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Don't Skip the Demo

Posted By Liz Keener, Thursday, July 16, 2020

When your appointment book is filling up with both prospects looking to buy and customers needing delivery, it’s easy to look for ways to shortcut the sales process.

Skipping a demo could save you hours, between prep and the actual demo. But, it could also lead to a customer who doesn’t understand the operation of the boat, is frustrated — or even worse, causes an accident — because they don’t grasp what they’re doing.

The customers who have been coming in this summer come from a wide range of boating experience.

Some have been using a friend’s boat for years, and they’re now looking for their own. Others are simply looking to upgrade their longtime boat.

But then there are those new to modern-day boats and first-time boat buyers. Some are upgrading from their used, aluminum fish boat with an old Johnson outboard. Others are buying for the first time after being a passenger for decades. And yet others may have never even been on a boat, let alone driven one.

Regardless of which boating background your customers come from, it’s likely the boat they’re buying from you is new to them in operation. Boat technology has changed a lot over the past few decades, and when they’re moving up from a ‘90s pontoon to a 2020 wake boat, or making any other kind of change, there is going to be a learning curve.

Here are a few things to think about when performing a demo focused on an improved customer experience:

Assess the situation: By delivery, you should understand your customer’s experience with boating and should have noted that in your customer relationship management (CRM) system. But make sure you ask again, to assure you’re providing them the right guidance. Also, probe and ask them to be honest with you. We all know egos can get in the way, and someone may say that they know how to drive a boat, only because they don’t want to admit that they can’t.

On-land demos: If you absolutely can’t do an in-water demo because of your location, or time, or any other factors, make sure you at least offer a demo on land. Walk the customer through the controls and safety features just like you would on water, making sure not to skip any details. If the boat is being trailered, show them the features of the trailer and how to get the boat on and off the trailer.

In-water demos: An in-water demo is ideal. Spend an hour or more on the water with the customer. Show them the features and then let them take the helm, giving them pointers as you go along. Remember to compliment them twice as often as you critique them, so they’ll be more receptive to your feedback.

Trailer usage: If the boat is being trailered, and you can do a demo at a ramp, show the customer how to back the boat into the water, release it from the trailer and load it back up. If they’ve gone through this entire process in their own vehicle with you as a guide, they’ll feel a lot more confident the next time they go out on their own.

Demos in the time of COVID: Remember to maintain social distance, keep everything clean and respect your customer’s wishes when it comes to safety. The MRAA has developed a Sample Boat Demo and Delivery Policy (available to download on this page) and Boat Demo/Sea Trial Do’s and Do Not’s to help you develop a safety plan to perform demos that make both your staff and your customers feel comfortable.

Don’t forget the safety tips: New boat buyers may not know the rules of boating in your area. So make sure you tell them. This is key for them to have a safe experience and lower the risk of accidents. Explain to them the local life jacket law and explain the importance of wearing a life jacket. Talk about things they should be aware of on the waterway they’ll be exploring, whether it’s information on no wake zones, locks and dams, sandbars, current COVID restrictions or more.

Personalize the demo: Show them the features they’ll be using frequently. If the customer told you they’d be fishing, show them how to use the live well and the fish finder. If they’ll be wake boarding, show them how to control the ballast. If the boat has a speaker system, demonstrate how it works and explain how noise levels affect others nearby. This will get them excited about the lifestyle they’re about to embark on.

Don’t leave them stranded: Offer them a way to reach out, if they have any questions. Sometimes the initial demo is overwhelming, and the customer may forget some key things you showed them. Offer them your mobile number, or a number within the dealership that will allow them to get quick, clear advice on their boat.

While a demo can seem overwhelming to complete when you’re busy, the presentation of the features of the exact boat your customer purchased will make them a better informed, safer boater, who is more satisfied with their purchase.

No one wants to be the person out on the water with their family, confused about their operation of the boat.

So make them the hero by teaching them, and they’ll thank you with their loyalty.



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