It’s hard to sell something if you’ve never tried it. With that in mind (and a whole lot more), Ducati and Triumph say they will continue to invite dealership sales staff to new-bike launches that combine riding with seminars on how to sell and market the particular bike.
Ducati held its first such event — the Streetfighter Academy — in May 2009 at a private road-racing track in the Dallas area. Then came the Multistrada 1200 Academy this past May in Austin, Texas. The riding route consisted of city roads, wide sweepers and tight rural roads, allowing the salespeople to test the bike’s four modes of suspension adjustability and engine mapping.
“Dealers were coming back going, ‘Wow, this is a cool bike,’” says Kevin Davis, Ducati North America’s business development manager. “As bikes become increasingly technical with features customers want, product training has become a higher priority for most of our dealers. It’s now a necessity, not an option.”
Ducati even rented three motorcycles of other brands at each Academy for participants to ride and compare.
Technical seminars on the bike complemented those on selling techniques, target customers, in-store events, accessories, apparel, and so on. Davis, for example, encourages dealers to use the same Multistrada demo technique he himself uses at events. He asks people to sit on the bike while, unbeknownst to them, it’s in soft suspension mode. Then while he speaks with them, he slyly switches the bike into its stiffest mode. “About 10 or 15 seconds into it, I see the smile on their face because they can feel their rear climbing as they’re sitting on the bike,” he says. He gets a similar reaction when he describes the sportbike mode. “If salespeople can’t do that in their own showroom, they’re not really presenting the bike in its grandest way,” he says.
Dealers who sent staff to the Multistrada event subsequently sold more than those who didn’t. “That extra training made a difference,” Davis says. “It’s very black and white in our stats.”
Davis says only about half of Ducati’s dealers participated in either Academy because many couldn’t spare their top salespeople in May. The bad timing was dictated by the models’ early-release status. Luckily, the next Academy event will be in February because of a new model’s March delivery date. Davis hopes for 100 percent participation because of the time of year.
Triumph began its similar program this past February with Thunderbird 360 in Temecula, Calif., which included an 80-mile ride through beautiful country.
“We had such great feedback from the dealer network about it that we turned around and did a second one a few weeks later just south of Atlanta,” says Jim Callahan, Triumph’s marketing manager. “One hundred percent said that not only was it a positive experience and they learned stuff, but that it changed their perception of the motorcycle and the brand.”
Triumph brought along a professional film crew for the Temecula event. The resultant video (view it at http://j.mp/c9dCRA) was shown to dealers soon afterward at the OEM’s annual dealer conference. “Then all of the sudden we were inundated with so many requests [for the Atlanta event] that we had to turn some of them down,” Callahan says.
Although Triumph had no competitive models on hand, its seminars addressed them. Other topics included the “Create My Triumph” section of the consumer website, demo bikes, accessories and clothing, and creating a Thunderbird display/retail area in a showroom. Rod Stuckey of Dealership University (page 27) gave a presentation on consultative selling. Sales staff also got to hear insider stories from top Triumph executives while being treated to a fancy dinner.
“We cemented our objectives in their brains and sent them away with some homework,” Callahan says. “We wanted them to make commitments that when they got back to their dealerships they would do things differently.” The next 360 event will be for the new Tiger models. It will take place the first week of February in Phoenix. Space will be limited.
As far as costs go, Triumph pays for everything except airfare. Ducati is working on the next Academy’s event planning and costs, so dealers should keep an eye out for a notice. Both OEMs also offer extensive online courses that are free. — Arlo Redwine
This story originally appeared in the Dealernews November 2010 issue.