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Study: Dealerships respond better to Internet leads
LOS ANGELES – Car dealerships are doing better at responding to Internet leads, but the quality of the responses still leaves something to be desired, according to a new study.
Mystery-shopping consultant Pied Piper Management Co. found that most of the 11,353 dealerships it submitted Internet inquires to in the past year now use customer relationship management software.
And although the software usually automatically responds immediately to an e-mail inquiry, what happens after can make all the difference.
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Powersports Business Blog
Turning those lookers and shoppers into buyers
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?”
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
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
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?
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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Press Release: Pied Piper Management Company LLC appoints Mark Mooney as Director, Retail Performance
MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA – August 10, 2012 – Powersports industry veteran Mark Mooney has joined Pied Piper Management Company, LLC as Director, Retail Performance.
Pied Piper counts as clients most of the auto and motorcycle manufacturers operating in North America, as well as dealer groups and individual dealerships.
These clients hire Pied Piper to help them improve the performance of their dealer networks.
In his role as Director, Retail Performance, Mark will manage Pied Piper Consulting(R) for the powersports industry.
Pied Piper's unique approach to retail performance consulting combines a foundation of facts evaluating dealership performance, with the practical wisdom of Pied Piper consultants, which comes from years of experience owning and running successful dealerships.
Prior to joining Pied Piper, Mark spent four years running Mohala Motorsports Consulting, where he provided solution-oriented assessments and training for motorcycle dealerships.
For the ten years prior to that, Mark owned and ran a successful $10 million multiline motorcycle dealership.
Mark sold Santa Cruz, California, based, All American Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, in 2008.
Mark's motorcycle industry experience began before that in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when he spent seven years working as General Manager for two different dealerships.
“We are pleased to add Mark to the Pied Piper team,” said Fran O'Hagan, President and CEO of Pied Piper Management Company, LLC.
“Those dealer principals who have already worked with Mark describe how much they value his wisdom and guidance, but just as importantly how easy it is to work with him.”
About Pied Piper Management Company, LLC
Pied Piper Management Company, LLC is a nine year old Monterey, California company that develops and runs sales and service programs to maximize the performance of dealer networks.
Go to www.piedpipermc.com/
» View PDF of Article (131.2 KB)
Powersports Business Blog
Harness anticipation to boost customer satisfaction and profitability
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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Mercedes aims to oust BMW as top luxury brand
It's one of the most bitter battles in the American automotive marketplace, and it pits two of Germany's luxury automakers in a grab for the brass ring.
But this year, Mercedes-Benz is betting it can topple rival BMW to become the best-selling luxury automotive brand in the world's largest high-end market.
The maker has been staging a series of meetings with dealers across the country aimed at improving customer handling. Dealers, in turn, have spent about $1.5 billion to upgrade more than 90 percent of U.S. showrooms. The results appear to be paying off.
“Mercedes sets the benchmark,” said Fran O'Hagan, whose Pied Piper Prospective survey uses thousands of so-called “mystery shoppers” to measure how manufacturers are handling the sales and service process. Mercedes bested such stalwart competitors as BMW, Lexus and Audi in results released earlier this month.
And that's apparently helped it gain a leg up on BMW. It held a 2,000-unit lead over the Bavarian automaker for the first half of 2012 after narrowly losing the U.S. luxury sales crown in 2011. Anything can happen, especially if rivals BMW or Lexus ramp up incentives spending, Mercedes officials admit.
But it's clear they are ready to pull out the big guns to grab the ring this time.
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The Detroit Bureau
Mercedes Doing the Best to Close the Deal
Mercedes-Benz dealers are most likely to deliver customers the sort of shopping experience they want – and then close the deal, according to a new study.
Asian luxury dealers were close behind, along with Jaguar and Cadillac, according to the latest Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index which uses so-called “mystery shoppers” to measure the way potential car buyers are treated.
The study looks at 60 different sales activities, from the simple act of greeting a customer when they walk into the showroom to providing a test drive.
Surprisingly, salespeople proved reluctant to take one of the most important steps of all, actually asking a prospect if they're ready to close the deal.
“The world has changed dramatically with the advent of the Internet,” said Pied Piper research chief Fran O'Hagan. Twenty years ago, the dealer was the gatekeeper, controlling every aspect of the car buying process.
Today, however, “A customer can go to the showroom knowing as much as you want.
So, the role of the salesperson has changed.”
And so has the balance of power.
The best dealerships recognize and adapt to this shift, he explained, noting that the pace of change is so rapid – and the best brands have adapted so quickly – that a company that scored third in the Pied Piper study in 2008 would rank near the bottom in 2012 with the same score.
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