Jan. 17, 2011 – Bike buyer survey finds surprising twist to rapid rise in test rides

A scenario playing out in dealerships following motorcycle test rides is boggling sales personnel. It looks like this: The customer comes in, takes a ride and the demo had no impact.
There are a few reasons why this may happen, but industry insiders say the primary issue is too many test rides aren’t designed around the customer.
Nearly 80 percent of new motorcycle buyers said they were offered a test ride at the selling dealership, a staggering 42 percentage points over 2006, according to the 2010 J.D. Power and Associates Motorcycle Competitive Info Study. However, only 23 percent of buyers took the ride at the selling dealership, and more than a quarter of the participants reported the test ride had no influence on their purchasing decisions. So where is the disconnect?
Glenn Roller, founder of The Glenn Roller Institute, which provides training for Suzuki and KYMCO, has studied the issue in Europe, which he says has the same sales challenges as North America. While videotaping at a dealership, Roller observed a salesperson offering a test ride to a service customer.
“When the customer returned 45 minutes later, he was so excited he could hardly contain himself,” he said. “To be more specific, this customer was so excited from the test drive he was actually shaking. The test drive was successful in elevating the customer’s excitement to own this new motorcycle.”
However, the salesperson didn’t close the sale.
“The customer slowly began to talk about how much extra work and time he had put into his motorcycle over the years,” Roller reported. “He continued this behavior pattern until he had removed himself emotionally from the desire to own the new bike and justified himself back into his motorcycle, which was now being rolled out of the service area with a new back tire.”
What had the salesperson done wrong? During the process, the test ride was relied on too heavily, and the salesperson disconnected from closing. “It isn’t the test drive that brings the sale together as much as it is the salesperson in combination with the test drive,” Roller said. “Had the salesperson realized the customer was becoming nervous and having second thoughts, he might have addressed this more directly.”
Had the salesperson focused more on the customer and closing, a sale may have been made.
Chuck Golinvaux, co-owner of Outdoor Motorsports in Spearfish, S.D., has trained his staff to offer test rides and close afterwards. The rides are integral to his sales.
“It’s a measuring stick of how many bikes you might sell,” he said. “If you can get someone to sit on a bike, your closing ratio goes up. If you can get them on a demo ride, your closing ratio goes up again, and if you can get them to sit down and talk about the bike, it goes up even more.”
Golinvaux stresses test rides by ensuring they’re accessible to the consumer. Each bike in the showroom and on the patio are left in neutral to make it easier for a customer to ride. Demonstration helmets are required, but not mentioned until shortly before leaving for the test ride. The staff is also equipped with gear for ride-alongs, and they are trained to offer a ride to every customer.
“It’s all the little subtleties, and you add them all up, and you’re going to get more people doing demo rides,” Golinvaux said.
He and Roller both suggest making the ride about the customer.
“If you are about to have your customer take a test drive, add one more item to your salesperson’s check list. Find out what specific performance items the customer would most like to see from their test drive. This will help the customer to focus on what is important to them from the ride and give you, the salesperson, specific items to discuss upon the customer’s return from the test drive,” Roller said.
Oftentimes, dealers are concerned about the liability of the ride, and customers can sense the resistance from the sales staff. Also, many dealerships restrict when, where and who can ride the bikes. And Golinvaux has observed many bikes at other dealerships aren’t prepped for rides.
“You almost have to take the bike out without asking the customer,” he said. “Once you get it out, it’s a very small step to get the customer to take a ride.”
For others who say the ride had no influence, he suspects they had already made a decision before walking into the showroom.
“This is just a confirmation of everything they thought,” Golinvaux said. PSB

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