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March 12, 2007 – Being put to the (retail) test

March 12, 2007
Filed under Features

A Montana dealership is considering altering its sales process in the wake of shopping evaluations that were part of a nationwide survey on the effectiveness of the motorcycle retail experience.
The survey, believed to be the first of its kind for the industry, measured the shopping experience and the effectiveness of dealers’ sales force in 375 dealerships around the nation. The result was a retail rating of the Motorcycle Industry Council-reporting motorcycle companies and industry averages for different shopping experiences, from how often a consumer is greeted by a salesperson to if a salesperson asks for a customer’s price range.
The authors of the survey, which is called the 2007 Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index, agreed to pay for three shopping evaluations on a multiline dealership that Powersports Business selected. The dealership, Team Bozeman of Bozeman, Mont., then agreed to publish the shopping evaluations’ findings. Team Bozeman owner Cliff Gullett did not tell his sales staff before the evaluations were conducted.
“At first, I was really apprehensive,” Gullett said of the evaluations, which were done in January at his 12,000-square-feet store that features Yamaha, Kawasaki and Polaris products. “I thought were going to get dragged through the dirt.”
Actually, the dealership outperformed the industry in seven areas while the three evaluations also showed seven areas where the dealership fell below the industry average.
Dealership impressions
While the three evaluations are not enough to rely on statistically, they did show “a dealership doing many things right,” said Fran O’Hagan, president of Pied Piper Management Co., the California-based management consulting company that conducted the national survey. “A great example of things gone right is the Team Bozeman salesperson asking for contact information, which happens nationally only 37 percent of the time.”
While the first impression and retail environment was better than average, shoppers found the actual sales end somewhat lacking. Team Bozeman fell below the industry average for asking for a customer’s price range and whether anything was preventing a purchase.
Gullett believes those might be a result of a flawed sales process, one that previously didn’t discuss the shopper’s budget until after the salesperson and the shopper had already identified a new unit.
“We spend a lot of time making sure they’re on the right vehicle,” Gullett said, “and maybe the first question should be to find out what they want to spend.”
Before the shopping evaluations, Gullett’s sales process followed the typical model found in the auto industry, where a customer would settle on a vehicle of their choice and then be given the full retail price. If the customer asked for a better deal, that proposal would then be given to the sales manager, who would make a counteroffer. That back-and-forth process would continue until a deal was reached.
“Sometimes I think that gets a little too drawn out and that’s probably because we’re not close enough (in price) in the beginning,” Gullett said. “We’ve maybe put them in too high priced of a unit for what their budget is because we didn’t bother to ask” what their budget is.
Gullett and his general manager are now discussing different ways to identify the shopper’s budget earlier in the sales process. That way, the shopper can see if their budget aligns with their new unit hopes. If it doesn’t, then it’s up to the consumer to decide if it’s worth spending the extra money for a different model or a higher-displacement engine.
“It throws the responsibility on him rather than on us,” Gullett said. “I think we all feel it’s up to us to try to fit his budget and that’s really not our responsibility.”
‘An eye-opener’
Gullett said the findings on the price range question were “an eye-opener.” He was also intrigued by the fact that his salespeople didn’t try to close deals, according to the results of the shopping evaluations.
“We didn’t ask for the sale, which surprised me because I thought we were doing a good job of that,” he said, noting his general manager has pushed the message to his sales staff to not “just educate them and then let them go and get online or call and shop everybody’s price. Ask for the deal and do it a couple of times so that people know we want to sell.
“We’re good at educating people, but that makes us a museum” rather than a retail outlet.
Gullett and his general manager have repeated that message to their sales staff after the results of the shopping evaluation were provided to them.
“I think they were a little embarrassed about how it went over,” Gullett said of the reaction his sales staff had to the evaluations.
Above average
Still, the surveys showed Team Bozeman’s staff is better than average in terms of promptly greeting a consumer, asking for their contact information and showing sincere appreciation for the consumer’s visit.
“We’ve moved to this store about three years ago and we came from a real hole in the wall so a lot of guys weren’t really excited about having people at the (former)?store,” Gullett said, noting that’s no longer the case.
The survey backed that statement up as the dealership finished above average in the shopper’s positive first impression of the dealership’s interior.
“I would do it again,” Gullett said of the shopping evaluations, which measure approximately 50 shopper responses and compare them with the same-brand national averages and overall industry averages.
“I think this was a good thing for us to look at and say, ‘you know what, maybe we better find out what the guy wants to spend first and then put him on a unit that fits his budget rather than put him on a unit and then try to make it fit his budget.”’

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