Whenever I am in Toronto, I make it a point to visit the BMW Motorrad showroom there. For the past couple of years, he has been leaving an R 1200 R for me to use. I pick it up from the showroom and ride around. On my last visit, about a year ago, I was at the same showroom. I browsed through the displays and I chanced upon a conversation between a walk-in and a young auto salesperson.
Differing Attitudes of auto salesmen
In his 50s, the gentleman had driven in, in his BMW car. He wanted to buy the latest S 1000 RR superbike. The client looked wealthy and in good physical shape. He was keen on buying the bike right away. After a long brief on the specs of the bike the young auto salesperson politely asked him if he was a first-time bike buyer or if he was a regular rider. The client looked annoyed but replied that he had been riding bikes, he had stopped for 20 years and now wished to start again.
In that case, replied the auto salesperson, I suggest you come for a free orientation course over the weekend and then buy the 160bhp bike. What followed was a tirade. “How dare you don’t sell me what I want? Isn’t my money as good as anyone else’s? What do you care if I have ridden or not and such?” Eventually, the irate customer asked to speak to the manager.
I was sure that the young auto salesperson was about to be shown the door. Was he mad to be politely refusing a sale worth thirty thousand Canadian dollars? Maybe more? Nonetheless, I waited to see how the drama would unfold. Believe it or not, the manager, equally politely, backed his showroom staff up! Should anything happen to the customer within a few days of purchasing the bike, then he and his showroom staff would be responsible. They’re not doing their duty of insisting that the customer got acquainted with the potential of a bike of this nature. It would either be the orientation course and then the bike or the highway.
Customer evaluation is easy
Back home, I have visited several showrooms of premium bikes. Ducati, Triumph, BMW, Harley-Davidson, you name it. Across cities too. And nowhere have I found the shop floor attendant to be well versed with the product he sells. He is far more interested in gauging the attire and appearance of walk-in to see whether he will really buy a bike or is simply a curious cat intent on a closer look.
The evaluation starts with the parking lot itself. The security guard will ask you why you’re parking in the first place! Once you’ve got past that you’ll have to deal with staff that will first crowd around you and then peg you as a man with little knowledge about high-end motorcycles, presumably because you don’t look wealthy enough. And that will be that.
But the first principle of being a good auto salesperson is to understand that politeness is key to a sale. The second is the knowledge that only a few of the walk-ins will actually convert into a sale. That should not deter them from showing a product or explaining the finer details of a new product that the customer might simply want to stare at. After all, isn’t that why the showroom staff is there in the first place? To show bikes to people who may be customers also?
Sales depend on how well the salesmen know the product
The third principle of being a good auto salesperson is knowledge of the product you’re selling. Unless you know what your bike can (or can’t) do, how can you possibly sell it? Recently I called Ducati Bangalore and asked about my bike needing a valve job or not. A lady at the other end knew nothing about a Monster 795, not even a 796! Maybe she was new, but if she didn’t know, she should have at once given the phone to a person who did know.
After a long conversation, I was directed to another person who said yes, if it’s nearing 30,000km it would need a valve job and they had a Desmo Service. It would cost me a basic or Rs25,000 and spares extra, plus about two to three days! I have never heard anything so outrageous as this. Also, on further investigation, I could make out they had actually never done a desmo valve job, since hardly any bikes have crossed 30k km, so I would be the scapegoat.
I have also experienced, and loads of my friends who have bought such bikes as mentioned above, the smallest, simplest, easiest spares take two weeks and more to come! You can be just lucky if any ‘service’ spare is available over the counter! Such experiences drive the customer back to his own trusted mechanic. And to the net, where parts are easy to find, they arrive in a few days and the cost is about 30 per cent of what the dealers want to charge. I am not surprised that once the bikes are out of warranty, people to shy off from going to the company showrooms.
What is even more amazing is that none of the rider/owners seem to want to speak out in public. Has anyone seen a dedicated Ferrari magazine? Take a look, first two pages to the editor are full of complaints!
It’s unfathomable why our riders shy of putting even legitimate difficulties they face at such places in the public gaze. Truth is nothing will change unless we, the owners, demand it. On that note, happy riding and safe riding of course.