Inventory is low, low, low…Now what?

By Matt Sellhorst

Here’s a conversation a serious boat buyer shared with me the other day:

He was searching for a 22- to 24-foot tri-toon with 150hp in a few of the mid-price range brands in the Midwest. As you can imagine, his search was coming up empty in an effort to get on the water this summer.

A particular dealer with a boat to sell finally returned his call and said, “Unless you commit to buying this one without a demo or inspection, it won’t be here when you come in to look at it this weekend.”

As you can imagine, the boat buyer was slightly turned off by this approach and other similar, but not-quite-so-direct statements about the current state of inventory in the industry. It is a seller’s market, we know, but it got this client discouraged and me flat out mad.

As a dealership owner, manager or even salesperson, I’d be livid if I heard a salesperson speak to me this way. That being said, I wanted to write a column this month that tackled our current situation and give you five ideas to continue the boom, even after it slows down for other dealers.

1. Find more used boats.

A focus on obtaining more used or consignment boats is one area to focus as this season gets into full swing. And, I’m talking more than just a few emails or social media posts saying “We Buy Boats” or “We Need Your Boat.” Put a detailed and aggressive push to bring in more opportunity for you and your sales staff to take advantage of this hot market.

If you haven’t seen my free on-demand training on this topic, visit 

2. Sell an ordered boat.

One key to getting the most out of this current market, is to get people committed to an ordered boat by positioning the decision as a smart one to get in line before its too late. 

Do be upfront and honest about the timetable and potential delays that may come up to avoid a customer service issue down the line. 

3. Add a VIP watch list

These are buyers that are interested in buying a boat right now and are not able to find one. However, they may be the exact buyer you need later this summer, next year or even several years from now. 

Instead of just flat out turning them away with, “We don’t have what you’re looking for right now” offer instead to add them to your VIP watch list.  This slight change will make them feel valued and give you a list of calls to make as boats come in later. 

Don’t be fooled that the market will stay this hot forever. Having a list of people interested in boating in your market area that you’ve built a relationship with via email (and retargeting) will be a valuable asset in years to come, especially if you implement the next idea.

4. Add to the 24/7 Boat Selling Machine

If you’ve read my articles in the past, you know I advocate that dealers collect everyone’s contact info and add them into a 24/7 Boat Selling Machine. It’s a systematic approach to communicating with your current clients, prospects and anyone that has an interest in the type of boating your dealership supports in your local market area via various media.

Those who have already installed this type of system are reaping rewards in today’s market and will be in a significantly stronger position in a slower market because the relationship with their boating community is stronger and drives more revenue to the overall dealership. Plus, as people make the decision it is time to buy a boat, who do you think they are more likely to buy from?

5. Invite to an event with inventory

There will be time this season when you have no inventory or not the right inventory to sell. If you follow the suggestion of a VIP pre-owned watch list and a 24/7 Boat Selling Machine, you’ll have a database of people clamoring to find the right boat. 

If you do find yourself in a position of having a good number of boats, invite people in for a sales event. You may also want to invite those selling their boat to attend (potentially for a fee) and post, or even show their boat in a designated area.

This event environment has proven over and over for our clients to be a highly effective approach for a buying frenzy.

This month’s challenge is simple. Ask yourself and your team this question: How do we get creative to sell as many major units as possible during this boom while delivering a positive customer experience and building a stronger dealership for the long-term?

Matt Sellhorst is the founder of Boat Dealer Profits Marketing Agency and author of the only business-building book for the retail boating industry, “Boat Dealer Profits; How the SPLASH System can help you sell more boats, make more money and have more fun.” Claim your free copy at

One comment

  1. 1. Find more used boats: They are not readily available and people are asking high prices for them. Thats the market we are in. I look daily for boats. Auctions? People are paying buying at ridiculous prices for boats that don’t work.

    2. Sell an ordered boats. Factories are taking up to 3 months or more to deliver boats to the dealership. I have sold so many ordered boats I won’t have stock until July. If I can get motors.

    3 Start a VIP watch ist: I have one, just no boats to call about.

    The supply chain is slow or dry, that’s the problem. While these suggestions would be great in a more normal situation, inventory is probably the #1 problem of dealers right now.

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