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Selling Mutts: How to Market Used Motorcycles

If a bike has been in stock “too long,” either you haven’t found the right buyer, or your salespeople are ignoring it.

I have always done well with used motorcycles. I keep my average gross profit consistently above 30%. It takes training and great sales staff, but it can be done. I know that this number is well over the 20 Group averages, but it is possible.

I know a sales manager who, when a bike has sat for what he considers too long, he’ll start decreasing the price. I’ve never understood this outlook. If a bike has been in stock “too long,” it means one of two things to me.

Either you haven’t found the right buyer because it hasn’t been marketed correctly, or your sales people are ignoring it because it’s been in stock for longer than usual. The question is, how do you get their attention and generate more interest from the public? If you lower the price, everyone makes less. The salesperson has less incentive to sell it, and you get a smaller profit.

I raise the price! Raise the price and put a $200 to $500 spiff on it. Now, you’ll have salespeople who will fall all over themselves to sell that bike. At full asking price, of course, because the spiff is decreased if the bike is discounted. The crucial thing here is that you have the attention of the salesperson. They like to make money, and when they make more money, you make a larger profit.

Also, I hope you’re moving your units around, so that they are not always in the same spot. This also refreshes the showroom, and customers may see a bike for the first time that has been in stock for a few weeks.

If a customer says, “Hey! I was going to buy it at the old price!” now, you have his attention and some choices to make. Maybe work a deal out — but only if he buys it now and not tomorrow. You must stand firm. If he comes tomorrow, the deal is gone.

Hypothetically, let’s say you don’t want to do that for some odd reason. Here is something else that has always worked for me. Tell your salespeople to adopt a used motorcycles. Find the “ugly mutts” that need a new home, and have a salesperson adopt each one. No matter what the client is looking for, that salesperson shows that bike to him or her.

The customer is looking for a Goldwing and the “mutt” is an FJR, which you mention in passing “is a great deal!” Or, if the client is looking for a cruiser and the mutt is a standard bike, you say, “We just got this one in, and it’s in great shape!”

You do it with every customer. You don’t make a big deal about it; you just slow down enough that he notices it. How many times has a buyer bought a bike other than the one he first looks at? Buyers get attracted to different styles or categories. It happens all the time.

All you are doing is opening a door for the client to go through. Some may not want to, but some will. You just have to give the customer that chance.

Lastly, when your sales staff sells these “ugly mutt” units, make a big deal out of it. “Bob adopted out four mutts this month. He earned $XXX in spiffs. Hilda sold three mutts and she made an extra $XXX is spiffs. Well done you guys!” Again, if you don’t want to do the spiffs (and there is no reason not to) give them a gift card — something that they can boast about. Maybe an extra privilege? There are many ways to reward your employees.   

Above all, that is training your staff to build value from minute one. Once the client sees the value, it’s all downhill from there. Now, go and sell something!

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