Is face time still necessary for selling boats?

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I must be old school. I still think talking with someone face-to-face is the best way to go. Obviously, I must not be one of today’s high tech-enabled people who can text and drive or Twitter everyone what I’m doing without ever seeing them face-to-face!

It was called face time. You remember what it was -- spending time with family, friends or how about a possible sales prospect! But is face time now something from yesterday? Have we reached the point where multi-tasking is now defined as texting while driving? Is the acceptable way to build a relationship a hurried call while in rush-hour traffic? Has the rise of Internet purchases and, in particular, the ever-increasing popularity of social media brought us to an age of “faceless” communications? It looks that way.

Unfortunately, there is so much hype and acceptance of social media now that one might even assume face-to-face selling isn’t necessary anymore. If we’re talking about books or toys from Amazon, such is the case. But to think that way about selling boats is a big mistake. While some accessory and equipment sales do well via a faceless medium, boat sales are still all about face time. Oh, there’s an occasional small boat sold over the Internet without the dealer ever having face time with the buyer. Bruce Roberts at Harbor North in Huron, Ohio, for example, has sold a couple of small, used sailboats that way over the years. But he doesn’t sell any new Hunters or Gemini Catamarans without substantial face time.

Notably, every successful boat sales person strives to get face time with every possible prospect and knows there isn’t any real substitute for it in the sales process. The Internet and social media are great at providing information, but in the end it’s face time with the prospect that can lead to a deal.

And, that leads me back to boat shows. This is the second time this week I’ve blogged about the importance of boat shows. In the context of a sales team getting all-important face time with hundreds of prospects, nothing tops our industry’s boat shows. The influence of shows in the buying process is well documented by research (see “Boat Shows – Now More Than Ever” in Dealer Outlook of Tuesday, Jan.3).

In addition to the compelling data cited in Tuesday’s blog, we also know boat buyers spend an average of 49 minutes of face time in the show display of the brand of boat they ultimately purchased, according the study by Foresight Research. Moreover, most people travel about one hour to even get to the boat show. Then, they pay to park and pay admission. Those costs are actually a built in benefit for every exhibitor because they qualify the attendees. After all, people who have no interest in boats and boating products are not likely to pay to see a boat show! The result is face time – a boat sales person’s number one need – with a large pre-qualified group of prospects.

Face time is clearly not dead in our business. Getting the sales team face time by accessing the prospects coming to the show is why every dealer should be in the local event.

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