I'VE BEEN READING A LOT OF MANUFACTURER INTERVIEWS LATELY, and one opinion keeps popping up: In the current business climate, dealers should not rely on vehicle sales to maintain a strong profit. That's great advice, and something Harley-Davidson dealers have known for years.
Most Harley dealers now have a dedicated accessory consultant who guides customers to make smart accessory selections before they take delivery of their new motorcycle. That's an excellent way to increase accessory sales on the new unit, but not the only one. Pre-accessorization is one of the best, and perhaps the easiest, and all dealers should be pre-accessorizing to some extent if they want to increase their profits.
If dealers don't pre-accessorize or perform an accessory consultation before customers take delivery, they lose the best opportunity they have to capture the profits of add-on accessory sales. When customers ride away, dealers automatically go into competition for follow-on accessory purchases with every brick-and-mortar store in the area, and with all the Internet sellers just a mouse click away.
And dealers lose the advantage of the "new unit euphoria," during which customers are the most excited and most willing to buy. Did you know that studies show most shoppers are happier when they purchase multiple items rather than just one? That it's easier to say yes to the second or third item after making the first decision to buy? And that a key motivation to buy now is that the shopping experience is fun and easy? All these factors support the notion that pre-accessorizing new units is an excellent way to increase the profits on new bike sales.
- When accessorized smartly, motorcycles attract more attention and typically sell quicker. List the accessories on the sale tag so customers and salespeople know what they're looking at. Smart accessorization also means installing popular accessories in combinations that represent various price points.
- With accessorized floor units, customers can see and experience what the accessories can do for them, often selling themselves on the product.
- Pre-accessorizing a percentage of new units creates a sense of urgency to buy now. The reverse would be to floor several of the same model, all bone-stock. Then the customer thinks, "I don't have to rush my decision; they'll have one of these next week, next month, etc."
- Pre-accessorization is easier to manage because it's performed when convenient to the store's schedule, not the customer's. Service should always have some "internal work" to keep techs busy between customer work orders.
- Accessorized units simplify the shopping decision for the customer, which leads to your selling more with less effort.
Pre-accessorization is one of the best ways to increase the ringing at the register during the new unit sale. Sure, there are skeptics. They argue Harley-Davidson dealers can pre-accessorize because their customers are conditioned to it. OK, but who do you think conditioned the customer to customize the new unit in the first place? Dealers! Furthermore, take a look at the UTV business. When a $10,000 unit delivers with $10,000 in accessories, it tells you pre-accessorization works. Wake up and smell the sale!
If this is something new for your store, walk before you run. Pre-accessorize a small percentage of units with popular items like a windshield, saddlebag, custom seat, backrest or select chrome trim. See if the units don't sell faster. If it works, do it some more. If it doesn't, try a different group of accessories like a custom footpeg combination, an ATV rifle mount or a set of slip-on mufflers.
Now, being prudent, I must warn you not to install emissions-related accessories on street vehicles unless they have an E.O. from California's ARB, which is also rumored to be recognized by the 49-state Environmental Protection Agency. The boys out West have been working overtime to identify emissions tampering and fine the offenders, which can include dealerships that sell and install.
California dealers are particularly affected because for years it was technically illegal to install even ARB-legal accessories (those with an E.O.) on a new bike prior to delivery. Customers were supposed to take delivery, ride the bike away and return if they wanted an E.O. accessory installed. Pretty silly.
Last October, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill 829, which halfway solved this obstacle. Now customers can select E.O. accessories for installation on their new unit before they take delivery, and have the charges included in the vehicle finance contract to make it more affordable (Dealernews, October, page 16). Unfortunately, due to a last-minute revision by lawmakers, California dealers still cannot legally pre-accessorize new bikes with E.O. accessories until the buyer directs them to, preferably in writing. The decision confounds all logic because pre-accesorization would have promoted more pollution-reducing parts. But the revision doesn't stop California dealers from pre-accessorizing new units with nonemissions-related items like cosmetic, comfort and functional pieces. And that's still a very lucrative venture.
Dave Koshollek teaches sales and service classes for dealer personnel. His career includes stints as a service manager, Dynojet VP and director of technical training at MMI. E-mail him at DAKOenterprises@cs.com.