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Keeping customers takes focus; Our last chance to stop E15

We’re into the three-month period that accounts for the biggest percentage of annual boat sales. So, it’s never more important than now to be well-versed in good sales and customer service techniques.

There’s been plenty written about both. Looking back among my favorite authors is Dr. Paul R. Timm, (latest book: Customer Service: Career Success Through Customer Loyalty (6th Ed) ). But for a fast read to get off to a good start right now, I suggest reading his “50 Powerful Ideas to Keep Your Customers.” Here are a few highlights you can use immediately:

Greet your customer quickly. A study Dr. Timm cites clocked the number of seconds people had to wait to be greeted in several different businesses. Researchers then asked these customers how long they’d been waiting. In every case, the customer’s estimate of the time elapsed was much longer than the actual time. A customer waiting 30 or 40 seconds often felt like 4 or more minutes. Time drags when they are waiting to be noticed.

Go for the 10-second goal — that’s to verbally greet each customer within 10 or so seconds whenever possible. Even if you are busy with another customer or on the phone, pause momentarily to indicate you see him or her. It signals to them you know they are there and you’ll be ready to help soon.

Always do some talking with your eyes. Yes, eye contact creates a bond between you and the customer. And, unlike the spoken greeting, you don’t have to interrupt what you’re doing with another customer. Just a pause and quick look can assure the customer they’re recognized and will be served soon.

Smile. Yes it’s rudimentary. But it’s so easily overlooked when things are busy. A smile, however, conveys to the customer that they’re in the right place and on friendly ground. Keep in mind, Dr. Timm says, a smile originates in two places — the eyes and the mouth. A lips-only version looks pasted and insincere — like saying “cheese.” Let you face show you’re glad to see the customer. Remember, you are not dressed for work until you put on a smile, Dr. Timm preaches.

But wait a minute — the customer isn’t in the showroom at all. He’s on the phone. The key to good phone use is to remember your customer cannot see you. So, the challenge is to make up for all the lost non-verbal communication by using your voice effectively. For example, give the caller your name just as if you’re face-to-face. Smile on the phone – somehow people can “hear” a smile (some sales persons even put a small mirror in front of them). Always keep the customer informed about what you’re doing i.e. if you have to look up something or push the hold button.

Always try to call people both on the phone or in person by their name. A person’s name is his favorite sound and everyone appreciates being so addressed. After that, listen with more than your ears. Every study always confirms top sales persons exhibit the quality of a good listener (most people don’t).

Here are six helpful listening tips:

  1. Hold your fire — don’t jump to judgments before your customer is finished.
  2. Judge the content of what they are saying, not how they say it.
  3. Resist being distracted by making the customer the center of your attention.
  4. Seek clarification from the customer so you fully understand their needs, requests or problems.
  5. Always be friendly and tactful — never accuse the customer of anything, and never convey the feeling that any request is an imposition.
  6. If it’s necessary to take longer than a few minutes, ask the customer if you can call back, write down that commitment and don’t miss it!


Attention all dealers: In an illegal move, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is about to decide about whether to allow fuel containing 15 percent ethanol (E15) to be sold year-round. This poses real concerns for our boating customers as well as drivers, motorcyclists and anyone who owns an engine that’s not equipped to handle E15. (That includes your lawn mowers, hedge trimmers, power generators, ATV and more - none of which can use E15.)

The risks of misfueling are unacceptable and could compromise safety while damaging engines.

EPA is accepting comments on this proposal right now. But the window is fast closing. So, if you have not done so before, today is the day to let EPA know where you, your employees and customers stand.

Today, file individual, unique comments in opposition to year-round E15 sales – click here to take action now. It will take less than two minutes but could have a sizable impact on our industry. Please make your voice heard. 


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