to compete with gas youth ATVs, which are popular during the holidays. 

“The electric ATVs, they’re quiet, so you don’t have to worry about pissing off your neighbors. They’re clean, so there’s no gas; there’s no oil; there’s no fumes, so when your kids are on it, you’re not having to worry about any of that stuff. And there’s no burn risk. There’s no hot motor, so they just hop on, hop off,” Jackrel said. “The dealers were blown away. They said that the quality was amazing.”

He said Bintelli sold out of its first shipment of youth ATVs, as dealers reported that they plan on carrying the units year-round. 

Bintelli also introduced an electric bicycle line. The lineup includes the value-priced E1, a folding F1, the B1 beach cruiser and the M1 fat tire electric bike. 

“They start at $999 retail, go up to $1,599 retail, and they have 100 percent dealer margin. So if a dealer is spending, let’s say $550 on a bicycle, they’re making $550 in profit, which is just absolutely unheard of in the powersports industry,” Jackrel said. Dealers can also floorplan the units through Northpoint Commercial Finance or Wells Fargo CDF.  

The dealers in attendance at the meeting bought all of the available electric bicycle inventory and pre-ordered units that are on a freighter on the way to Charleston. For some, the orders have already been lucrative. 

“Every dealer that was at the Summit had never sold an electric bicycle before. Four of the dealers that received their electric bicycles in March sold one within an hour of it arriving to their shop,” Jackrel said. 

Bintelli employees Justin Jackrel and Jeff Hawkins introduce the new electric bicycle lineup to dealers Caina de Avila, Walter Ottaviano and Monica Castro.

Bintelli gave dealer-meeting attendees the first shot at the electric ATV and bicycle inventory. The company then announced that it plans to market online sales with the two new lineups, while passing the normal dealer profit margin onto the dealers. 

“For all of our dealers that stock at least four units, we are doing a 100 percent online pass-through. So if someone goes to our website, and for example, they’re in Sarasota, and they buy an electric bicycle, we are giving 100 percent of that dealer profit to the dealer. So we will call up the dealer and say, ‘Great news, we just got an order on our website in your territory; we’re sending you a check for $600,’” Jackrel said. “We want to do it because we want to be able to throw a ton of advertising dollars into this and be able to capture some of that online market as well. Because there are a lot of people who just go online and with two clicks, they’ve got an electric bike coming to their house. We want to be able to capture that, but then also have the dealers 100 percent fully supported.”

2018 Plans

Bintelli staff was impressed with the participation in this year’s dealer meeting, as the cruise wasn’t announced until October, giving dealers only four months to plan. 

Despite that, Bintelli filled its room block, and the company attracted a range of dealers, from one who had just signed on with the company to those who have been Bintelli dealers since the company launched. 

“It was an awesome mix,” Haskell said. “We had a lot of the heavy hitters. We also had a couple guys that we just starting out. We had some of our Flagship program participants on there. It was just a real smattering of people across the industry.”

All but two of the dealers on board had their entire trip paid for by Bintelli. The company ran an incentive that gave dealers who ordered 80 or more units in the previous year a free cruise for two. Dealers who ordered 40-80 scooters received a free cruise for one, and Bintelli chipped in a few hundred dollars toward the cruise for dealers who hadn’t ordered at least 40 units. However, Bintelli also assured the trip was affordable for those dealers who did need to pay, as the cruise and all meals ran only $500 per person. 

“One-hundred percent of the dealers that came said they are already planning to come next year, and we had a couple of the dealers say that they got so much value out of it that they’re actually closing their entire store, and they’re going to pay to have all of their staff come because they want all of their staff to get the knowledge that we gave to just the owners,” Jackrel reported.

Dealers, including Vilma Deyto-Phillips of Rock Road Scooters (front), Kiersten Geloneck of Jaguar Power Sports and Collin Austin of New Scooters 4 Less, attended three hours of seminars each day of the cruise.

Bintelli was so committed to the event that its entire office was closed during the cruise. The company brought its 14-member staff (and a plus one for each) on the cruise, so they could meet the dealers and learn more about them. 

“It was cool to see our team rally around the whole idea and make sure that the dealers had the best time possible,” Jackrel said. 

Though Bintelli asked dealers to take six days off, which required some to close their dealerships, the Bintelli staff found that the education gained by dealers during the trip made up for the time away from their stores. 

“A lot of these guys represented a significant time they took off from work, so if they thought they would’ve been more profitable at home, we absolutely would’ve heard about that,” Haskell said, adding that even Tim Kelly, owner of 2016 Dealer of the Year Kelly’s Auto Center in Iowa City, Iowa, said he left with actionable, profitable advice. 

Because the first dealer meeting went so well, Bintelli has already scheduled its second. The dealers will again be taking a cruise to the Bahamas. The 2018 event is scheduled for Jan. 26-Feb. 1, so it can be completed before tax return season begins. The 2019 meeting promises to be on land, to accommodate dealers who don’t like cruises.  

“Hopefully we’ll have an even bigger turnout next year,” Jackrel said. “Obviously for the first year, this was an amazing turnout, but I would love to see us double and triple the size because it’s not only a free cruise, but it’s so much learning experience where everyone, 100 percent, said that they were bringing value home to their dealership, where they’re going to be able to make some money and help their customers.”

Bintelli again plans to offer an incentive plan, so dealers can earn a free cruise for 2018. The company will be inviting all of its dealers to the event — this year’s event was limited to scooter dealers only — and will tailor a point system to include orders of Bintelli and Adly scooters, citEcar electric vehicles, go-karts electric youth ATVs and electric bicycles. 

 

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