2013 Powersports Business Industry Leaders: Sam Dantzler
May 29, 2013
Filed under Features
Sam’s Powersports Garage
Sam Dantzler Consulting
As Sam Dantzler likes to describe it, his first taste of stage life came after his tenure at Florida State University, when he joined the circus (literally).
“Yes, really. I love being ‘on stage.’ My girlfriend asked if I’d be wearing tights the rest of my life,” Dantzler said. “So I kicked her to the curb, got a new girlfriend, and parlayed my stage experience into an industry I’ve been obsessed with my entire life.”
From selling bikes in college, to running management training programs for Ed Lemco, to delivering the keynote at OEM shows, Dantzler’s passion for motorcycles is hard to overlook. He’s now the owner of his 58th motorcycle.
“My love for motorcycles pours out of me in everything that I do. I eat, sleep, and breathe them … ask the wife (who now is the only one wearing tights),” he said.
Dantzler’s launch of online training website Sam’s Powersports Garage offers a range of training outlets to all aspects of a dealership. When Triumph Motorcycles (America) opted to reinstall 20-groups for its dealers, Dantzler was chosen to moderate. When Dantzler’s seminars are on the lineup at industry events, dealers know to arrive early unless they feel like leaning against a wall for an hour, as he draws a crowd that’s always anxious to learn more about how to get butts on seats.
“I know what owning a motorcycle can do for a person’s soul, and I have a quest to put as many people in the country on a bike as I possibly can,” Dantzler said. “Last year’s creation of my online training website, Sam’s Powersports Garage, was the career manifestation of that quest.”
With Dantzler exhibiting a passion that literally drives dealers into action, his contributions to the industry combine to make him a 2013 Powersports Business Industry Leader.
What is the biggest opportunity for the industry, and how can the industry take advantage of it?
It would be easy to fire off the biggest opportunity as more financing options, less-expensive units, or some new vehicle that we don’t even know about yet. But I believe the real opportunity is conversion. Dealers don’t need more people coming through the door; they need to convert more of the ones who are already there. Be it upselling from a $99 jacket to a $499 jacket, adding on some gloves or a GoPro to the transaction, or simply converting one more person onto a major unit today, most dealerships struggle with the tools and training to be able to pull off the conversion.
The major tools needed for conversion are attitude and systems (sales process, traffic logs, repair order summaries, etc). Hire on attitude, and train the systems.
Sales is a transfer of enthusiasm, and an employee’s passion will allow for a sale without process … occasionally. But when you couple passionate employees, who adhere to best practices through a system, you now offer great experiences while delivering good margins. I believe conversion starts with acquiring contact information and utilizing events to drive customers back into the store, yet so many dealers don’t see the importance of a traffic log (electronic or otherwise). The invitation makes the customer feel special. The loyalty to the dealership and the employee begin. Good people complimenting good systems = conversion.
What has been the biggest challenge in your current position and how have you dealt with it?
Two words: Dealer Ego. Many dealers let their egos get in the way of the reality that there might be a better way to do things than the way they came up with. When dealers are receptive to ideas generated in 20-Club formats, online training programs and in-dealership consulting, they reap the rewards of an incredible upside. The 20-Club experience is so great, as a dealer can live through all of the successes and failures of others who have tried it already. It cuts the learning curve exponentially, but of the current 4,700 franchised dealers out there, less than 10 percent of them participate in a group. Brands like Triumph and Harley-Davidson run OEM sponsored 20-Clubs in an attempt to strengthen their own knowledge of the retail game, which is exactly what the dealers need. Unfortunately some dealers see this only as the manufacturer’s attempt to see the financials of the dealers so they know where to push more product into their stores.
Secondly, few take advantage of mediums available to actually train their employees. Instead, they say things like, “Just shadow Matt for a few days and you’ll be fine.” What is that? Can you imagine being an architect-in-training and someone saying that to you? “Just shadow Cindy over there, and you’ll be designing buildings yourself in no time.” Many dealers perceive that they alone must train their employees and clearly there isn’t enough time in the day for that. Therefore, that lack of training causes low sales numbers and constant turnover of staff. The ability to complete training programs through an online portal has never been easier for staff and dealership personnel. Sites like the Garage are set up to deliver the necessary best practices into the hands of employees who can actually execute the change. As well, the training’s gotta be fun to keep the interest, which allows managers to mandate compliance from the staff.
Lastly, in-dealership consulting can get dealers on the right track, and fast. Provided the consultant is in alignment with how the dealer wants to run his business, this form of “education” can reap huge rewards.
We had roughly 7,500 franchised dealers in this country in 2007, and we’re now down to a total of 4,700. I believe if more dealers could let go of their egos and be receptive to the variety of solutions offered, the answers to running successful dealerships are out there.
What is the best advice that you can give others in the industry?
Understand what you sell. It’s not motorcycles, UTVs, sleds, or watercraft. It’s escape. I believe the repetitiveness of retail has caused many to forget the reason that we love this industry so much. Sure, the vehicle is the commodity the customer is swapping money for, but the escape is what’s really being sold. If a Coors Light costs $2 at a dive bar, and $8 at a martini bar, what’s actually being sold? The beer is the commodity, but the quality of the escape commands the premium and high margins.
The reason for the exponential growth of Ducati during Michael Lock’s tenure was that Lock was exceptional at creating a brand everyone wanted a to be a part of. Harley-Davidson is masterful at it, and Triumph has been on fire lately. People are buying the idea of what the product can do for their lives, not the product itself. The dealers and OEMs who have committed to the escape, and are selling an attitude and not a product, do very well. Motocorsa in Portland brings everyone in for the MotoGP races. The Transportation Revolution in New Orleans has a dedicated Speed Shop at the NOLA Motorsports Park. Go AZ has military grade, virtual simulators adjacent to their Rider Education course. Create the environment, sell the attitude, and people will pay for the commodity … at your price. People are “escaping” something when they walk into a powersports store. Fuel that passion, complete with attitude and ideas as to where the product could take the customer, and help them realize their escape.