If you’re not a bit shocked, concerned, or maybe even terrified about the future of our business, take another look around. Motorcycles are still the coolest thing in the entire world, but there are no guarantees they will remain so:
- The baby boomer generation, the most powerful buying force in the history of our nation, is retiring, getting hip replacements, slowing down in general, and basically getting older all signs of a shrinking (pronounced "dying") generation. The entire industry is extremely dependent on this generation.
- The chopper shows on TV are popular because they’re soap operas, not necessarily because they’re about motorcycles. My wife and my daughter both love Mikey, but they could care less about the bikes. I can join in the last five minutes of the show, when they finally roll the bike out, and see all I’m interested in. I might be in the minority, but if you’re using the popularity of that show and others like it as a barometer for the industry, how do you explain that the niche is continuing to shrink at a greater rate than the rest of the market?
- Harley-Davidson has been the bike identified with "bikers" for the past 50 years. The brand that was there when the entire biker thing earned it’s mystique by way of Hollister, a hideous string of B-rated biker movies, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, etc., was Harley. (Never mind the fact that Brando wasn’t actually riding one!) Harley absolutely capitalized on that, and rightly so. The problem is that those young testosterone-driven men way back then were riding the most powerful, loudest, fastest thing on the road a Harley. If you look at today’s profile of men in that age group, the ones that aren’t riding skateboards are definitely not riding Harleys. They’re riding the most powerful, loudest, fastest thing on the road Hayabusas, R-1s and various other sportbikes. They’re staging street races, joining motorcycle clubs and generally living the rebel lifestyle formerly associated with Harley. That era, my friends, the one so closely identified with the venerable old V-Twin, is over. The new era is…
- Skateboards! They’re fast becoming the new motorcycle. In the old days, back when my generation grew up watching Bruce Brown’s On Any Sunday, we were fascinated by the images of young men enjoying toys and doing rebellious things, and we were hooked. Now we’re the ones getting hip replacements, by the way. The movies that are currently inspiring the same profile of youngsters are about extreme sports like skateboarding, BASE jumping, snowboarding and the like. Even bull riding is enjoying a resurgence. Motorcycles are now in grave danger of being seen as something, "my dad used
The days of selling by accident are over, too. If you don’t learn how to sell on purpose, if you don’t capture more of the discretionary dollars spent by the working people that comprise the salt of the earth, if you don’t convert them from some other toy to motorcycles, you’re helping to move things toward a day when we’ll eventually have to pronounce the industry as we know it as dead.
The Wal-Marts of this world are poised to take the scraps we leave them, and make money hand-over-fist while we stick our heads in the sand with proclamations about the down cycle. And if we’re not careful, they’ll do it without the level of service after the sale that our customers deserve.
Things don’t cycle back up by themselves … period! We see attempts to get this thing right. We’re involved with dealers as diverse as you could imagine who are proactively putting process in place where there used to be only passivity. They’re learning to serve customers and make buying easy and natural.
There are others, however, who are throwing recycled used car tactics at a segment of the population who won’t put up with being manipulated or pushed. The people who get what riding is really all about, the fiercely independent cowboy we believe ourselves to be, will not be bullied. The skateboarder, the new cowboy for the next generation, won’t be bullied either.
You might wanna check your motivation. If you believe that your sales process is doing something TO a customer as opposed to doing something FOR your customer, you might wanna get out.
If you’re doing something TO a customer (as opposed to for) it’s only natural that anyone would want to get it over with as quickly as possible. That’s why so many salespeople try to rush the process. Rushing through something as important, as intimate, as buying a motorcycle, almost always feels icky. Just ask your wife.
On the other hand, if you’re doing something FOR the customer, you’ll let the customer dictate the agenda, the pace and even the process for completing the purchase. All you have to be prepared for at that point is to accommodate. That’s what the purpose of your sales process becomes: accommodating your customer.
Once you get to that spot, you’ll have created an environment that will hold a service-oriented culture in place. Until you create that environment, you’re subject to the market. And as you know, the market is a fickle creature… even on its best days.
With all the challenges we’re facing in this new market, we have to sell with more structure and more integrity. However, high pressure still won’t work in this business because what drives our customer has NOT changed. Likewise, the policies and processes that got you here won’t keep you here because the market HAS changed … now where did I put my skateboard?