Use the 15/15 rule for initial customer greeting

No, I’m not going to talk about “Season’s greetings …” I want to discuss the terrible state of greetings in most businesses today — in particular, our powersports dealerships.

As a part of my job for one of our OE clients, I was to assess the state of the sales department of some of their dealers. Then I was tasked with providing training to increase the effectiveness of their sales processes and improve their customer satisfaction. The goal was to set the stage for creating a “customer for life” culture within the dealership — and to get the entire staff focused on this.

Since the employees did not know me, I would try to arrive at the dealership the day before the engagement was to begin. I wanted to know what things looked like from the customer’s perspective. It was not unusual to walk in and wander around without ever being greeted. In one case, I clocked 42 minutes wandering around a very nice dealership without one person ever speaking to me! Unbelievable, perhaps, but true.

On the occasions when I was greeted, it was often the dreaded “Can I help you?” which I blew off with the standard, “No thanks, just looking …” The salesperson would then disappear for the rest of my visit.

On rare occasions, someone actually greeted me promptly and tried to establish a relationship. On RARE occasions, that is. The really sad part is this seems to be happening less often than in the past. Are we not training our people any more, or are we just hiring the wrong folks to work in our stores? Have we forgotten the basic rules of sales and customer satisfaction? The greeting is where it all starts.

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” There is a reason for clichés — they are generally true. This one certainly is. If I were looking to purchase a new bike, or ATV, or snowmobile, I would be far more likely to do so from a dealer who actually greeted me promptly and properly, established a relationship and probed me for my wants and needs.

As you know, we believe in total store sales and customer service training. Everyone in a dealership who might come in contact with a customer needs to know some basic steps:

1. When and how to properly greet a customer.

This would include a written policy for how quickly the customer is greeted. The 15/15 rule is popular: Every customer must be greeted within 15 feet or 15 seconds of entering the store.

Some dealers add a policy for greeting any customer that passes by you in the store as well. This helps reinforce a “family” atmosphere and shows your staff cares. Basic word tracks should be included in your policy. For example: “Welcome to Bob’s, what brought you to our store today?”

Greeting policies should also carry over to the phone. A basic script should be stuck on every phone. For example: “Thanks for calling Bob’s Motorcycle Store; this is Fred in parts; how may we help you today?”

2. Try to build a relationship.


Another part of this is finding common ground so you can build rapport with the customer. Start with something unrelated to sales such as — “I sure like the way you customized your bike, how do you like it?” or maybe “I like your Broncos hat — did you watch the game last week?”

The goal here is to get them to open up and to establish a relationship so you can take the next step.

3. Uncover their wants and needs.

This is the probing step. You need to know these details if you are to find the right products or services that will satisfy them. The basic methodology here is asking open-ended questions (who, what, where, when, why, how) while listening carefully and attentively to their answers.

The listening part is critical. Restate and clarify what you thought you heard to ensure you are heading in the right direction.

4. Satisfy their wants and needs.

This is where you apply all the information you have acquired. Keep in mind that satisfying needs while ignoring wants can lead to an unhappy customer. The highest CSI scores come from customers whose wants have been fulfilled along with their needs.

Stop thinking of this as only a sales department process. At its simplest it could be your hydro-tech (wash person) who is approached by a customer. They should be able to greet the customer, find out that they need the parts department and fulfill that need by walking them to the parts department while continuing a friendly conversation on the way.

These are essential steps for your parts counter staff, as well as your service writers. Train them and watch your sales and CSI score improve!

Steve Jones is senior projects manager at Gart Sutton & Associates. He has worked in the powersports industry for more than 30 years, for dealerships and manufacturers, and as a consultant and trainer. Contact him at


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