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Salesman leaving his job.

The Death of a Salesman

The traditional sales person at a car dealership is gone. Remember William Macy’s car salesman character in the movie Fargo? Pack your bags! Along with the traditional sales model vaporizing in the last 3 months, so too is the long-winded process of purchasing a new vehicle inside a dealership. It doesn’t matter whether the customer thinks it’s a pressure cooker or a germ vault—customers simply don’t want to come shop at a car dealership any longer.

Of course, this isn’t quite as true for a powersports dealership because of the “fun factor” we have over commodity-slinging used car dealerships, but that will change soon courtesy of the COVID-19. Heck, anyone can purchase a car without any human interaction at a Carvana Vending Machine and have it delivered to their home like groceries or a pizza. Do we still need the old 4-Square Method of selling a motor vehicle when everything seems to boil down to an app or a logarithm to do it for us?

It was always my opinion that the F&I staff made back the profits which the salesman gave away in the first place! Maybe you should keep the numbers guy and let the sales staff go?!

What customers experience in the automotive world now will soon become expectations within the powersports world. We all need to study how auto dealers are adapting so quickly. Most sales are conducted online over a period of a few days when people either have time to cybershop… or ask a few questions over the phone. Once a deal is “cut” the dealer delivery staff clad in masks delivers the sanitized car to the customer’s home for a test drive. If satisfaction is achieved, the paperwork is finished at the customer’s home and the sale is complete.

This process can be repeated with another vehicle until the sale is final thereby minimizing human-to-human contact. Most salespeople thrive on the “human connectivity” of the old process, but with an airborne contagion floating around in the air randomly, that will need to be avoided for quite some time, possibly forever.

Don’t wait for the COVID vaccine to kick in — American online shopping habits will have been more fully evolved by then. Think more like the European models where property values and space used to be the restricting factors preventing large showrooms. Now in the USA, why have a giant brick and mortar showroom at all? Well, maybe a nice display and an Orientation or Delivery Area is all that’s needed instead of 5 acres of largely occupied by: 1) dedicated to showrooms, and 2) back up inventory crates.

Now the “showroom” is on the Internet — so is the closing room and F&I office. Configurators on OEM websites encourage “build your own” vehicles with all the accessories you desire from a massive a la carte menu of products. Finish your “build” and then email it to your local dealer to finish up the sale. No physical presence needed!

Will OEMs forego never-never flooring programs to finance “your dealership’s inventory” while it’s on display and replace it with possible regional warehouses chocked full of inventory for 150 dealers…ready to ship to “delivery centers” instead of “dealerships?” Yes, it sounds awkward to re-label yourself, but just think of the lowered risk you would have if you didn’t have to finance 200 units per franchise stored on site! Sure, the margin would be smaller, but is the decreased risk worth it? “Risk vs Reward” should be ever-present on your mind as you wind your way through this next year of business-altering decisions.

A few things which will not change are the local demand for fitted accessories, parts and service. The more “fitment” is a challenge to customers the more likely he won’t buy from the E-Comm Giants. That applies to both apparel and unit accessories. If it’s complicated, most customers will have you “just do it” or supply it rather than hassling with mis-fitting returns to be dropped off at a UPS or FedEx office.

Most of us customers know where to take the e-commerce risks by now… and where not to! And we still need you to tell us what parts we need because you’re still the expert. The same applies to service — I am not going to install a Rekluse clutch anytime soon—I have other things to do so I can make the money to pay you to do it better than I could anyway.

So now every salesman in the powersports industry hates me for saying what’s obvious in the auto industry and applying it here in Dealernews. That’s okay—if you still rely on a fixed desk and a showroom full of units, you are not a solution in the future of powersports retail. You will become a dinosaur.

Here’s the tip—become a “Product Expert” who can communicate across all mediums at all times of the day, night and weekend. It’s a new world and we need to take our skills to where they are most needed… and it seems it’s not going to be selling off of a linoleum floor any longer.

R.I.P. Mr. Salesperson.

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