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Winter boat shows

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Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the boat shows are here again. I can’t recall a winter show season more critical to retailers (manufacturers, too) than the one that began last Saturday when the 2008 New York Boat Show opened. Shows in every major and secondary market will rapidly follow.

Accordingly, for the next few Dealer Outlook Blogs I’ll use this space to share some thoughts and ideas that dealers might consider when going into this winter’s shows. Throughout the last 34 years, I’ve produced well over 100 boats shows and worked with an estimated 21,000 exhibitors. That has given me insight into why some dealers always succeed at shows while some others don’t.

Attitude is the foundation for success. No surprise in that statement! But, I can’t count the number of salesmen I’ve met over the years whose mindset was the show is just a “necessary evil” or “we’re here because we have to be.” What’s wrong is they failed to recognize that by exhibiting in the show they were being handed a unique and powerful opportunity to make money! Sales personnel should be lovin’ shows, right? But as I’ve observed, the negative attitude doesn’t stem from a dislike of the show per se, but from a failure to recognize that boat show selling is different and much more difficult than what they’re accustomed to in the showroom. Unless they understand and prepare for the differences, they won’t be mentally ready to do the show. Here are some key differences:

Time: In the showroom, a sales interaction with a prospect will last 15-45 minutes. At the boat show, a meaningful dialogue must be established in just 3-5 minutes. Peace: The showroom is quiet and full attention is placed on the prospect. At the boat show it’s chaotic and noisy. The noise and distractions get even worse as the day goes on and sales people tend to loose focus in later hours. Contacts: In the showroom, 2.3 sales contacts are made, on average, per day. At the show, a sales person who doesn’t make 3-5 prospect contacts per hour isn’t doing the job. Comfort: In the showroom, sales personnel are often seated and relaxed. At the show, they should always be standing. Competition: In the showroom, none. At the show, it’s all around all the time.

The bottom line: Working a boat show is much harder, mentally and physically. It takes a determined effort to stand up and stay focused, hour after hour, show day after show day. Good managers will make certain their sales team clearly understands these differences and is mentally tough for the task. As popular author/sales trainer Ken Blanchard puts it: “I don’t want people who are interested in reaching our objective, I only want people who are committed. And there’s a big difference. People who are interested in doing something will do it only when it’s convenient or they’re motivated. People who are committed to something will do whatever it takes!” Take a committed team to man your exhibit this winter.

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