Value your demo rides — they can spur emotion

Does your dealership offer demo rides? When I bring that topic up at seminars or in dealerships, I get a variety of responses. There’s the ever-popular, “Our insurance won’t allow it…” response; the “Only after we have closed the deal…” or “You bet, all we need is a driver’s license with endorsement…” and many others. Where do you fit in? Do you have issues with traffic? No area available to demo ATVs and dirt bikes? What keeps you from doing more demos?

Why does it matter?
The ability to demo your products properly can have a major impact on your sales and customer satisfaction. We tend to get caught up in selling the product, and forget about the importance of selling the reason for the product — the sensation, the feeling of freedom, the passion, the thrill, the adrenaline — perhaps the ability of the unit to perform a specific task. In most cases, this is why people buy what we sell, so why don’t we spend more time focusing on that?

Product presentations are rational — “nuts and bolts,” if you will. Demo rides are emotional — it’s all about what it does for them. This is what flips our switch. It’s why we ride. Moving your prospective buyer from a rational to an emotional state is the key to getting them to take mental ownership. Having them accept mental ownership is the key to closing sales.

There is another side to this as well. How many of you will admit that you have had customers come back dissatisfied with their vehicle because it didn’t fulfill their expectations? Could a demo ride have helped your salesperson clarify what the customer really wanted, so he ended up with the right unit for them?

So, are there some things you could do to make your motorcycle demo rides even more effective? Assuming you have properly qualified your buyer, here are some guidelines you can follow. I know that some of these are not possible for some dealerships. However, these “best case” scenarios have been tried and proven effective by many dealers.

1. Have a pre-planned route that includes a variety of riding such as curves, perhaps some rough pavement and a short piece of open road or freeway. The pre-planned route is vital in case someone doesn’t return on time. You need to know where to look for them — quickly.

2. If possible, accompany the rider on a bike that is one step up or down from the one he is riding. Let your probing of the customer influence this decision.

3. Make a stop along the way at a high-traffic parking lot near a popular restaurant or even a big-box retailer. You will draw interest from passers-by, which helps your rider feel ownership of the bike. Offer the customer the option of riding the other choice. Don’t attempt to close the sale here — talk about the sensation of the ride.

How about off-road products such as dirt bikes, ATVs, UTVs, watercraft and snowmobiles? If you can demo these at your store, you are fortunate. If not, you will have to depend on off-site demos. The dealers with the most success at this have publicized, planned demo rides on a regular basis. They travel to a selected riding area and bring a variety of products. Again, the focus should be on the sensation, the fun or the functionality (ATV/UTV).

Although infrequent, some of the OEs also provide demo rides with their new products. They understand the value of this. Be sure to take full advantage of these promotions and promote them heavily. The focus here must include getting the prospective customer to come to your store.

Analyze what you are doing with demo rides at your store. Do they have a priority, or are they just something you grudgingly do only when you have to? If you want to improve your sales, customer satisfaction and repeat business, I encourage you to get serious about doing demos. This should be included in your sales process as often as possible. Which customer is easier to sell — the one who just came back from a demo and is all pumped up, or the one who is complaining because you won’t them try the product?

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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