Boating Industry recently spoke with marine industry consultant Valerie Ziebron about selling to today’s buyers. She offered these tips for marine dealers.
Today’s customers are used to getting information quickly — typically in a form they can share. Unfortunately, some marine dealers still behave as if it’s 1980, according to Ziebron.
“It breaks my heart when I hear dealers say, ‘We go to the boat show and afterward we go through all the leads, and we qualify them and put them into piles of people we need to call right away.’ And I’m like, ‘Right away? It’s already been three days,’” Ziebron says.
Five years ago, calling prospects the night of a boat show was impressive. Today, dealers can send followup information within minutes and provide QR codes that allow people to get information instantly.
The question dealers need to ask themselves, Ziebron says, is what their customers are getting from the competition. After three days of sorting leads into piles, will a competitor be on their second or third correspondence with your hottest prospects?
Younger buyers tend to work a lot of hours, and oftentimes both spouses work. They want their limited leisure time to be enjoyable and not spent tinkering on a boat. Unsurprisingly, that’s the exact same thing Baby Boomers want, Ziebron explains — quality time on the boat. Successful dealerships are able to provide a level of service that allows customers to spend more time enjoying their boats and less time worrying about the hassles of boating.
Questions dealers should ask themselves include: How can we make things easier? How can we make the experience more convenient? Should we be open on weekends?
“In 2012,” Ziebron says, “if we’re not looking at ‘When do my customers boat, when is it most convenient for me to be open?’ and not ‘Gosh, there’s going to be anarchy if I say we have to work Saturdays,’ where’s the money coming from?”
An example of making things more convenient is offering a VIP program where you bundle all the needed services for the boat. Give the customer the option to pay up front at a discounted rate or break it into 12 monthly installments.
Part of being successful in today’s post-recession climate is your mindset, Ziebron says.
“If you watch a lot of the evening news and you’re buying into this whole doom and gloom scenario, then you’re going to bring that to what you think customers expect from you,” Ziebron explains. “I really applaud the dealers who have decided mentally not to participate in this recession.”
She cited one dealership that sat down as a team and decided that when customers came through the door complaining, they weren’t going to join in. Instead they would try to turn the customers. Their response would be, “Isn’t it fantastic we get to go on the water and leave it all behind?”
“We’re selling fun, we’re selling relaxation, we’re selling an escape from what’s going on,” Ziebron says. “Plug into that.”