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Follow up: key to show success

I know what you’re thinking – not the old “follow up” pitch again! But, with our major winter boat shows well underway and, happily, doing much better than expected, a study of trade shows by the Center for Exhibition Research (CER) should give us some heartburn. Admittedly, the CER report was a study of industrial trade shows and not, specifically consumer boat shows. However, I see there are object lessons in it for us on the consumer show side. Among others, CER offered two relevant conclusions:

First, less than half (46 percent) of all exhibitors set any specific objectives for their show participation. Objectives can include anything ranging from the number of lead cards completed to actual sales contracts signed, but they should be clearly reasonable, measurable objectives.

Second — and this one blows me away– the CER report goes on to say only half of those who set any objectives will actually follow up after! Good grief . . . that’s less than 23 percent will follow up in spite of the fact that every good sales training article, seminar or program always emphasizes the importance of following up.

 Now, maybe if you’re selling widgets or welding rods you don’t need to follow up. No, I take that back – you do, regardless of what you’re selling. But, we are in the boating business. We must recognize that our prospects respond in long purchase cycles. Accordingly, following up with a clear objective of establishing a relationship with a prospect is critical.

It seems we continue to measure our boat show’s success solely by the sales contracts signed at or just after the show. Perhaps that was a rational standard in the 1980s, when people were lining up to buy our boats, but it doesn’t work today. In fact, we need to change our perspective and recognize that a major objective of our boat show exhibits is to open up the possibility for a long-term relationship that will likely pay off down the road. In other words, laying solid ground work for future sales should be equally important to closing a sale today.

All this gives new meaning to following up after the show. Moreover, it also calls for a specific plan to maintain some form of communication with prospects over the longer haul.

Is everyone on your sales team really following up? Or, are you just assuming they are?  If the CER report mirrors our industry in any way, and I’ll bet it does, I suggest it’s time for a complete review of your team’s follow up policies and activities. Why, even follow up can be a measurable objective.


10 comments on “Follow up: key to show success

  1. Capt Skip

    Sounds like salesmanager 101 again. The problem is there are few really spectacular sales people attracted to this or other recreational products. I’t’s either Shamwow, Ron Popil want a bee types (I personally love those guys for there energy & tanacity) washedout used car types, young brite eyed kids looking to learn and then there are the few that love the product, understand the cycle, have enough to survive the hardtimes , that don’t have huge overhead to live. I know its generalization but honestly it’s true.
    It’s not enough to tell folks to follow up but how & when to follow up. The unfortunate part of educating an enthusiastic person to the wheres & hows of selling, is that they will soon learn there are eaiser more profitable products in other areas to make a living with & they will leave. Curning is a problem. How many times do customers come into a boat store & hear oh he no longer works here?
    my 2 cents

  2. Larry Keeter

    Sounds like the Florida pom-pom girl reinventing herself. I wonder how many follow up either of you guru’s have ever done to sell a boat. The marketing system of today is no longer ‘go get him tiger’ or sit on him like the 300 lb mosquito. It is a process, well understood, well articulated and carried out. Its got to be like anticipating the Lands End catalog that rarely finds its initial trip to the trash and following through with the steps. In a dead market like this, it’s even going to be more difficult.

  3. RedBW

    Sales people are poor with followup and looking for customers period. I have a group of 1,000 owners of the same brand of boat. The smallest one is around 30 feet. Before the economy took a major hit, I had 1,400 in the group. This is a sizable group and you would think that the dealers & sales people of this manufacturer, would be courting and contacting these people all the time and that they would be involved in the group in some form or fashion. If they had any interest in looking for sales, they would have some kind of involvment with this group, because they don’t have to sell the idea of boating to them. They are an easy sell. They already know the product. And amazingly, there are NO sales people who want anything to do with this group and no dealers either. And they didn’t want anything to do with the group in good times or bad. This is how smart they are: They don’t know that it is easier to sell to a customer than it is to go out and look for new ones! I have tried to help them by pointing this out to the dealers for this brand. They laugh and I never hear from them again. I guess they already know everything. That is why a number of them are going into bankruptcy. Now they know that too.

    When times were good, and now that they are bad, dealers and sales people should be exploring every avenue for potential sales. I know I would if I were a boat salesman. Leave no stone unturned.

    I guess they are just too lazy.

  4. dave boso

    A good salesperson will point out ;features and benifits, and ask for the order, as well as keep on selling,. But if anyone thinks that a salesman can push a $ 30,000.00 boat on to a guy or gal that is just killing time at the boat show…… YOUR WRONG. Vince can sell a $ 19.95 set of towels, and you may want your sales staff to do the same,ain’t happening. If you can find a guy that can sell an igloo to an Eskimo you got your man…. good luck.

  5. Kevin Kyle

    I’ve talked to a few dealers after the Cleveland show as well a couple of other regional shows. The one thing I’ve heard is that, while maybe a little soon, the dealers that are following up on leads derived from these shows are having more success now (already) than those that don’t think they have a chance and aren’t.

    In tough times like this, follow-up and an aggressive approach to contacts is crucial. Those that fight for market share now will be the winners when the market does a rebound. I’ve seen it happen before and it will happen again.

    This is the same old story I’ve watched as a distributor rep and now on the mfg side of the industry. Don’t kid yourselves. Sitting back and waiting isn’t going to help your bottom line.

  6. Rick Bailey

    Only been in the boat business since shortly after 9/11/01 so in the big scheme of things, I’m a relative “newb” at this I guess. Been on both sides of the deal though, boat buyer and boat seller and here’s my 2 cent perspective…that’s probably what it’s worth.

    This business is about facilitating dreams and desires. People don’t “need” a boat. They sure as heck don’t “need” a salesperson wanting contact information for a lead card so he/she can stay in touch with them, or a bunch of typical salesmanship that they have likely seen over and over. What they do need is an advocate in their decision-making and buying process. Let’s face it, if trust and confidence are not earned early on, most likely there will be no opportunity to follow-up or consummate a sale…a lead card is pretty useless unless there is a relationship in-the-works attached to it. In order to follow-up, we must earn the right, ask for approval, and receive permission to do so. It comes down to establishing relationships, being honest, having integrity, treating them the way we want to be treated, offering something in return.

    Today’s boat buyer, regardless of whether big ticket or smaller pocket, the first-timer envisioning the family together on the water, those desiring to get back into boating, or the seasoned boater; their buying process has changed. It truly is now more than ever, a process of decision making carried out over a period of time. Most “show buyers” anymore aren’t unknown entities. Likely, we have had contact with them prior via phone call, e-mail and likely in person at the dealership and a relationship has been built. There will remain a small minority of impulse buyer’s and those that make a purchase and we don’t ever see them again…it’s becoming more rare. Earn a customer’s trust and confidence, do what it takes to keep it, and you will have a customer and an advocate in return, for life. It starts with sewing the seeds of building relationships that endure…unless we want to just hand out business cards and brochures, and get contact information. There is a new paradigm we must be cognizant of, respectful of and responsive to.

  7. don evans

    norm…you were kind enough to attend a workshop i did 12 yrs ago at mrraa… “wrong jungle” and here it is… and we still are in it. like the ole quote “if you have always done it that way..its probably wrong” or ” the first thing to do when you find your self in a hole is STOP digging” . we have needed to change our methodologies in the past…and did not .and today we even need to take the will to change. add steroids and re-invent. the financial crisis both at wholesale and retail is a death knell… and its time that all…manufactures…dealers…salespeople …boat show promoters…(especialy)…ad agencies re look at what they are doing (or more accuratly not doing) the target has now changed…the shot gun needs to be a rifle… and all emphasis on those that can buy ! i see dealers running in desperation to “offsites” at malls and all they do is show up ! they put fish boats in front of the limited…and gap and bowriders in front of sears and the food court….they put an 18 ft boat at one end and the next likely boat some one would by a 19 at the other end of the mall.a 1/4 mile away ..all the time in the world for a “shopper” to wonder what the heck he is doing. sales people that are used to selling at the store or boat shows.. where they have at least an interest to show up…. when at the mall or offsite they still ask the same lame question… ” are you here to buy a boat today? ” and the response is ” no i am here to buy a hammer at sears” …certainly nothing ventured and nothing gained. today it is the web like it or not… newspapers…closing… boat trader cutting back… e-mails are almost now a thing of the past… the new age is video e-mail where you really do differentiate your self … and can market for much less cost…(can provide more info on that) … one last note… in 96/97 the joint study by nmma and mrraa showed that recent boat buyers took longer than 4 months to make up their mind to buy a boat yet the dealers thought that the buyers took less than 4 mths… today it is even longer…. and the sad thing is the talent drain the good salespeople are leaving this industry in droves

  8. Larry Keeter

    Nothing more than a good interrupt, engage, educate, and free offer (one with genuine value. Make yourself an expert and go to guy. Follow up with ‘by the way’ type information to the legitimate prospect. Again legit info. If the salesman is lazy, get rid of him. The real problem is they have poor training. Most of the over paid industry guru’s here don’t have a clue what they’re talking about in the marketing process which is why I gave up on the MRAA love-in years ago.

  9. CarlM

    Larry feels about the MRAA as I feel about the NMMA …
    Larry I have a case of Bull Bra’s if you need one.

  10. Jim Glus

    I’ve been in the boat business since 1977, so, as you “Old Salts” know, I’ve seen my share up up-turns and down-turns in the industry. There is only one word that has to imbedded in your head, ‘PERSISTANCE’! As with me in the early years, most salespeople have a fear of rejection so don’t make the follow-up calls. However, a very properous businessman in Cleveland Ohio set me straight years ago. After what I felt was a great presentation and positive feed back from him on the showroom floor, days went by without contact from him. So, I set my fear aside and called him. His response, “I’ve been sitting here waiting for your call. I wanted to see if you were as good as a salesman as I felt you were the other day. I’ll be down at lunch with a deposit”. Damn if that didn’t open my eyes and it has stuck with me ever since. People dont’ want to here from salesman that work in “Necessity” industries (ie: cars, home improvement, insurance, etc), but give them a chance to talk about a hobby, sports, or something else they love and I assure you they will take your call everytime and be happy they did.

    On another note: My sincere advice to have a good year? Turn the Media OFF. Don’t listen to the news, Don’t watch the news, and Don’t read the news. Just go on with a positive mental attitude. If someone tries to capture you into a conversation about the economy, walk away. Shut yourself off from that so called ‘outside world’ and concentrate on what’s directly in front of you, your family, your business, your employees, the clients that come through that front door. Hell, they wouldn’t be there if they didn’t want to buy something. Get rid of the negative vibes that comes from ‘everybody else’. If a salesperson gives you an excuse that they can’t sell because of the economy, replace them. As I said before, I sold during the downturn of the late 70’s to early 80’s, the late 80’s to the early 90’s, and the start of the 2000’s by not paying attention to all the hype. Truth is, the liberal media started this crap and continue to build it up for a single agenda and it doesn’t appear that they plan to stop, at least for the next 4 years. Let them pull you into that hype and you’ll go down, in one way or another. Shut them out of your life and you will do more than survive.

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