I recently attended my first boat show while working at Boating Industry. After attending the Marine Dealer Conference and Expo in November, I was excited to see what dealers, manufacturers and suppliers had to offer consumers this season.
I walked around and spoke with a number of people, but I noticed that if I went to a booth I was usually the one to start the conversation. I was wearing my street clothes but a large exhibitor badge was pinned to my shirt, so I thought it was because I was clearly marked as “not a prospect.”
So I decided to try a little experiment. I took off my exhibitor badge and walked the floor, showing particular interest in just about every pontoon I passed (the boat I use on my family’s lake). I ventured inside when allowed and sat down to read informational sheets outlining the payment plans. For the moment, I was a potential customer who was considering adding a boat to my family’s recreational activities.
Still, I wasn’t approached with any more frequency. Instead, untethered salespeople kept their heads buried in cell phones. It should be noted that this didn’t happen every time – but it happened often enough that I noticed a pattern. However, I did observe that other women who were with children or a husband were approached.
There’s an idea I hear in our industry over and over again about selling to women: “The woman in the family holds the purse strings and makes the decisions, so you have to convince her it is worth it.” I don’t think that’s untrue in many scenarios, but what about the women who are already convinced? What about the women who want to get involved in water sports or enjoy going fishing with her brothers on weekends? They need your attention too.
While the boat show excited me about our industry’s outlook for 2015, I wanted to highlight the importance of approaching all attendees at your boat shows as potential prospects, even if they don’t look like your typical boat buyer. It takes a few quick seconds to engage. Be friendly and open, starting with questions like “Can I answer any questions for you?” or “What do you hope to get out of your boat?” They may be a casual observer and you can move on, or they could be your next big sale.