Dealer Consultants

What she really hears

Leslie Prevish Blog 8-13She walks into your store looking a bit shy, but interested. Will you make her feel comfortable, or offend her? Do you realize that some of your comments may be interpreted differently than intended?

Recently, I played “secret shopper” at a dealership, something I’ve done dozens of times in the last 24 years of riding. I told the sales guy I wasn’t a rider, but was interested in learning more. Game on …

He did a pretty good job, but when he said the below three lines (which I’ve heard before), I wondered if he had a clue what was going on in my mind when those words came out of his mouth.

Women riders are SEXY!

He said: I have a personal interest in getting more women to ride motorcycles for two reasons: 1) If you are out there riding, you’ll inspire more women to ride and then they’ll buy more bikes from me 2) Women riders are SEXY!

She hears: Is he looking at me like I’m a piece of meat? And why should I care if he gets more sales from me riding. Ick, I need a shower.

Takeaway: Don’t try to play on the “women riders are sexy” theme, definitely not with a new customer walking in the store for the first time. Just feels dirty. 

Don’t annoy your friends

He said: You can start on this smaller bike, but your friends may get annoyed when they have to stop sooner for gas, or if they need to carry stuff for you, especially for overnight trips. And you may not be able to keep up with them. You should think about starting with this bigger bike.

She hears: Overnight trips?! I’ve never ridden my own bike and can’t even imagine riding on the highway yet. Is a small bike not safe? I don’t want to slow down my friends, but I don’t want to start on a big bike. Maybe motorcycling isn’t for me.

Takeaway: Yes, you’ve seen a woman buy a smaller bike and then upgrade, but she probably needs to experience this for herself. If you take her too far into the future, you may scare her away from your dealership, and the sport.

Engine size matters


He said (when I asked): The difference between the 500cc and 1,200cc engine is that the 1,200cc has a 45-degree V-twin engine with two cylinders and a single 40mm carb. It pumps out 68 ft-lbs of torque, and it’s also rubber mounted.

She hears: V-twin, cylinders, carb? Why do I care about torque or rubber mounts? Do I need to understand these techy terms to ride a motorcycle?

Takeaway: Keep it simple. Talk about benefits. Bigger engine = stronger, helps going up hills or passing vehicles. Rubber mounts = comfortable ride. Some women may want to hear the techy details, but many just want to know it will get them where they’re going … and safely.

If this seems like common sense, is it common practice at your shop? If not, you could be losing sales. Consider hiring your own secret shopper and have her give you, and all your staff, candid feedback.

Caveat: This article is not about women who are part of your “core” customer base already drinking your Kool-Aid, or women who are “motorheads” and love techy stuff. These are women coming into your dealership for the first time, new to your brand and the sport.

A rider for 24 years, Leslie spent 15 years with Harley-Davidson (3 retail, 12 corporate) and created its marketing to women role in 2007. She spearheaded Women Riders Month and a Garage Party Campaign that drove 25,000 women to dealers. After 2 years at Trek Bicycles, Leslie now helps companies sell more to women.



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  1. Hello ,

    I retired from the m/c industry 8 months ago. Now I am a customer. To relate somewhat to your story, I shopped the dealership I was employed by. Here are some issues I had come to realize from a customers view point. First parts dept., If it is not in front of them, they will not look. After a month of trying to get a certain part, I went online, and ordered it myself. From the same source the dealership would have ordered thru. Service was another problem, which again took about a month to resolve, after practically hand guiding the process. Then sales, I called on a Saturday, and was told I needed to leave a message. Seems to me, as competitive as the market is today, someone should take the call. Fortunately I can let the dealer principal know about the short comings. Sometimes, customers just fade away.

  2. You apparently turned on this salesperson’s “machismo” switch. There’s no room for that on the sales floor, with a male or female customer. Overselling a customer in size, price and… sexy-factor?… will just result in them either walking away or, if they fall for it once, not becoming a return customer. On a larger scale, its bad for the whole industry, when people have a bad buying and/or ownership experience because they get scared by their too-big bike, get buried by their too-big payments, or fall terribly short on the… “sexpectations”?… they most likely aren’t going to buy another bike. They’re more likely to take a wash selling this one, making them even more unhappy with the moto-experience, and leaving the industry all together (and sharing the bad experiences with all their other friends).

    Getting a customer to “buy in” to powersports isn’t the job of a sales person working on the floor… The customer has already convinced themselves they are interested in it if they’re walking onto your sales floor asking questions. A good sales person knows this and sees his/her job is to listen, understand, and share product and industry expertise and knowledge to get the customer onto the right bike at the right time for their experience… whether they are a man or a woman. If I were the your salesperson’s manager, this guy would be getting some serious training in the area of customer relations and respect.

  3. A well written article, which rings true for me, 100%. (Great pic, too, Leslie.)
    It’s year three for me (motorcycling at age 50) & I can’t tell you how many times salesmen have tried to talk me into a bigger bike (I currently have the XL1200 Low) and tell me how sexy it is for a girl/woman to ride. To me, that’s not appropriate in the business arena, esp. when I’m preparing to plunk down $$$. Thanks, but now maybe I’ll buy a used one from another site so I don’t have to feel objectified.
    And, actually, I find comments like that intrusive when I’m riding, too. I’ve had total strangers come up to me to tell me how sexy they find a woman who rides her own…& I don’t invite these conversations. I’m more like, “Buddy, who cares what you think? I’m here to ride.”

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