Jan. 21, 2008 – Dealers’ real challenge: Staying focused on the front door

It seems like half the people I meet and talk to have become market analysts, quick to cite some expert source with an instant answer for why they are selling less. “My district manager said” or the chamber or the Wall Street Journal … I’m really weary of information that truly, at the end of the day, has no bearing on whether the last customer bought a motorcycle from you.
For a lot of reasons, the retail motorcycle business is more challenging than it has been in the past. The real challenge is to stay focused on the front door. The only real analysis needed is did you do everything you could to give that last customer a good experience, and did you make it easy for him/her to buy?
It is bad enough when the analysis is quoted by dealer principals, but stinking thinking invariably seems to filter down to the managers, sales and counter people and pretty soon everyone has a reason why business is not what it should be.
So, I am not going to add myself to the list of people offering an assessment of the market place. It is what it is and nothing I can write here is going to change it.
It is much more productive and profitable to offer an analysis of just what it takes to be profitable in the real world you all live in. When things are not good, the old adage of “misery loves company” seems to prevail. You do not have to look very far to get a negative assessment. It is far more profitable to look a little farther and get a report on what is working.
There are dealers in every market I am aware of who had a good 2007 and are upbeat about 2008. For whatever reason, people in our industry have always been quick to mock failure and resent success. There really is no magic or miracle required. A strong and focused sales process makes you much less dependent on customer-driven business.
So, for an analysis of a day in your life: (based on the crystal ball I’m looking in)?10:30 a.m. on the day you are reading this column, a hard-core price shopper is going to come into your dealership. The salesperson will not have to be on his/her toes because Mr. Tough Buyer is going to seek them out.
Mr. Tough Buyer will be focused and prepared. He will know exactly what he wants and will have a copy of any ad run in the last year in your hemisphere. He will tell you what offers he has received and will most likely tell you what he wants to pay.
The salesperson will get rattled, run to the sales manager to explain that this guy is really different, and that you are going to have to cut him a deal. Perhaps the salesperson will follow established procedure and bring a written offer on a specific bike.
What will happen is the sales manager will get involved, and perhaps ultimately the general manager or the dealer principal. Hey, it’s slow this time of year, so all hands on deck, what do we have to do to make a sale? We have a “buyer” here who is demanding our attention. So, we will wheel and deal, make our best efforts and hopefully eke out a little profit on the transaction.
While all this was going on, we ignored the nice folks who were “just looking.” If we had exerted as much effort on Mr. & Mrs. Good Buyer, we would have a lot less need for market analysis.
Make it great in 2008
By the time you read this, you should have your sales team in place. Hopefully you have joined the new millennium and have an automated tracking process in place for your sales department. There is nothing in my trusty crystal ball to indicate that there will be more people looking for a motorcycle in your market next year. What is very clear is we have learned how to adjust to the market as it is. Hopefully you have saved all of the Powersports Business publications from 2007. Do yourself a favor and read my columns again. If you feel you have a better plan to capture more business, by all means do it.
What you cannot afford to do, since you are the one paying the bills, is spend very much time digesting market analysis and lamenting what used to be.
I’ll be seeing ya
I’ll be attending the Harley-Davidson Winter Dealer Meeting in San Antonio Jan. 19—22, the Canadian National Dealer Meeting in Ontario Jan. 30, and the North and South Carolina Dealer Association in Charlotte Feb. 9.
Cheers, Ed.

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. psb

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