DAVE HEAD • CALIFORNIA HARLEY-DAVIDSON
HARBOR CITY, CALIFORNIA
We sold a new ’09 FLHTCUTG Tri Glide to Robert Gilles on June 23, 2009. We bought it back from this decorated veteran’s widow on Nov. 10, less than five months later.
It was early spring 2009 when I first noticed the change in Bob’s appearance. He was happy to tell me that, although he was on borrowed time, he had already beaten the medical statistics by half a year. Even so, he said, “I just don’t wanna die before the age of 60 and that won’t be ‘til September. That means I’m gonna have to beat the odds another six months I guess,” he said.
After that, he came in to see me once a week. We talked openly about his cancer and feelings. I helped him with a strategy to sell his two Harleys. He seemed happy to think about giving his wife a couple of decent checks to help cover his final expenses. Sure enough, two weeks later he came in all smiles. His bikes were sold and he felt a sense of relief.
After this visit, I noticed that he started paying attention to the new Tri-Glide on the showroom floor. I worried about what to do. Under the circumstances, wouldn’t it be wrong for me to try to sell a Tri-Glide to this dying hero?
Even so, I took the time to teach him everything I knew about the vehicle. One day, I had Bob sign a demo ride waiver form, and then I got in my truck and followed him around our demo route. When we returned, his smile won me over. I knew he wanted it, and he had ridden well. But still, I didn’t want to suggest that he make a purchase at such a time.
I decided to call his wife and share my feelings and questions. She thanked me sincerely for letting her know. The very next day they came in the store together. We talked about life, joy, dying and planning for eternity, and all of the things people generally avoid talking about. But Bob was never afraid nor was his wife. I lost my fear, and we closed a deal that included a written dealer buy-back agreement on the Tri-Glide. This was the document Bob needed in order to allow himself to accept his wife’s permission to buy it in the first place. And she wanted my personal assurance that Bob safely controlled the trike during the demo ride. This was the assurance she needed from me in order to give him her blessings in the first place.
Bob’s wife later said that Bob had a wonderful time customizing it in the garage with their son, Matt. It was a special time for both of them. She also told me that the Tri-Glide extended his life by at least two months.
I saw him cruising around twice, and each time I smiled and wondered if I will face my end with half as much dignity, joy and courage. The last time I saw him, I knew the Tri-Glide was somehow helping the man live beyond all odds. Watching Bob go by, I knew I was observing the real deal.
Bob died early on the morning of Sept. 17. It was his 60th birthday! It turns out that for all the hours and days I spent trying not to sell this man a trike, it was the best sale I would have ever hoped to have made because it gets even better when I consider what happened in the end. We paid Bob’s wife a generous buy-back; a terrific young couple came in and bought Bob’s trike at a fair price; and in the end I sold the Trike twice instead of once. I am reminded of what we are supposed to be doing here in the first place. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
FINANCE AND INSURANCE
ROGER PITOCCO • CHESTER’S HARLEY-DAVIDSON
I was sitting at my desk on Jan. 4 with the new year ahead of me.
It was very slow that morning, and one of the tactics I use for prospecting is Craigslist. I look for people who have their bike for sale and call them to see if they are selling it to get another bike or just need cash. I use this same technique with eBay and Cycletrader. I have been pretty successful through the years with this. On this morning, I couldn’t find anything really good, so I checked out the “Wanted” section. I ran across an ad from a guy who stated he had $4,000 to put down and could afford a $400-a-month payment but was having no success with getting a loan because he had his own business. With nothing to lose, I called him and explained who I was and asked if he had tried getting a loan through H-D. He said no but thought it would be difficult and that they would require all kinds of paperwork to prove his income. I said you have nothing to lose, and it would only take a couple of moments on the phone. He agreed and gave me the information needed for the application.
I thanked him for his time and told him I would get back to him as soon as I heard anything. I entered his information into Dealer Link and got an instant approval with no stips needed. I called him back in five minutes and told him to come in and pick out his new Harley. He couldn’t believe it but came down the next morning. He called me three times before he came in to confirm the approval. Eventually, he settled on a new 2010 FLTRX. He couldn’t thank me enough and is already sending in referrals. So, along with all the places I look for leads, today I also check the “Wanted” section of Craigslist—you never know.
PARTS AND ACCESSORIES
CURTIS SEABORN, NOMINATED BY FRANK COSTA • CASCADE HARLEY-DAVIDSON
I would like to nominate our dealership superstar, Curtis Seaborn, and explain a very creative approach to increasing customer loyalty, along with creating a sales opportunity with very little investment. Most dealers these days support an eBay employee or employees. Most dealers send out a monthly newsletter as well. Adding a small amount of time to the process, Curtis has found a way to guarantee future business for our dealership.
One Wednesday afternoon I was compiling information to place in our newsletter and Curtis, my eBay specialist, approached me with an idea.
Curtis suggested listing in the newsletter an offer to our subscribers encouraging them to bring in their “old junk” from the deepest corners of their garage and allow us to sell it for them through our eBay store. The key to the success of the offer was to give the customer 100 percent of the sales price (less freight) in a store gift card. We would also cut the customer a check for 75 percent of the sales price if they wish.
The program is now one year old, and we have only written two checks for payout, but we have issued over $15,000 in gift cards, creating future sales from a revenue stream that would normally end up getting spent elsewhere, if at all. What’s more, it has created a deeper relationship with our customers.
To cover the fees involved with eBay and PayPal, we mark up the freight charges approximately 25 percent, and after reconciling the entire year’s worth of transactions, we have approximately 2 percent net expense invested, including considerations for a portion of wages.
BEE KIRCHGATTERER • ACE MOTORCYCLES & SCOOTER COMPANY
When facing a problem, sometimes non-traditional solutions are the way to go. We at ACE wanted to carry a new boot line in our shop, but winter was upon us, customers were few and far between, and we had no budget. Should we have just hunkered down and bought and promoted nothing until spring, letting a great boot line be picked up by another shop?
What we chose to do instead was leverage free social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to reach our customer base and their friends, and invited them to a totally free Winter Meet & Greet/Boot Trunk Show. The office staff baked cookies, the boot company rep came to offer her support and brought sales samples of the line, and the customers (claiming cabin fever!) loved the excuse to come and interact with the mechanics, other motorcycle enthusiasts, and to try on and purchase boots. We took a big chance having the entire staff available and out front that day, and we didn’t get any service or repair work done, but the event drew a steady stream of new and existing customers. No one felt sold to, pitched at or compelled to buy. What they told me after the event online, through Twitter, and via e-mail was that they really enjoyed the event, the new products and the sense of community they have with our shop. Specifically, they said no other shop invites them over for cookies, coffee and a side of product information, and they want more!
In the end, after totaling up orders and uploading participating customers’ pictures to Facebook, we found that we had a 90 percent customer conversion rate! Now that’s what I call a success story!
VINNY LAURIE • FORMERLY OF
BIKER’S DREAM OF ATLANTA
In these times of lowered profits, we here at Biker’s Dream of Atlanta are always searching for cost-effective promotions to keep our customers coming back in the door. With that in mind, I launched a YouTube page and hosted a “Your Bike Should Be In The Movies” promotion.
In essence, I utilized our e-mail list and in-house dyno as a means of providing our customers with a cool, no-cost event at our dealership. The customer brought his unit in, and we made three dyno runs, recording peak horsepower and torque numbers while I filmed the session.
I edited the videos and saved them until the launch of the contest. It ran from January 2 -23, and the video with the most views won. Why the most views instead of most horsepower and torque like a typical dyno shootout? That’s simple: The customers loved seeing the videos with their bike in it, and they marketed the videos on various forums and websites in an attempt to garner the most views.
In addition to the exposure we received from our customers marketing our dealership for us, we also performed a no-cost, 25-point service inspection on each unit before dynoing it. The first unit we inspected had a blown head gasket on the rear cylinder. The customer was saved the trouble of being in the middle of a ride and facing a mechanical breakdown, and we wrote a decent service ticket. Everybody wins!
We sold pipes, windshields, cam upgrades and so on. The winner of the contest received our “Best Picture Award,” including an Easyriders calendar, pair of gloves, dealership T-shirt, riding glasses and some other dealership-branded goodies. The total cost to us was about a hundred bucks.
Our YouTube page has had nearly ten thousand views to date and is a great asset to every department in the dealership. The trackability of this sort of marketing is awesome, and I am already planning a sequel — with a plot twist! — so check us out at www.youtube.com/user/bikersdreamatl. Anybody who doesn’t utilize every asset the dealership possesses is missing the boat these days!