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Jul. 13, 2009 – Bold Idea No. 7: Training bolsters new customer path process

July 13, 2009
Filed under Features

It’s rare for a salesperson at Peterson’s Harley-Davidson of Miami to step outside the boundaries of the company’s sales process. The sales team has rehearsed time and again the company’s well-proven system; they are tested on it; rewarded for using it; and today, one member of this team is way outside what his peers would consider normal.
And that’s a good thing.
Most customers at Peterson’s are delighted by the systems the company uses to convert shoppers into buyers. But this customer, on this particular day — or on any given day in the near future for that matter — wasn’t going to be able to visit the showroom. So Sales Manager Ron Catronio asked him, “What if my sales guy rode the bike out to your house?”
“You can do that?” the customer replied.
The answer was a simple “yes.”
Catronio is the mastermind behind Peterson’s Bold Idea, the implementation of a Customer Path process map for each salesperson to follow in nurturing a prospective customer through the bike-buying process. An extension of H-D’s “connect” sales process, Peterson’s efforts have helped earn the company high customer satisfaction ratings, a healthy dose of repeat customers and most recently, the coveted Gold Bar & Shield award from Harley. This recognition, one of only 25 handed out within Harley’s dealer base, is the highest level of recognition a dealer can receive from the manufacturer, and it focuses on CSI, profitability, basic operations and other business metrics.
“We have customers tell us all the time that, ‘This has been the best experience,’” Catronio said. “They tell us, ‘I didn’t feel pressured,’ and ‘I was helped in making the right decision.’ We try to embellish all of that. They feel we embrace them, we embrace their business, and we embrace their future business. Your experience with us doesn’t end with you saying yes to the purchase. At that point it’s just beginning.”
It is that process that leads customers up to the point of purchase that wows them.
The basics of the process are quite simple. It starts with the greeting, incorporates the fundamentals of the H-D process, continues through the agreement and the purchase order and extends through to one-on-one meet-and-greets with the chrome specialist, the motorclothes department and the business manager. Part of those impromptu introductions includes giving the prospect a “small token of our appreciation,” such as a logoed bumper sticker, key fob or a pen.
With a history in training and consulting, Catronio drives performance through two training sessions each week. His sales team, he says, is in a constant state of preparation.
“We sell something nobody needs,” he said. “The customer comes in with a want, and what we do, we create the need. But we’re in a constant state of preparation. You have to drill and rehearse constantly.”
What’s interesting, though, is how Catronio goes about the training. He never teaches a system, he says. He teaches individual skills. How to greet better. How to counsel and fact find better. How to present better. How to negotiate better. And once you have those individual skills, he said, “it’s amazing what you can do.”
He also just handed out an award to a team member after finishing a five-week walkaround contest. The sales team was asked to follow a certain path in its mock sales efforts, and they were scored on the enthusiasm of their presentation, their eye contact and the light touches they used to encourage prospects.
“In these days and times, we’re down. Everyone’s down. But we’re not down as much as the next guy,” Catronio said. “We’re surviving, and when the times get better we’re going to be so on top of our game it’s going to be ridiculous. We do things that the average dealership does not do.”
That’s why Peterson’s sales guy is out at the customer’s house while other dealers’ salespeople are waiting for the front door to swing open.
— Matt Gruhn

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