Motorcycle sales
May 12, 2008 6:39 AM   Subscribe

NewbieSalesFilter: So im giving sales a try for the first time in my life. I will be selling motorcycles one day a week. Its all commision. What advice can you give to a newbie motorcycle salesman so that i can succeed and make a little extra cash? Suggestions im looking for are, how to close? open ended questions?? Thanks in advance!!
posted by flipmiester99 to Work & Money (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In general, I like salespeople who know the product and give me good, non-bullshit reasons to buy the right one. I'm always suspicious when they try to sell me the most expensive thing first. It's much more compelling to be shown the cheaper ones and then work upwards until you hit your comfort level.

The guy who sold me a truck last week just gave me the keys and told me take it for as long a drive as I liked. If I asked a question he didn't know the answer to, he admitted it and researched the answer.
posted by unSane at 7:06 AM on May 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

How did you get involved in motorcycles?

What's the most important priority to you in your motorcycle?

What other issues are important to you?

What would you like to see improved or enhanced?

What are your expectations/requirements for your motorcycle?
posted by netbros at 7:07 AM on May 12, 2008

Sales people are pushy, lying, sociopaths for a reason: it works.

Further, often what it takes to be a decent human being and a good sales person are diametrically opposed. Which is why decent human beings seldom succeed in sales.

That said, much of how you should proceed depends entirely on where you're working and what the customer base is like. If your shop is positioned to attract thoughtful, intelligent customers who like doing their research first, then a straight shooting, no-nonsense approach will work best. If your shop is a high volume crotch rocket dealership where the goal is to get a shirtless redneck on to a neon green street bike as fast as possible you'll have adjust your tactics accordingly.
posted by wfrgms at 7:19 AM on May 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Remember to ask for the sale. I know it sounds like a pretty "duh" statement but you'd be shocked at how many poorly trained sales people forget this pretty basic requirement. They'll do a fantastic job on the pre-sell, and then leave their potential customer ready to cough up the dough only to forget to ask for the sale directly and then leave the customer to wander off to "think about it."

While I'm not a salesperson myself, from everything I've read about car salesmen and such, its the aggressive ones that get the sales. Yes, they have a bad image as pushy and opportunistic, but bottom line is that those traits give them a not insignificant advantage of their less pushy peers, and at the end of the day its all about the bottom line, not their personal image.

If you don't like that aspect of it, consider trying to find a "no-haggle" dealership to work at. Less pressure, less money, but if you're doing this for only one day a week then something tells me its not about the money.

Also, Edmunds has a fantastic article called "Confessions of a Car Salesman" where they send a reporter to work at a high-volume, high-pressure Japanese car dealer and then at a no-haggle domestic car dealer. He catalogs his experience about the culture, what works, etc.

Not motorcycles, but fantastic read nonetheless. Hope that helps and good luck.
posted by Elminster24 at 7:21 AM on May 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Knowing your products is paramount. Know how to differentiate one brand from another and one model from another within brand. As you are learning the customer's requirements, you must be able to immediately eliminate/include specific product from the equation. The more you know about features and specifications, the better you will be able to genuinely "help" your customer.
posted by netbros at 7:27 AM on May 12, 2008

Further, often what it takes to be a decent human being and a good sales person are diametrically opposed. Which is why decent human beings seldom succeed in sales.

This simply isn't true. The best salespeople are honest, knowledgeable, good listeners, and assertive. Ask open ended questions, know your product, don't bullshit, and ask for the sale.
posted by curlyelk at 7:32 AM on May 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Give yourself the opportunity to succeed by making sure you're the guy people think of when they think about buying a motorcycle. Get business cards, and get them out there! Don't be shy about passing them out to just about everyone you meet.

Check out a book on sales by Joe Girard. He holds multiple world records for car sales and knows a thing or two about the business!
posted by sevenyearlurk at 7:34 AM on May 12, 2008

I think the better sales people I've dealt with were really good at listening -- asking the right questions and paying attention to the answers to know what products to recommend to me. The really bad ones have their own agenda that they push come hell or high water. In a motorcycle setting, that's when you walk in saying "hey, I'm looking for a comfortable bike to ride around with my wife on Saturday afternoons, so I was considering the mid-sized luxo-cruiser" and the sales guy responds with "you gotta check out the new 900RR race bike, it's stupid fast and will do wheelies all day long! If you ride anything less, you're nothing but a pussy, man."

Oh, and call people back (and reply to emails, etc) -- it's always a shock to me how few sales people bother to call back. My sense is that a pretty significant majority of sales people are actually quite bad at the job, and are either in it for the short term, or get by with the spill-over from better sales people. By being minimally competent (knowing your product, calling back, being polite, talking to women as if they are people, etc) you will really stand out, I'm sad to say.

Lastly, from what I was listening in on the last time I was in my usual dealership (buying parts), you need to get good at working marginal financing to make a lot of sales. Knowing how to get someone with bad credit and a poor job hooked up with the right kind of usurious financing will make the difference between a sale and no sale in many cases. Ethically, I have pretty mixed feelings about that -- for a lot of people, they are no doubt better off if they didn't buy a stupid-fast sport bike on 5 year financing at high interest rates... but without that, you won't do real well as a salesperson. So at a minimum, know all the manufacturer's incentives and promotional offers, and spend time talking with the dealer's finance person to know what is going on with that.
posted by Forktine at 8:06 AM on May 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Honestly? Sales isn't about reading books. Joe Girard's book really details the techniques well, and if you're in sales, it's a good resource. There are just a few points, simple but difficult, that you have to keep in mind: presume the close, discover the customer's secret desires, paint pictures and make the customer dream, and confront them with the things that hold them back from what they want. But if you're just getting started, you'll have no frame of reference; a good salesman uses those techniques and more for ultimate manipulation.

My suggestion: go to a car lot. Tell them you're really interested in buying a car. If you have a girlfriend or wife, bring her along. Watch what happens. I guarantee you that you'll learn more about how sales works in an hour of trying to weasel out of buying a car than you will from days of reading books.

I spent a while in sales before realizing that I was just no good at it because I don't find it fulfilling at all. Either you have it or you don't; sales isn't really the kind of job you can inhabit if you don't like it. Get to know what sales looks and feels like; that'll be your best education in it.
posted by koeselitz at 8:17 AM on May 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Further, often what it takes to be a decent human being and a good sales person are diametrically opposed. Which is why decent human beings seldom succeed in sales.

I don't think this is true. I suspect this type of sales mentality simply finds it easier to prey on larger groups of people who don't know better, and it looks like a certain type of success. Buyers who are astute pick up on this B.S. in a heartbeat, and go elsewhere to those who treat them better.

What you may be observing is that it may take a certain type of ingenuity to be a good salesperson while being honest, helpful, and knowledgeable, and it's easier and more common to be lazy and predatory on those who don't know better.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:31 AM on May 12, 2008

First of all, do you ride? You'd be amazed how many motorcycle salespeople I've seen that don't. If you don't, get thee to the next MSF Basic Rider's Course. (Look up to find the nearest courses.) It's a two-day course and they assume you've never touched a motorcycle before.

Second, are you looking to make sales? Well, duh. Of course you are. But the difference between a good and bad salesperson is that while any salesperson - even the bad ones - can make sales, the good ones make customers. If people like the way you treated them, they'll be more likely to look for you when they decide that they really do want to buy that bike. And you'll be the one they look for when they want to buy another bike. On the other hand, if they don't like you, they not only won't look you back up, they'll most likely not even set foot in the dealership again.

Third: We all began somewhere. You'll be under pressure by management to sell the bigger, higher profit bikes. That's where they - and you - make money. But smart beginners aren't looking to buy a 600SS sport bike. They want a smaller bike that they aren't going to be afraid of. Know what bikes are beginner friendly and which ones aren't. If people are scared of a bike that they've bought, they won't ride it. And usually they won't ride, period, which means they'll never come to you for a second bike.
posted by azpenguin at 9:15 AM on May 12, 2008

Nthing the advice to ask questions and listen carefully to the answers. Your job is to figure out what your customer really wants/needs and steer him there. When you've arrived at the answer, don't be afraid to ask for the sale.

It isn't true that you can't be a good salesman and a good human being, it's just true that many bad human beings are drawn to sales because it looks easy and it often rewards, at least in the short term, predatory and unethical behavior.

One thing I would really scrutinize is the management. Do they support ethical sales practices? Do they back you up when a customer has a legitimate complaint, or do they pressure you to put the guy off? Are they OK with it when you realize that you don't have, and can't get, a bike that's right for the customer and you send him to a competitor who does? The answers to questions like these are extremely important. A good salesperson builds a career gradually on good karma and word of mouth. If you don't have the freedom to do that, look for another position where you do.
posted by bricoleur at 10:09 AM on May 12, 2008

I have been in sales / sales management for 20+ years. Never sold cars or motorcycles, mostly tools/hardware/building materials and the like...

They key to sales ( and life) is knowing when to talk, and when to listen.

So many times I've watch guys over-sell, simply because they feel that it is their job to fill any moment in the conversation with some added factoid, feature or benefit. If you are asked a question, answer it as honestly as you can, even if the honest answer is simply "I'm not sure, let me find that out".

When your customer is talking, don't just shut-up waiting for a break in the conversation so you can continue you spleal, but LISTEN to what they are saying!! Most of the time you'll find that they will sell themselves the product if they really want it.

As others have mentioned, ASK FOR THE SALE. If your not comfortable with this, do it half joking: " So, ready to fill out the credit app?"

Research what you are selling, know it's strengths, weakness. Know your competition, but don't ever bash them or their products, you need to know them so you can know why yours is better for your particular customers needs.

I have to imagine that a motorcycle sale is based a lot on emotions, so don't be afraid to play that up a little. If the brand you are selling is one that is raced, make sure you know who the drivers are and how they are doing this season or last. Find out if local sports players, or celebs own the same brand/model you sell. I have no idea why, but people love the idea that they have something in common with Dereck Jetter and the like ( think George Costanza buying John Voights car...).

You don't have to lie, cheat, or steal to be a sales success. Just know your product and your competitors products inside and out, be knowledgable about bikes in general. take the time to listen, and when they finally say "I'll take it" STOP SELLING

Best of luck
posted by Mr_Chips at 10:57 AM on May 12, 2008

Have a genuine interest in your customers and listen to what their needs are. Be honest if you can't help them, but make a decent referral to some one who can. Play for the long game - if you can't help them now, make sure that you are the first one that they call for their next bike.

Most importantly, have fun.
posted by dantodd at 3:04 PM on May 12, 2008

Edmunds has a fantastic article called "Confessions of a Car Salesman"

I read this years ago and really liked it. Highly recommend it for anyone wishing to have a sense of what it's like on the dark side.
posted by wfrgms at 4:05 PM on May 12, 2008

As a recent motorcycle purchaser, I've visited several m/c dealers and can report what turned me off.

1. The m/c dealer that has bikes on the floor, all shiny and lined up, but no sales person available. Some grumpy guy sitting behind a desk doesn't count. Nor do people wandering through the salesroom with papers in their hands. Go to a car dealership and notice what happens when you walk into the showroom. A sales person is not only available, he comes over and greets you. That's how a successful sale starts out.

2. The sales person who takes one look at a customer and categorizes them. This can be fatal. If you think someone is too young/old/poor/educated to ride a m/c, you will not give their needs and wants the attention required. They will sense that and won't be buying anything from you! (Who's to say, maybe grandpa really does want to own a GoldWing.)

3. The sales person who isn't really into being a sales person. I walked away from a salesman who just went through the motions of answering questions in a bored way, then yawned in my face . He clearly wasn't interested in me, or selling me a m/c, or even being there that day. (Some jobs you can do without your heart being in it, some you can't.) You need to like meeting people and talking with them. Be interested in them. Be interested in the m/c you're selling. Show a little enthusiasm for putting them on one.
posted by exphysicist345 at 4:54 PM on May 12, 2008

Remember to ask for the sale.

I've heard it said that this is the most important advice for new salespeople. Basically, you are closing the sale and fishing for an answer, but a lot of new salespeople don't do it and the customer walks out!

How you do this is up to you. My parents were both salespeople, but their sales styles are very diffferent. While Dad is very direct and would be very straightforward in his close, Mum tended to go for the soft-close and would even let customers walk out (they came back!). Both styles worked, because they both asked for the sale, but if you ask anyone in our family who's the better salesperson, they will say Mum!
posted by ranglin at 5:38 PM on May 12, 2008

Know your product, and know it well. I remember going for a test drive with a friend, and the car salesman knew pretty much nothing about the car, yet was more than happy to be vague and speak bull.

And from my experience in telesales (fun times...), the one major thing (apart from having an answer to everything) was working out whether the customer wasn't buying for ideological reasons, or because of the price. Answer was tailored their response to that question.

Also, I found the phrase "does that sound acceptable?" quite a good one when discussing money. Not as weak as "is that ok?", but better than being pushy.

I never want to do telesales again.
posted by djgh at 2:43 PM on May 13, 2008

*tailored to
posted by djgh at 2:44 PM on May 13, 2008

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