A New Generation of Tools

In the 1980s, the creation of simple tools was part of US Marine's dealer training success. Now, the division is using this history as a guide to re-establishing a dealer training program.

“Bayliner came out with a product guide that was sized to fit in your back pocket,” US Marine's Craig Dixon explains. “That was pretty radical 25 years ago. It was those kinds of tools that really made sense.”

Dixon has returned to these roots by creating easy-to-use tools for the new generation of dealers. Two primary tools for getting product and brand information into dealers' hands are a “Launch” CD and an accompanying flyer that detail the key features of the design, construction, features and options available for each new model that US Marine produces. The Launch Flyer contains much of the same information as the CD in a quick reference format.

To create the CDs, Dixon shoots the photos, writes and records the script and pilots the new boats for the video clips. The CDs are a fun and interesting way for dealers to learn the product they are selling, he says.

Dealers each get a single CD, but can order more depending on how they use it. Some may hold sales meetings to view and discuss the CD with the sales staff. Others may allow the sales force to watch or listen to the CD as they have time availability. The key for Dixon is that the CDs are put to good use - and that means people are actually viewing or hearing them.

“Sales managers are extremely busy people,” Dixon says. “We needed a tool that you could develop a very easy sales meeting around that would provide solid product knowledge to a retail sales person.”

US Marine is also turning to the Internet for different training initiatives. Dixon, who was looking for an alternative to being on the road for two-and-a-half months, and spending a significant amount of money putting together seminars that reached about 40 people, now hosts Web-based seminars as the need arises. Last year alone, Dixon held 16 such seminars and received a “huge response.”

“When you get a guy dialing in from Yellow Knife, Northern Territories, 28 below zero, and you're talking about fun in the sun on Bayliners,” he says, “you know you've reached your customer base.”

The final piece to US Marine's training puzzle is the development of several internal dealer training Web sites that provide a resource for dealers and their sales staffs to learn who their customers are, how to sell to them and how to deliver what's been sold. Dealers and their employees are required to know the material and are tested on each brand as they complete the training. Dixon stressed that the material has to be interesting to keep the sales force engaged so the sites are loaded with pictures and Flash movies instead of text.

US Marine tracks visitors to the site, how long they spend and whether or not they pass the tests. At each step, US Marine rewards those who are successful with a framed certificate they can hang on their wall.

“I was kind of watching some of the owners and what they would do,” Dixon noted. “One of our absolute best dealers, the owner of a dealership went on … and he thought he could blast through because he has been a Bayliner dealer forever. And he took the test and failed. So I called him up and said, 'Hey, what's the deal here?' And he was like; 'Well, I was watching Monday Night Football while I was doing it.' The next day, he went on and he banged through that thing and got it right.”

Ultimately, Dixon hopes to make all the training initiatives he's implemented not only the source of information on the products for the retail sales person, but also a tool that helps dealership owners and sales managers train staff.

“I'd like to provide the tools so they can be better at what they do,” Dixon says “and that includes teaching their new sales people how to sell, and their [experienced] how to sell better.”

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