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February 7, 2011-Even reality TV can’t top this real-life transition

February 8, 2011
Filed under Columns

The lights slowly dim, the organ music wafting through the rafters begins to lessen in volume and the raised voices become mere murmurs.
“Brothers and sisters of the Dealership Management Cloth,” a voice rings out.
“Brothers and sisters, can I have your attention? Can I have your attention to anoint a new member of the Cloth?”
The murmurs cease and all eyes swing toward the front.
“Yes, brothers and sisters, we have a new member among us. A member who has come from the other side of the altar, if you will.”
The murmurs become louder as Mark Kennedy, former CEO of Triumph North America, walks to the front of the room to stand opposite of the speaker.
“Brothers and sisters of the Cloth, we exist in this strange phenomenon known as retail, where we are beholden to two powers …”
Raised voices of approval and nods from the audience follow the often-told gospel.
“ … the weak-willed deity known as consumer confidence …”
Heads drop and fingers are tightly knit together in silent prayer.
“… and the OEM, our provider and our partner, who exists in this same, strange world and yet does so, at times, as if they’re wearing
3-D glasses.”
Murmurs of approval come from the audience.
“They expect margins to pop off the showroom floor like a Dreamworks animated movie and yet here we are, living in a retail world with profit margins the size of an Oompa Loompa.”
More murmurs of approval.
“You’ve seen this, yes?”
“Yes,” affirms the audience in one audible answer.
“Mark Kennedy has seen this,” the speaker continues. “Since leaving Triumph North America to continue his industry odyssey last year, he has become general manager of Freedom Powersports, a growing dealership group in Georgia.
“He has experienced the highs of working a customer, a just-looking customer in fact, through a sales process and doing it with such flair that they are willing to buy in a crummy economy…”
A light round of applause fills the room.
“Only,” the speaker continues, “… only then to see that customer’s finance application rejected.”
The applause dies and the anxiety-ridden finger knitting begins anew.
“Some of the credit scores are scary, honestly,” Kennedy chimes in.
“And yet he perseveres,” the speaker starts again. “He does so through working not only with the OEM retail lender, but credit unions as well.”
Nods of approval come from throughout the room.
“He perseveres, too, through trying times with personnel. In three weeks’ time, Kennedy lost his entire sales staff at one store. Strategic goals went out the door. His to-do list was ditched too, in order to provide the necessary customer service support.”
“If you’re an OEM,” Kennedy says, stepping forward and motioning toward the audience, “you can decide I’m going to have a meeting on this day and that day. Today, I’m going to do that job, and I’m going to get that finished. But if I try to have meetings on Thursday, Friday or Saturday, the customers will take over. Your day is driven by them.”
“Hallejuh!” the audience responds.
The speaker lifts a single hand in the air and allows the room to quiet before beginning again.
“And Kennedy already has encountered the dreaded predator known as the price-shopper …”
Quick hand motions sweep through the room, as audience members try to ward off the evil-doer.
“What margins the OEMs think the dealers are receiving and what they’re actually getting,” Kennedy adds, “is quite surprising, and alarming.”
“Hallejuh!” the audience responds.
“Equally,” the speaker cuts in, “Kennedy has seen there are differences in the OEM-dealer relationship and how service to the retailer can be quite different depending on the manufacturer.”
“With Triumph,” Kennedy says, “we bent over backwards to get things for the dealer.
“Maybe some dealers out there would argue that, but I really felt that’s what we tried to do. Whether that’s dealer development for new dealers, whether it would be service or parts problems or dealer stock, we really understand how to help the dealer. But with some of the other brands …”
Kennedy pauses, looks up and sees understanding amongst the scores of general managers and dealer principals present.
And then he smiles.
“I’m working twice as hard, at less money, and I’ve never been happier,” Kennedy asserts.
“Hallejuh!” the audience rejoices.
The speaker nods in appreciation.
“Welcome Mark Kennedy. You’ve arrived.”
Trade-in advice
Tell me if this doesn’t sound familiar.
You’re working with a customer on a trade-in, determining what you’re willing to pay for their used unit and what they’re willing to sell it for.
They say, “I want $4,000 because I see it listed at Craigslist and eBay for at least that price!”
You say … well, exactly how does one counter that?
Barry Eisenberg, general manager of Greater Boston Motorsports, pointed out one terrific comeback during a recent visit to his multibrand store. In response to the stated question, Eisenberg asks a simple question in return, “But what did the unit sell for?”
A listing price doesn’t indicate a unit’s value as much as its selling price does. You can find that information out on eBay by doing an “advanced search” and looking under “completed listings.”
It’s a simple step, but one that could really pay off in getting a consumer to grasp the true value of their trade-in.
Eisenberg and his staff were a gold mine of ideas for the used market. If you haven’t seen this edition’s insert, “Identifying the buying equation” sponsored by?Manheim Specialty Auctions,?you’re missing out.
Neil Pascale is editor-in-chief of Powersports Business. He can be reached at npascale@affinitygroup.com.

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