Don J. Brown: Seven Words Dealers Should Remember

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Don Brown numbers financial outlook

It's not fun to see dealers dropping out of business. How many have? I don't know for sure, but if I had to guess, I would say more than 3,000 franchised dealers. That's a lot of people looking for work on the retail side. How many aftermarket companies have dropped out? I won't venture even a guess at that one. (Click on tables and charts to make larger.)

Think of the '80s, when businesses dropped like proverbial rocks. I think more than 3,500 franchised retailers failed. That's from memory, so don't hold me to it. Does it matter? Why am I even mentioning it?

For one thing, people run their businesses differently depending on the environment. If you got your employees together for a meeting on how to survive, what would you say to them? We know there is too much inventory and not enough customer demand — that's a given, right? Not necessarily, but let's assume so. What would it mean to your employees? What would it mean to you? At the outset, you might tell your employees what they will expect to hear. So what is that?

There is an old saying among salespeople and among sales managers and business owners: "You can't save your way to success." It sort of rolls off the tongue at any meeting about sales (or not enough sales). How many times have you heard it? While you may have heard it before, have you heard it lately? I would be surprised if you haven't.

Here you are with too many bikes and ATVs and even scooters. So how tempting it is to talk about how to keep from going broke by cutting back on expenses. Maybe there isn't an alternative. If you have cut your budget too much, you probably don't have any coin with which to buy advertising or promote sales by having a customer ride, a bike night, or a contest to win a new bike.

Would such things cost a lot of money? Well, not really. I'm not talking about spending a lot money, but notice I also haven't talked about saving money, either.

I believe in talking about ways to get your customers back into your dealership. You can't sell anything if your customers aren't there, and that is one of the big problems in times like this — store traffic. Without it you can't do much. And without incentives, it's hard to get your customers interested in what you have to sell — which is lots and lots of inventory.

But, you say, store traffic is a problem that requires a conservative approach? Wait a minute. Remember the saying: You can't save your way to success. This article originally appeared in the Dealernews November 2009 issue. — DJB