For most recreation industry dealers, there are really just 90 – 120 days in the peak selling season. Usually beginning sometime in the late spring, there is a switch over from scrambling for work to fill the shop, to scrambling for ways to get all of the sold units delivered! This is a critical period of time for capturing sales and profits, and the best dealers position themselves to take advantage of the surge of the prime selling season.
That’s not to say that there aren’t good opportunities at any time during the year and that dealers shouldn’t always be in their best form. But in most markets, there is a key period when the snow has melted and the kids are out of school that the buyers come out in force. Seemingly out of nowhere the shop is buried, the phone is ringing off the hook, and lot traffic is overwhelming. The cold, slow days of winter almost imperceptibly give way to the hot selling season of the late spring and early summer.
It happens every year. This year, will you be ready? Let’s look at three key components to successfully leveraging the critical selling season.
There simply is no overstating the importance of having the right inventory available when the surge comes. We all know it but are we actively monitoring and pursuing the best models for stock? Or are we just taking what we can get from manufacturer deals? Generally speaking, it is better to stock deep in the better sellers rather than wide across a whole product line. So if you have identified features and option packages that are hot in your market, double down on them now so that you have availability when needed.
Conversely, sit down with your team TODAY and make a list of the inventory that is either aged, wrong for your market, or otherwise unlikely to sell quickly. Inventory dollars and space are finite: every slow-selling unit you have is keeping you from stocking a better, higher-turning, higher-margin replacement. Don’t wait until the fall, or when curtailment payments are due, to start dealing with these dogs – make an action plan now to take care of them. If you can’t wholesale them, build a pricing and display plan that makes them attractive to your customers along with an incentive pay plan that makes your salespeople eager to sell them.
People and Processes
Let’s face it, it’s almost impossible to do a good job recruiting, hiring, and training new staff during the heat of the season. Most dealers are too busy just trying to keep deliveries on schedule and service customers satisfied to have extra time to do the hard work of bringing on new team members. You need to have your team in place, trained and ready to go, now. The last thing you want to do is have good floor traffic handled by people who don’t know what they’re doing and that is exactly what will happen if you start trying to add rookies to the system in June and July. By the time you have them trained and ready for prime time, the season will be over! Add serious urgency to your recruiting process right now so that you are ready when the key summer season is here.
Related, are your selling systems and processes nailed down? Or is everybody out on the floor just making it up as they go? As the saying goes, casualness makes for casualties – and in this case the casualty will be your bottom line! Make sure your sales team knows what is expected of them – in terms of selling processes, paperwork, trade-in appraisals, managing deliveries, using the CRM, etc. In short, make sure they know how you want the selling system to work, and their part in it. Saturday afternoon in June is no time to be debating how we are going to handle a trade-in or figuring out how the UP system is supposed to work! Do the important legwork of training your people well, now, while you and they have time, so that when it really matters everyone knows exactly what to do.
On that subject, do your salespeople have written activity and outcome goals for the next three or four months? If not, why not? People who come to work motivated to achieve something concrete outperform those who come to work to drink coffee and see what happens. Are your salespeople in the habit of waiting for that good customer to show up (and criticizing you for not advertising enough to get them)? Or are they in the habit of making things happen by working their prospect lists, their past customers database, and making quality appointments with your incoming phone calls and website inquiries. Great salespeople are not those with the gift of gab – selling skills without quality work habits almost always results in mediocrity. Rather, great sales teams are filled with people who have the training and disciplines to create great opportunities from their own database as well as new floor traffic. Make sure your sales team has written goals, real objectives in terms of managing their leads, and assistance from your sales management to be productive every day they are at work.
Marketing and Advertising
The major show season is likely over in your market. Shows are fabulous for the sense of urgency that is hardwired into the event – they’re over in a just few days, there are other dealers competing for your business, and manufacturer incentives all combine to overwhelm the customer with the desire to make that purchase decision right now.
If you think about it, we all like an excuse to buy something we want right away. Your customers are no different! Does your marketing and advertising plan build urgency into every week and every month of the year? Give your salespeople something affirmative to tell their prospects about why THIS is the best time to buy. It doesn’t really matter if it is your anniversary sale, the summer kick off sale, the end of school sale, the flag day sale, the Fourth of July special, the one-hundred-units-this-month promotion, the extra inventory sale, the new construction sale … you get the picture. Especially in the prime season, be sure to always have something happening that rewards the customer for making that purchase decision immediately.
Make sure your marketing calendar is planned in advance, and have the collateral material queued up so that your people, your inventory, and your facility are branded correctly for the event in progress. Nothing is more fun for the customer than to shop at a dealership with that vibe of energy and enthusiasm that comes with a successful promotion. They feel it and they feed off of it. They see others buying, and they want to do the same. Conversely, nothing bursts that bubble of energy faster than seeing a faded sale tag that has obviously been on a unit for months! When you plan your promotions for this summer, keep it fresh, keep it enthusiastic, and keep it organized.
One final thought as the season starts to warm up. Take an afternoon and just walk around your business. Try to look at it with the eyes of someone who is visiting for the first time. What do you see? Clean bathrooms? Uniformed employees with obvious good attitudes? Organized desks and workstations? How about the shop and your accessories store – clean and well merchandised? End caps fresh and properly priced? Is the customer parking area clean and well marked? Do your customers have to feed through your store? Or can they wander around the inventory unassisted? Is the inventory clean and well-organized?
We all know what these things should look like, but since we are there every day we sometimes stop noticing them, stop seeing with the eyes of the customer. Take some time right now, this week, to make sure that your dealership is as clean and organized as it can be. Remember, the customers are coming and whether they say it or not, they are forming their opinions about you and your business from the minute they pull into your parking lot. This year, let’s make sure they like what they see!