Smoke and mirrors are no longer the magic potion

It’s no secret that the motorcycle industry is far behind automobiles, even though I hope some pieces of the auto industry never make it into powersports (plaid suits, mainly). There are some things that they (The Car Guys — TCG) do incredibly well, and others that make me want to go and take a bath. Throwing my keys on to the roof, presenting payments that are double what the math tells you and chasing me out into the parking lot are just a few examples of what makes customers want to scream.

Management by fear and embarrassment is a major cause of these tactics: “Put the coffee down. Coffee is for closers. …” is the first thing that comes to my mind. But before we tar and feather the entire industry, I suggest that there is one thing done by the automotive industry that we never forget: They do not underestimate the value of a door swing.

Sure, TCGs have hiring/training issues like the rest of us. The salesperson can (and often does) say the wrong thing. But … he says something. It’s worth repeating … he says something. It is rare that you’ll wander on to a car lot and not have someone say something to you.
Anyone stop to wonder why the car industry hasn’t changed in the last 30 years? Sure, there are bigger buildings, new closing styles and simpler F&I menus, but at its core, it hasn’t changed. They “up” every customer. They find a way to get the deal on paper. They close everyone they can. They put everyone on a traffic log. And follow-up is mandatory. A car dealership running without a traffic log, or a CRM for follow-up, is unheard of.

If you are going to survive (profitably) in 2013, you’ve got to be willing to keep score and get in front of the buying curve with the Big 3: Staffing, Mandated Behaviors and Follow Up.

Keep Score: As I write this, I just watched my Florida State University Seminoles win their bowl game, and the University of Florida Gators get destroyed in theirs. With two more bowl games to go, the banter with my college football friends is a great joy to me. Can you imagine if they didn’t keep score? Can you imagine if we didn’t track a QB’s statistics, with completions, interceptions, TDs and such? What makes Peyton Manning worth $80 million, while other QBs get the league minimum? Their statistics!

Are you running “Peyton Manning” type employees or a “league minimum” crew? How can you possibly answer that if you don’t keep score? You have to have traffic logs, track LIPT and average tickets, have service writers who know (off the top of their heads) their P&A per R/O and such. You must keep score.

Staffing: Car dealerships are notorious for staffing at a ratio that allows for three customer engagements per day per salesperson. Three. Not five, or 10. Three. Nordstrom is known for their exceptional customer service, and has 800 employees for every 100,000-square foot flagship store. So if your shop is 10,000 square feet, I’m assuming you have 80 employees too, right? Step one in valuing every door swing is having an employee available to engage that customer.

Mandated behaviors: Why is wearing a shirt to work a mandated behavior, but logging that next customer on the traffic log isn’t? We know through CRM data that every 22 names on the traffic log nets one incremental sale. So what do you make on a motorcycle? $500? $1,500? $2,500? Take that number and divide by 22, and that’s how much a log is worth ($23, $68, and $114, respectively). Not logging a customer is procedural theft and has the same net effect on the dealership as reaching in the till and grabbing a handful of cash. Step two in valuing every door swing is to get the customer’s information to be able to follow up.

Follow Up: We know it takes 20 touches to sell a motorcycle. Pretty arrogant of us to assume the customer is on Touch 19 when he walks in, don’t you think? The only thing driving him back is your outbound contact with him. You must mandate the follow up, tracking the calls/emails made and tracking the appointments made versus kept and ultimately the sales from the follow up. Step three in valuing every door swing is constantly staying in touch with the customer.

You may have a great closer on our floor. You may have excellent F&I menus, and incredible parts department for add-ons and upsells. Your technicians may be the best in the industry. None of it matters if you can’t do the fundamental task of engaging every customer who walks through your door and staying in touch with them through the process. The rest is just smoke and mirrors.

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


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