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Lost Sales, Part II

Is your dealership missing sales opportunities? BOC presents ten reasons why dealers lose customers.


It seems like we are missing a lot more sales than we should. There are customers who call or even come into the dealership who should be buying from us, but they don’t. What are some things we could do to capture more of these customers?

The continuing answer for Part II this month is provided by Best Operators Club member Curtis Sloan. Curtis is vice president of Sloan’s Motorcycle & ATV Supercenter in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

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Curtis, you brought up this subject of dealers missing sales opportunities at the last meeting of the Best Operators Club. What else did you discover about why dealers lose a customer’s business?

Originally, I approached Jose Juarez of Victory Solutions about this. We use Victory Solutions to follow-up with our contacts and our customers. I asked him if he could put together a list of the top 10 reasons why dealers lose customers. Jose researched his lost sales reports and also looked at customers who had service department issues. This is what he found: The #1 reason dealers lost a unit sale was not having the desired new product in stock!


Beyond the #1 reason, we sure had some eye-openers in the other top five reasons why dealers lost potential buyers. Interestingly, pricing between dealers has not been brought up.

Actually, the #6 reason that dealers lost a customer was that they purchased from another dealer because they got a better price.

Many dealers seem to think that is the number one reason why they lose sales, but that is simply not the case. What’s next?

Poor customer phone contact was #7 on the list. Phone-ups are the hottest customer any store has. Many were ready to buy, but the salespeople simply were not trained on how to handle them. Jose stated that salespeople tended to tell customers what they can’t do — things like: "We are not allowed to quote price over the phone." In addition, most salespeople really didn’t do a good job of probing customers on the phone.

Curtis Sloan, VP of Sloan’s Motorcycle & ATV Supercenter.

We try to teach salespeople to follow the same structured sales process on the phone that they would in the showroom. It is all about using the right word tracks and maintaining good body language. Phone customers can tell whether you are smiling and relaxed or stressed out when you are talking. Some salespeople even feel that the phone customer is an interruption. In turn, this is detected by the customer and often turns into a lost sales opportunity.


The #8 lost opportunity was web contacts — customers who e-mailed the store for info. Customers stated that they purchased at another location due to slow or complete lack of response. If received during normal working hours, all e-mails need to be answered within the hour. If received after store hours, reply by the next morning.

Web contacts expect fast responses. In many cases they have done their research and already know what they want. It is also a good idea to have a designated person with good writing skills responding to these e-mails. What was the ninth reason for lost sales?


Issues with the F&I department came in at #9. When a customer is told they can’t be approved, they often take it personally. Jose reported comments about how the customer had financed their (car, boat, sofa, etc.) but still could not get financed at ABC Powersports. In many cases, the dealer did not have enough financing options. In other cases, they never gave the customer options of increasing their down payment or adding a co-signer. The F&I staff also has to work other lenders that might be more aggressive. Quite a few of these customers that were turned down at one store got financed at another. The other dealer simply put more effort into getting this customer financed.


I once worked with a dealer who claimed he could finance anyone — even someone who filed bankruptcy last month! He had at least eight different sources for financing, outside of the OE programs.

Developing alternative financing sources is a lot of work, but it really pays off. You have to make the effort to contact all of the finance sources you can find and convince them your customer fits their financing profiles.

How to approach and acquire alternate finance sources is a subject of its own. What was the tenth and final reason why dealers missed a sales opportunity?


Number 10 was the lack of product knowledge. These customers knew more than the salespeople. This can be a big turn-off for the customer. In addition, when this happens it becomes all about price. The salesperson loses control of the sales process.

This was an interesting study. Most of the issues revolved around a lack of training or poor selection of the sales staff. The solution to increasing sales is often to perform better with the customers you already have. Make sense to you? We would like to thank Curtis for his time to distill this Top 10 list for us.

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