The test ride is one of the most powerful tools available to a salesperson. For many customers it is the moment of truth when they decide to purchase their motorcycle. Motorcycling is a sensory business and getting a prospect on a bike and in the wind can be the best tool to help a customer make the right purchase decision. It is the ultimate opportunity to build rapport with a customer and can create a kind of “riding buddies” experience. Many dealerships understand this and encourage sales staff to have their prospects take demo rides.
Risks With Rewards
You know the upside, where are the risks? Demo rides may expose the store to unnecessary liability and risk if they are not properly executed. As always, have your dealership’s attorney provide you with the guidance necessary to mitigate risk, but here are the basics:
Sample forms can be found online, from Reynolds & Reynolds (FADA-TSTDRV(2P) & OADA-0302(2P); www.reysource.com, user: demo, password: testuser). The store’s attorney should review and approve the form to make certain it complies with local and state laws. The release should indemnify the dealership.
- Check to make sure demo rides are covered under your dealership’s “shop keeper” or other insurance coverage.
- Make sure the customer interested in going on a demo ride has a valid motorcycle endorsement on their driver’s license.
- Have potential riders sign a demo ride release form which has been reviewed by your dealership’s attorney.
Again, senior management should check with the store’s shop keepers’ insurance agent to make sure they are in compliance with any insurance requirements. The insurance company may require that the customer be motorcycle-endorsed, proceed only on a documented and approved route and require a dealership ride-along person, among other things. Some insurance companies may require the prospect to have an existing motorcycle and motorcycle insurance before they can take a demo ride. Often the insurance agent is a useful resource for protecting the store against risk.
Who Should Ride?
Because of the effort required for a quality demo ride, the salesperson should qualify the prospect as a potential buyer. Demo rides are not joy rides. Has the customer expressed an interest in purchasing at some point in the future? It doesn’t have to be “I’m going to buy today” intensity but it should be strong interest. Has the customer ridden recently? Their first motorcycle ride in 25 years probably shouldn’t be on your V-Rod demo motorcycle. We just want to take a moment to amplify this point. The prospect should demonstrate the ability and knowledge of operating a motorcycle. Of course, you’ll have to give them an overview of the controls, but you want to make sure they have riding ability. Statements like, “so how does this shifting thing work again …” could give you cause for concern. And as we’ve stated before, the demo rider must be licensed.
Where and When
Your dealership location will really impact this component of your test ride strategy. Ideally you’d like a course with little traffic, few lights and some decent curves and a bit of highway. This enables the customer to relax and really experience the motorcycle and all of its capabilities.
General Test Ride Best Practices
The salesperson should ride with the prospect preferably on a separate motorcycle. Doing this protects the store from the prospect abusing or stealing the motorcycle. More importantly, it allows the salesperson to continue selling the bike during the ride. About halfway along the route, they should pull over. At this resting point, they can look the bikes over, talk about how they feel and sound (two powerful senses in the motorcycling experience). They may even switch motorcycles if the prospect was trying to decide between the two bikes. The demo route should include a variety of riding speeds and road conditions. If possible, it should include only right-hand turns so the riders will not have to cross over oncoming traffic. Riding the route should give a person a good sense of how the motorcycle handles and operates in varying conditions. It can include roads with varying speed limits (25 mph up to freeway speeds), stop lights and stop signs. As mentioned above, there should be a safe place along the route where they can pull over to discuss things. A good demo ride takes between 15 and 30 minutes to complete.
One Down, Five Up: A Sequence for Success:
Most have their own style when it comes to test rides and that’s a good thing. There are some factors that you should do no matter who is doing the test ride. Here is a sequence of events you may find useful:
- Qualify potential riders (inside and outside of dealership)
- Secure the commitment to ride
- Schedule the ride
- Confirm the ride
- Greet the customer
- Go to your office or other private area
- Review the route and expectations
- Talk about halfway point check-in
- Set up post ride review
- Execute necessary documentation and make copies of driver’s license
- Put NPI in safe place
- Grab gear and head outside
- Have a technician make sure pre-load is set correctly
- Frame motorcycle, i.e. compare to existing or previously owned motorcycles.
- Fire it up (creates excitement and allows bike to get warm)
- Review operating controls
- Review plan for route
- Review plan for halfway point
- Ride route; be observant watch for interesting things to talk about on return
- Stop at halfway point and amplify motorcycles strengths and answer any questions. Take customers’ picture with a digital camera
- Finish route
- Park bikes and head to private spot to complete the test ride evaluation form
- Trial close or soft sell send-off message
- Send customer digital picture via e-mail with personal comment of something that was said or seen on the ride
- Follow up (forever!)
Making The Sale
If you’ve received favorable responses on your evaluation form, then ask for the business, if you don’t get the business then, follow up forever. It pays! One dealership had a yearly demo ride event. They had a customer who came every year and never purchased. Every year for nine years … and guess what happened on the 10th? You guessed it … he bought. Smoothly executed, the demo ride can convert many prospects into owners. It is something many stores do not use to its full potential. It is the best way to help the prospect fall in love with not just the motorcycle, but perhaps the sport of motorcycling. Introducing an increased level of excitement and rapport through the demo ride may overcome potential price and availability objections ultimately convincing the prospect to buy at your store.
Unwinding the Offer
What do you do if you have to rescind the test ride offer?
The person has a valid license and has said all the right things on the show room floor about riding interest and riding experience, but once you get outside you observe some things that raise concerns. The customer may appear extremely awkward handling the motorcycle or seem unusually unsure about the controls. If you have any doubt about the person’s ability to safely handle the motorcycle on the road, you should stop the ride. But now you’re in a sticky situation. You don’t want to embarrass the customer. You don’t want to create resistance or resentment. What do you do or say? If you realize an on the road test isn’t prudent, you really have three options:
- They can ride on the back while you cruise the route on the motorcycle of interest
- You can do some easy clutch work in the parking lot
- You can merely listen to the bike run outside
Here are some examples of phrases you might use or adapt for this type of situation.
- “Even the best riders experience skill erosion if it’s been some time since they’ve ridden a motorcycle. Would you like to spend a bit of time here in the parking lot?”
- “Sometimes changing from what you’re familiar with can be hard. Why don’t we get more familiar with the bike right here and talk some more?”
- “I know it always takes me a bit of time to knock the rust off. Should we spend some time here in the parking lot first?”
Then if the person has demonstrated the necessary abilities to make you feel comfortable with them taking the demo ride, go ahead. If not: “We really appreciate your interest and the fact that you’ve come out here shows incredible courage. At the same time it would be irresponsible for you and me to ride today. Why don’t we shut them down, go inside and talk about how we can spend some time on our riding course. Your safety is our number one concern.”
Or use whatever wording you feel comfortable with that enable you to reach your objectives. Some of which are:
- Not exacerbating the customer embarrassment
- Not creating resentment
- Positively positioning you and the dealership