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Streets of China provide a lesson in sales pitches

Dave McMahon, Editor in Chief
April 30, 2014
Filed under Columns

As everyone in the industry knows, work trips are part of the gig. From trade shows to dealer conventions to distributor events to product launches, we grow accustomed to boarding the flight, anxious to see how the trip will help us grow our business ventures.

My most recent itinerary found me in Hangzhou, China, invited as a guest of CFMOTO Powersports, whose growth in U.S. dealerships has been well chronicled over the past two years. Not long ago, I called Lorin Besser of Besser’s Bike Barn in Minnesota about a story on pre-owned sales. He had just sold a franchised dealership that had been in his family for decades, and was looking forward to making some serious margin by selling pre-owned only. That plan didn’t last very long, as CFMOTO came calling and was soon the new store’s first franchise.

The beauty of this industry is that we can connect over the phone one month, then wheel and deal for knock-off leather purses in the back alleys of Shanghai the next. That’s where Besser and I, along with a pair of Texans — mastermind (and tall Texan) Matt Maschmann from Maxim Honda Yamaha and Steve Ertle from Tejas Motorsports — found ourselves. The “Back 40,” as we called it, showed us plenty in the way of the sheer stick-to-it-tiveness on the sales pitch. Telling the persistent hawkers “no” was not good enough, but with the door locked behind us in a closet full of purses and fake brand name watches off the skinniest of alleyways, the Texans managed to keep all calm by making a couple of wise purchases. Later, I even obliged with a watch purchase from our new friends. It kept on ticking for at least three hours.

“If you want a job in the U.S., you come to my shop anytime,” is how they would often conclude their bartered transaction from the feisty Chinese sales masters. “You don’t give up on anyone!”

Maschmann came up with the line of the week when he saw a fellow Texan wearing a Texas A&M ballcap on the Bund along the river in Shangai. No, I never thought I’d hear an Aggie joke being told on the Bund in Shanghai. Something about the guy wearing shorts in China in 40-degree weather.

But the trip wasn’t just for dealers. Several members of CFMOTO’s staff of regional managers also made the journey. Other than seven-year veteran Tony Heck, their range of experience with the OEM ranged from four months to two years, and they were just as interested in learning more about their new-ish employer as the dealers who wanted to know about the bikes.

Heck, from the North Central region, and counterpart Jason Browning from the South, put up such a close battle that both were recognized for their outstanding sales efforts to dealers. Browning did keep bragging rights for at least this year.

Food always interesting

Jason Karns and his wife, Melinda, own Karns Performance in Mechanisburg, Pa., where they sell Suzuki and CFMOTO as well as Bad Boy Mowers. Jason would not call himself a foodie, so he didn’t exactly fill himself up at dinnertime on jellyfish or duck tongue. But he did wear out a path down the sidewalk to the Pizza Hut that sits inside the Walmart near our hotel in Hangzhou. And he would smile as he walked by his new dealer friends. Crazy food options or not, Karns found plenty to like about his debut trip to China.

“I’ll always remember that trip because I don’t think we’ve been anywhere where we’ve felt more welcome. I am extremely happy to see the progress CFMOTO has made in such a short period of time,” he said.

Power 50 reminder

Chad Thompson joined his father, Robert, on a trip of a lifetime to China thanks to CFMOTO. In addition to the factory tour in Hangzhou, the pair ventured to the Great Wall.

Chad Thompson joined his father, Robert, on a trip of a lifetime to China thanks to CFMOTO. In addition to the factory tour in Hangzhou, the pair ventured to the Great Wall.

I spent much of my trip in China encouraging dealers to apply for the Powersports Business Power 50, and I’ll do it again to make sure you do the same. As I’ve noted here before, the Power 50 application is meant to be a tool that you can use on an annual basis as you grow your business. The completed applications are filing in, and we look forward to seeing how your dealership performed in 2013. Power 50 dealer Mike Ratz from Logan Motorcycle Sales, by the way, sampled and enjoyed every single crazy piece of food that was put on his plate in China. We don’t get too exotic at the Power 50 Awards Banquet in Orlando during AIMExpo, but we’ll promise to make the event equally memorable. But only Power 50 members will be admitted. You can find the application at powersportsbusiness.com/power-50.

It’s another hefty edition

We had a blast putting together this edition of PSB, so we hope you’ll take another long look at it. When I met Chad Thompson, and his father, Robert, who own Thompson’s Motorsports in Terre Haute, Ind., they were astounded to have met the editor of PSB on the other side of the world. So I told them we’d better take a photograph just to make sure they had proof. I can’t wait to visit their store in the coming years, but I know they’re a dealership that doesn’t make customers — they make friends. They couldn’t tell me enough about their appreciation for what we do here at PSB, so it was added enjoyment this month when we decided to produce 48 pages. As issue No. 6 of the year goes, 48 pages is our highwater page count for at least a few years, and hopefully another strong sign of the industry’s comeback after producing 36 pages in this edition in 2012.

Don’t miss it

Managing editor Liz Keener talked to nearly the entire industry once again for this edition. From dealer survey results to a visit with Claude Jordan at Arctic Cat to a factory tour of the Gibbs Quadski plant in Michigan, Liz’s stories make you remember why you stole this edition from your coworker in the first place! Keep sending us story ideas that you think need to be told. Who knows, we could run into each other on the other side of the world someday.

Dave McMahon is editor in chief of Powersports Business. Contact him at 763/383-4411 or dmcmahon@powersportsbusiness.com.

 

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