IT'S ALWAYS AN EXCITING and interesting time when the Top 100 entries start rolling in. It's great to see the new stores, the remodeled stores and the creative ways dealers approach their business.
There's been a big change in the way Top 100 dealers do business. Services that used to be rarities — like loaner bikes, priority service, pickup and delivery, drive-in service, enclosed service bays, courtesy food and beverages, dinner rides, charity rides and more — are now the norm. Nearly every dealer that gets to the Top 100 provides these or similar kinds of customer services.
Over the years I've visited lots of motorcycle dealers, big ones, small ones and those in between, and selling just about every brand. But Top 100 dealers are special, because they point out, almost without exception, that the reason for their success is their staff. Virtually every entry this past year commented that were it not for its team, and certain invididuals on its staff, the dealership would not have been as successful as it has been.
Top 100 dealers make sure that their staffs are well trained and motivated. Obviously these people receive OEM-provided training, but they also are exposed to a surprising amount of third-party training funded totally by the dealer. There's also an amazing amount of internal cross-training, along with mentoring so that not only can one employee cover for another, he or she can benefit from the longer-tenured employee's experience and knowledge.
Many dealers consider their employees commodities — pretty much replaceable and subject to increases and decreases as sales ebb and flow. Not so for Top 100 dealers. Their employees are key players. They come up with ideas to move product, promote, merchandise and help make the dealership successful. They're team players; they understand that the success of the organization depends on everyone supporting one another. If a Top 100 dealer has an off-season, it will shift an employee's attention to other projects, like service work, storage projects, rebuilds, and other essential jobs that have been postponed.
Top 100 dealers make it easy for competent personnel to stick with their dealership; 401K programs, competitive pay, profit-sharing programs, health and life insurance, and incentive plans are common benefits.
Top 100 dealers also make their customers feel valuable. Bell-ringing and applause when customers finally take ownership of their vehicle may sound a little corny, but Top 100 dealers keep in mind that a vehicle is a significant purchase for most folks. It's nice to know that your dealership cares enough to grant you some recognition.
Top 100 Dealers also know how to have fun. Is your annual poker run getting a little long in the tooth? Try a "Bug Run." Each participant is given a round, bulls-eye target that's attached to the front of his or her motorcycle. The route's laid out, completed, and then the bug splotches are tallied up. The winner is the rider with the most bug splotches in the bulls-eye! (Hey, it sounds like fun to me, and it gives the dealer the opportunity to sell some cleaning products at the end of the day.)
Top 100 dealers have some pretty good ideas about promotion, too. The one I liked best this past year offered free tires for as long as you own the vehicle. Another dealer equips all the ATVs he sells with a Battery Tender. Still another dealer promotes a monthly cruise-in with bikes and hot rods — a great way to attract some new customers.
As the market tightens up, it might not be a bad idea to look at what the Top 100 dealers are doing, and shore up an area in your store that isn't doing so well. Go back and re-read the profiles in this issue of Dealernews. You might get some ideas.