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Powersports Business Blog Turning those lookers and shoppers into buyers

Powersports Business Blog
Turning those lookers and shoppers into buyers

January 2013

Turning all those lookers and shoppers into buyers is, in retail, the “holy grail” of topics. We send our managers and sales folks to workshops and seminars looking for answers. We test the waters, view the landscape, and hope that just over the horizon is the Promised Land, the mother lode.

Retail gurus who enlighten the sales process in ways that ensure success are far and few between, if they exist at all. That's not to say there's no one out there who can guide and direct, teach and mentor, in ways that can be beneficial. There are plenty of us walking around doing just that. But here's the rub: There's a lot more to it than just processes and procedures.

It's more than all the social media you can throw out to folks or how many craigslist listings you all can do in a day. It's more than door swings or what you have or don't have, and it's not about the potential we all have.

It's about making sure that what needs to be done is really being done. That's the missing link and it's more important than ever. Lookers and shoppers are a commodity too important to waste.

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Powersports Business Blog Remember “You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda?”

Powersports Business Blog
Remember “You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda?”

January 2013

The big news from this year's Long Beach motorcycle show is not what happened, but what might happen. First though, remember the Honda motorcycle ad, “You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda?” Believe it or not, 2013 marks fifty years since that ad helped mainstream America notice — and buy — motorcycles in the 1960s.

Back to the Long Beach show … At last year's show, Honda released the CBR250, a sub-$4,000 model aimed at driving new buyers into dealerships. At this year's show, Honda introduced a lineup of three 500cc motorcycles, starting under $6,000. Like the CBR250, these new 500s will appeal to new riders, but the solid designs look much better than we might expect of “beginner bikes.” It is not just Honda either. Kawasaki's new Ninja 300 is a similarly attractive product with a price that will not scare away new riders.

Think about these products … Five or six years ago — during the time of $10,000 600cc sport bikes — manufacturers and dealers would have paid little attention to a $6,000 500cc motorcycle. After all, the profit margin to the manufacturer for these “beginner bikes” pales in comparison to that of a $10,000 motorcycle, and the same is true for dealers. Last week while visiting a Honda dealership, I heard complaints about the low gross available on the new CRF250L. “Hardly worth the effort to sell it.”

But let's think back to 1963, and what might happen today. We can complain about selling less expensive motorcycles, or we can turn 2013 into 1963 all over again. The gross from today's CB500 or Ninja 300 sales may be lower than we like, but those customers are likely the key to the industry's success. They may not remember that 1960s Honda ad, but these new customers will go on to buy multiple bikes and accessories over the years and will also attract their friends—a whole new generation of riders—into your showroom.

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Powersports Business Blog Why I Still Love Powersports

Powersports Business Blog
Why I Still Love Powersports

December 2012

I count myself as one pretty lucky fellow. I have the great fortune to be able to meet and talk to a lot of wonderful people. I get to interact with dealers from all over the country, share information and ideas and pass it all on to others that can use it. Sharing ideas and mentoring others is something to embrace, and I relish the responsibility.

I was really struck by this during a couple of impromptu dealer visits a few weeks ago. These visits were just about looking at two dealerships that were totally different in look and feel. Both made me remember why I got into this industry, along with why I've stayed in it.

The first was a multi-line dealership that took my image of what powersports dealerships should be to a whole other level. This has nothing to do about practices. This is about the visual experience, the presentation. This is a statement about where we can go if our desires push us to believe in dreams.

I was blown away at the scale of what had been created, with the dealership anchoring it: A museum that was visually stunning. A restaurant, Zagat rating of 22! The restaurant walls were adorned with vintage pieces of different motorcycles that long ago stopped being part of something we would ride. Throw in a high-end hotel for good measure and you have your 21st century motorcycle dealership. It was so cool.

As I left, there was this overwhelming sense of pride in the industry that chose me to be a part of it so many years ago.

Next, in complete contrast but equally perfect, was a dealership that's been around since time began. I walked through the doors, and I could feel the history. I closed my eyes and could smell the past. This dealership also had a museum, and as I walked through it I was taken back to days of Gary Nixon and Kenny Roberts. Motorcycles ridden by the greats of our past were all there.

This was “old school,” and what a great old school it was. I was like a kid in the candy store as I was shown around. I was told stories that took me way back. And I was reminded that many of the ways we used to do things still work today, and that the past is still part of our future.

It's our charge, generation to generation, parents to children, teachers to students, to impart what we've learned. Wisdom guides knowledge, and we empower others' abilities and desires for growth. We then pass on the responsibility of carrying that torch to the next generation. It's amazing how much information we all have tucked away, and just as amazing as what we can do with it.

To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it more fit for its prime function of looking forward. ~- Margaret Fairless Barber

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Powersports Business Blog The Basic Stuff

Powersports Business Blog
The Basic Stuff

October 2012

I was in a dealership the other day conversing with a few of the team leaders. The discussion was centered on what was (and what was not!) happening in their sales department.

“Let's focus on which policies and procedures are being used in the department,” I said. “Great,” was the answer back from most everybody — except I did notice a “Why are you wasting my time?” look from one of the team leaders.

“Let's start with some of the basics,” I said, “like introducing yourself and asking someone's name.” The why-are-you-wasting-my-time fellow gave me a sour look that said, “I know that.”

“Great,” I said, “Let's talk about the importance of the write-up process and of making sure we always get contact information.”

“I know all about that, too” sneered you-know-who.

“That's even better,” I said. “And I bet you know the importance of always asking for the sale, or finding out what is preventing the purchase today, right?”

His indignant answer was, “You bet! After all, this is pretty basic stuff.” I agreed with him that it was.

Basic stuff: Asking for someone's name, introducing yourself, building rapport, a little fact-finding, getting contact information.

Basic stuff: Giving that prospective client a reason to want to buy from your dealership and from you.

Basic stuff: Explaining all the options you offer to make their purchase a memorable one — all the great reasons they will want to tell all their friends about and all the people they will recommend you to — because you did all the BASIC STUFF!

My know-it-all puffed his chest out and repeated, “I know all this.”

“Yes, we all know all this. But do you do ‘all this basic stuff' with every sale, with every opportunity?” I asked. There was silence. Mr. Why-are-you-wasting-my-time was pretty quiet, too.

You can know it all, but it is worth absolutely nothing if it's not implemented — implemented always, implemented without fail. This is after all, just basic stuff.

Every sale has five basic obstacles: No need, no money, no hurry, no desire, and no trust.

~ Zig Ziglar

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Powersports Business Blog Data Analysis or Listening to People?

Powersports Business Blog
Data Analysis or Listening to People?

September 2012

How many times have you looked at a fact or some type of information that you just don't believe? This can't be true, no way, no how.

We live in an age of unlimited data collection. We have facts and figures that go on for miles, reasoning for any type of situation, a database fed and stirred with information, simmered until done. We then shape our decisions, sometimes rightly, and other times … hmmm.

At times, some of the best information comes from personal interaction, not preconceived ideas or solutions based on a database. It's not that the information is wrong — most of the time it's spot on — but there has to be more to it.

On a dealer visit recently, I had all my data, facts and figures checked, with reasons for this and solutions for that. At the same time, the dealer was doing the same thing. He knew everything that was going to transpire before I arrived (fair is fair) based on available information, preconceived thoughts based on the data he had.

Here's the rub. We found that we both had the right data; we both had good reasons for why and why not, but our preconceived ideas were a bit off. A shift could not have happened without personal interaction.

The first preconception was our first interaction. I walked in and he said, “You guys are all the same. You come in carrying your briefcases and a cup of coffee.” Maybe I shouldn't have arrived with the coffee (it was early though, and decaf). “Really,” I said. “Really,” he said back.

The data fencing commenced as we probed and jabbed quickly looking for reasons why and why not. Our preconceived ideas and solutions had to be right — we had the data; we had the right stuff!

Within about 15 minutes we both found mutual likes and things we agreed on. “You guys are all the same” was quickly forgotten.

This is good stuff to think about. There are a lot of folks out there (not just dealers) who believe that the data you bring them is a bunch of wasted facts and figures that can't possibly be right. You hear, “We were off a bit that day,” or “My team would never do that.” At the same time you have the data folks saying, “The outcome is correct based on the information.”

The truth of the matter is, we can all be off a little at times, and facts can be skewed. Information is only as good as when it's collected, the moment of the snapshot. But if it happens over and over, there is a pretty good chance that the information is right. And, if it's something you don't see over and over, maybe there was a reason that needs to be taken into account.

This visit had exceptional interaction. We looked at all the information and threw away any preconceived ideas we both might have had. We shared ideas along with the data: our visions for growth and what might be done using all the information that was available.

None of this would have happened without personal interaction along with the data. We should never have cookie-cutter approaches to anything. Our businesses are different; we are different, and the way we look for solutions and improvement can be different — and equally successful.

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Powersports Business Blog Harness anticipation to boost customer satisfaction and profitability

Powersports Business Blog
Harness anticipation to boost customer satisfaction and profitability

August 2012

Matt Appleman runs a very small custom bicycle shop in Minneapolis, specializing in hand-built carbon-fiber bicycle frames. Matt's business may be small, but he has adopted an important sales tool — anticipation — that you can apply at your dealership too.

Matt describes how he builds bicycles like this: “Upon approval of the design, the fun starts for me, and the anticipation begins for you! As the frame is being built, I'll keep you up to date with pictures of the framebuilding process …” There's that word, anticipation. He goes on to describe how in time the bike will be delivered to the new owner. You can bet also that when he sets a delivery date in the future he will stick to that schedule — under promising and over delivering.

Back to our question … How can we harness “anticipation,” and for that matter, Matt's successful process, at a motorcycle dealership?

First, recognize that a customer having to wait for delivery — for sales, service or parts — does not have to be a negative experience for the customer. In fact, ironicaly, waiting for something can make a customer enjoy it even more.

But a customer having to wait can also be a disaster. What's the difference?

Three important steps:

1. Set time expectations up front. Always under promise and over deliver.

2. Take the time to keep your customer updated while they are waiting. Give them interesting facts while they wait. Or even better, with today's easy-to-use smartphones, snap a photo of progress and email it to them.

3. Deliver on time. The only way anticipation continues to be a positive is if in the end the delivery is on time.

Your best customers are the ones who are loyal, repeat buyers. Grow more of them by throwing in a little anticipation.

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Powersports Business Blog Do today's motorcycles provide an opportunity to sell more extended warranties?

Powersports Business Blog
Do today's motorcycles provide an opportunity to sell more extended warranties?

July 2012

Stop and consider how much new technology is appearing on today's motorcycles. You know all about ABS brakes, maybe you have even ridden a motorcycle with traction control, but what about bikes with electronic suspension adjustment or a computer screen instead of separate instruments? Or ride by wire, or electronic quick-shift, or a plug-in GPS module to data-log laps around a racetrack? There are motorcycles for sale right now that offer all of that technology, and if the bikes you and your customers are riding today don't offer it, the bikes bought tomorrow will have it and more.

Regardless of whether or not we like all this new motorcycle technology, it is already here, and maybe we can use it to our advantage. Ask your techs how their work changes when repairing these high-tech bikes. They will tell you about plugging the motorcycles into expensive machines that communicate directly from dealership to factory over the Internet. They will tell you about replacing whole components rather than repairing them.

In the end, maybe these high-tech bikes will prove to be bullet-proof, but meanwhile who wants to be the first to find out how much repairs cost when these bikes are no longer under warranty? Also, could uncertainty over future repairs hurt resale prices? Instead, some dealerships are seizing the opportunity to sell many more extended warranties (often officially “service contracts”) to remove any fear of today's high technology turning into tomorrow's high repair bills.

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Powersports Business Blog Who has it worse than rejected motorcycle salespeople?

Powersports Business Blog
Who has it worse than rejected motorcycle salespeople?

June 2012

We know that the typical motorcycle salesperson has to ask for the sale seven times to hear a customer say yes. What if there was a salesperson who had to ask for the sale 50 times to hear his first yes?

Meet Jose Jiminez, who for the past year has manned a Southwest Airlines cart in the Ontario, Calif., airport, encouraging travelers to signup for a Southwest Airlines Visa card. Jiminez is not only a salesperson, but is one who can't let rejection get in the way of having a good day. Every day he interacts with several hundred travelers to find eight or 10 willing to signup for a new Visa card. Fourty-nine travelers out of 50 reject his pitch.

Jiminez has clearly learned how to cope with all that rejection, and a powersports salesperson can learn three points from him:

1. It's a numbers game. If you accept going in that it will take multiple “asks” to hear a yes, it makes the rejection less personal and simply part of what's required to get a yes. Jiminez said, “You can't get disappointed when one person says no, because the next person may be the one who says yes.”

2. Stay upbeat and friendly. It shouldn't be the rest of the world's problem if you are personally having a bad day. Your prospects don't need to suffer too. Switch gears when you get to work. As Jiminez points out, upbeat and friendly is part of the job.

3. Don't pre-judge. Ask everyone for the sale. “The person who seems sure to say no will often surprise you and turn out to be the one who will say yes,” Jiminez said. The only way to find out is to ask.

Pass these tips along to your sales team to put rejection into the proper context, and when you are next in the Ontario airport flying on Southwest, stop by and say hello to Jose Jiminez.

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American Marketing Association: Marketing News Exclusives Harley-Davidson Leads the Pack in Retail Experience

American Marketing Association: Marketing News Exclusives
Harley-Davidson Leads the Pack in Retail Experience

May 2012

According to Mike Kennedy, vice president of North American sales for Harley-Davidson, their 2012 first place ranking for Pied Piper PSI comes after a year of focus on improving the sales process factors measured by Pied Piper PSI.

Q: How do you ensure that all of your retail locations around the world have a coherent branded experience and stay at the top of the game?

A: We're currently focused on a journey to elevate the customer experience. … We're on a multiyear strategy, which is called ‘Retail 20/20' and it's all about delivering a personalized, compelling, premium and truly custom experience to every customer, every day, everywhere and our dealers, of course, are central to delivering that experience. Our philosophy, specifically for Retail 20/20, is to be customer-led, meaning to truly understand customer motivations and barriers—and, ultimately, planning and developing and designing products and experiences with not only customer wants and needs in mind, but their input as well. …

We have over 100 of what we call field representatives that represent the sales area, they represent the marketing area, they represent the financial insurance area, as well as the service area, and they routinely call on those dealerships and coach and council and share best practices. … And over the last year or so, the sales side of that team has been focused on what we call selling factors … things like, Did the salesperson give you a compelling reason to buy or did the sales person offer you a test ride? Did the salesperson use good visuals in the sales presentation? Did they ask you for your name? Those basic elements, and the team has been definitely focused on those elements in coaching and driving the plans with the dealers.

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Motorcycle & Powersports News Pied Piper Releases 2012 Prospect Satisfaction Index

Motorcycle & Powersports News
Pied Piper Releases 2012 Prospect Satisfaction Index

May 2012

Harley-Davidson dealerships returned to the top ranking in the newly released 2012 Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index (PSI) U.S. Motorcycle Industry Benchmarking Study, which measured dealership treatment of motorcycle shoppers. Study rankings by brand were determined by the patent-pending Pied Piper PSI process, which ties “mystery shopping” measurement and scoring to industry sales success.

BMW and Ducati finished in a tie for second, followed by Triumph and the Victory and Indian brands from Polaris Industries, in a three-way tie for fourth. Industry-wide performance improved substantially from 2011 to 2012, with only three of sixteen motorcycle brands failing to achieve higher scores.

Harley-Davidson dealerships led all brands in 16 different sales activities such as offering test rides, obtaining contact information and asking for the sale. Brand performance varied considerably from brand to brand, with twelve different brands leading at least one sales process category. For example, Ducati, Husqvarna and Triumph dealerships were twice as likely to offer a brochure to shoppers than dealerships selling Suzuki, Honda or Kawasaki. Similarly, Harley-Davidson, BMW and Ducati dealerships were twice as likely to ask for contact information than dealerships selling Husqvarna, MV Augusta or Moto Guzzi.

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