How Dealers Can Hurt Themselves At Boat Shows

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This tongue-in-cheek blog by Norm Schultz takes a look at how dealers can hurt themselves at boat shows. If you want to make sales at the fall shows, take a look at Norm’s suggestions – and do the opposite!

So, you say, you don’t really have any expectation that you’ll sell boats at your upcoming in-water show. Believe that and you can make it your reality. But it will take some effort to avoid making sales. So, here are some sales avoidance techniques you can use:

1. Don’t exhibit at all. Yes, it’s certain sales will be made at the fall shows. And, while shows won’t create a market that doesn’t exist, they will still draw in those prospects that are actively looking. So, even if attendance won’t be quantity, it’s guaranteed to be quality and the best way to avoid that is to be absent from the show.

2. Make it tough for people to find you. In my experience, dealers do a good job of identifying themselves at indoor shows. But, at in-water shows, they often fail to make themselves stand out. Think about it — hundreds of docks all looks pretty much the same. Moreover, most show managers do a poor job of identifying the docks by directional or information signs. I know . . . looking back, I didn’t do it well, either. So, the prospects looking for you will have a hard time finding you and you can avoid sales if you make your display blend in with all the others.

3. Board by Appointment Only. This is a winning strategy to successful keep people off your boats. Surveys show most people are offended by this requirement. So, if you want to avoid sales, this should do it. But, if you don’t want to be so obvious, the next suggestion can work well, too.

4. No shoes! Sure, many boaters will remove their shoes to board, but many others simply won’t. Perhaps it’s because they once had their shoes “walk off” at a show or someone accidentally kicked one into the water! But it’s a good technique to keep prospects off your boats. The no shoes sign also sends a message that you won’t take the time to put runners over the carpet inside the boat or that shoes will scuff up the deck. But I know a dealer who successfully turns the no shoes mentality to his favor by inviting people aboard his boats with their shoes on while telling them “you can’t hurt a Tiara!” Of course, don’t copy that if you’re trying to avoid sales!

5. Sit down in the cabin. Don’t be in the cockpit to greet people. Make sure people on the dock can see you lounging inside. They’re likely not going to disturb you. To make certain they won’t, hold your cell phone to you ear and lip sync something! No one will feel comfortable interrupting you. Don’t like the cell phone trick? Then, get another member of your sales team and hold a deep conversation. Looking totally absorbed with another employee is a sure-fire way to avoid a possible sale.

6. Make boarding difficult. Forget creating a safe ramp or other method, complete with a handle or handrail so prospects feel confident they can get from the dock to the boat. Women are particularly sensitive to boarding methods, even more so if kids are along. So, keep those wives and kids off the boat and you won’t be bothered by a sale.

7. Don’t put general info where prospects can see it. That means, don’t put a good, readable sign on the boat that gives basic info like make, model and price so people can easily read it from the dock. That way, they’ll have to ask you for basic facts, and you’ll be on the cell phone and unavailable to answer, of course.

The bottom line: The atmosphere at in-water shows is less “formal” than at the winter indoor shows, and it should be. But that also seems to lead us to a more lay-back attitude toward the shows potential. In-water shows are equally important and powerful as indoor shows, and the displays of boats dockside need to be presented as effectively and worked just as hard if sales are to be made. The fall shows, even in this recession, will produce sales for those exhibitors who are seriously up to the task.

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