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Think Beyond the Boat

Zig Ziglar once said that dealers aren’t in the boat-sales business, but in the rejuvenation business. We’re not just selling the hardware but also the experiences it will bring.

I once heard the late Zig Ziglar, an author, salesman and one of the best motivational speakers of all time, say: “I am offended when somebody says to me, ‘Man you could sell anybody anything.’ What they’re talking about is a con man. A salesperson is a trained career professional who is going to be there for the long term and who will sell only a product that he or she fervently believes has real value for the customer.”

That wisdom has stayed with me since I heard those words nearly 30 years ago. He said we were all living in a stressful world, so stress relief would be what every prospective boat customer needed. Further, he declared dealers were not in the boat-sales business, but in the rejuvenation business. So salespeople could say: “A weekend on this boat, actually even just a few hours on board, will change your outlook and lift a lot of stress. You’re going to see it as your place of renewal, your great escape.”

If Ziglar’s observation about the value of boating was true three decades ago, it’s surely overriding today. He emphasized that the key to sales success is, first, the salesperson’s positive feelings about the product’s benefits, not the hardware, and second, his or her ability to believably transfer those feelings to the prospect or customer in order to make a sale.

There’s no question we’re living in a time when experiences rule. If the boat doesn’t represent a positive experience in the prospect’s mind, we lose. Look at the auto industry. We don’t see commercials for the latest Chevy lineup of SUVs. Rather, the focus is usually on one model and the experiences it brings. In many ways, it’s the fantasy, the dream, meeting the expectations.

Time is also critical today. If we want prospects to buy, we must make it easy. They want it now. They’re used to getting instant information. We buy prepared foods in a grocery store. We can get a 10-minute oil change. We like easy. So every dealer must make buying a boat as easy as possible by handling virtually every detail.

Here are some other points for increasing sales.

Make the phone ring No, it’s not how many calls a salesperson makes that result in more sales. It’s how many customers and prospects call them that makes the difference. Remember, the goal in today’s selling is the get the customer to want you, not just what you sell.

Calculated follow-ups It’s a fact that most sales are lost because of inconsistent follow-up. It seems that buyers are taking longer than ever to make a decision. Most salespeople drop prospects too soon, and an eventual deal goes to someone else. Moreover, following up isn’t just about making phone calls; it should include emails, forwarding them boating and fishing information, hand-written thank you cards, invitations to a dealership event, tickets to a boat show, texting photos of boats that just came in, and other connections.

The buying cycle It seems the time between thinking and buying is getting longer. It’s partially because people don’t want to make a mistake. Consumers are doing far more research. Many sales are lost because salespeople quit too soon. Keeping contact with the prospect or customer is pivotal but always in the context of we’re here for you when you are ready.

The right workshop It’s not in the showroom; it’s in the customer’s head. The prospect’s priorities are what’s important, not the salesperson’s. At the same time, when a salesperson’s direct experience and knowledge reflects the customer’s priorities it, should be shared — such as fishing success, a great family cruise and so on. In other words, salespeople should strive to be known for personal experience and knowledge.

No clever selling techniques These days, selling is not about being a better closer or memorizing the right buzzwords. That’s old-school training. Selling now has to do with recognizing what’s happening with customers and prospects, and finding ways to help them realize their vision of the boating experience. In effect, selling is no longer about getting a sale. Sales come from winning customers who are eager to do business with someone who understands them and what they want to achieve.

Customer service redefined Knowledge and expertise are what prospects and customers want. They can buy a boat anywhere, but they want to buy boating knowledge from someone. Service is about sharing your knowledge and making yourself a resource.

One of Ziglar’s most memorable pieces of advice was, “Get an education in your car.” He admonished us to stop wasting time listening to drivel on the car radio. Instead, listen a segment about selling or business management — streamed, on CD, on tape — and “you’ll learn something useful every day.”

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