Oct. 13, 2008 – Being a ‘good dealer’ is not enough in today’s tough market

Motorcycle dealers are good people who want to do a good job for everyone they are connected to. I have never been in a room where the discussion was about beating the public, staff or OEM. Virtually every dealer I have ever known takes what he does seriously and truly endeavors to be a “good dealer.” Yet the sad reality is, in spite of the intentions of the dealer, many showroom visitors to motorcycle dealerships do not have a better experience than a visit to an automobile dealership.
There are not less people wanting a motorcycle. Our customers today have more issues and concerns that do make the exercise of selling more challenging. There are less “ready” buyers out there, but there are still lots of people “just looking.” Do more to sell the benefits, fun and lifestyle and learn how to deal with price after the buyer has goosebumps. Price is never the reason someone buys a motorcycle. Price can be the reason someone buys from a given dealer, but it is never the primary motivation, particularly when “just looking.” The damn things cost a lot of money, no matter what deal you got.
You will never be able to do all the things you need to do unless you have enough people on the sales team. So how many are enough? You need one person in the sales department for every employee in the service department. You are driven to staff the service department; the market dictates what is needed. You will have to drive staffing in sales. The most profitable thing you can do when times get tough is have too many sales people.
With too many sales people you can make every visitor feel welcome. With too many sales people you have time to do the follow up that is required when you need to do business with those who were “just looking.” With too many sales people you have the resources to push lots of bikes out front by the street everyday to make your dealership look inviting and clearly open for business. With too many sales people you need to have a “next level” structure that provides the support and direction.
A lot of people would love an opportunity to host people visiting your dealership. They can be quickly trained to give everyone a good experience and sell the fun and lifestyle.
At a different time and place we had a real bargain in payroll percentage in the sales department. It costs more when you have to wring the towel a little more. Once you have the right number in place, there is a whole new way of structuring and controlling the showroom.
It is not just the dealers in our industry that need to be more sales-oriented. I find it amazing that Harley-Davidson goes to great lengths to establish and monitor the number of personnel in the service department, but does not offer even guidelines for the sales department. I can support the benefit of a 1×1 ratio and do believe it is the primary reason all of our dealerships outperform the market place.
If you have not already done so, get a copy of “Next Level” sent to you at no charge. Just e-mail my daughter Laura at Get a copy and read it a couple of times. If you are not a Harley dealer, do not dismiss it as not applicable to you. Many metric dealers have implemented “Next Level” with great results.
The challenge now is that it does come down to this: To prosper in the current market, you have to go beyond being a “good dealer” and go to the next level. You have to still be good, take care of your customers, motivate and direct your staff. And, over and above all the things good dealers do, increase the sales intensity.
You do not have to accept the current economic downturn as a given, unless you choose to hibernate. I never said times weren’t tough, but hey, if you were a wimp, you would never have had the guts to be a motorcycle dealer. The opportunity to make money has never been better provided you just have to take it to the next level.
Plan to come to Indy a day early for the annual meeting of the National Council of Motorcycle Dealer Associations and the program being put on by the Expo promoters. I will be making a complete presentation on “Next Level” and will be around for the entire show to answer any individual questions. No charge if you are a member of your state dealer association or promise to become one.
Cheers, Ed. psb
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.

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