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With the summer coming to a close, RV and marine dealers tend to notice sales slowing down. But during the off-season, you don’t have to sit back and wait for things to get busy again.
Instead, you can take steps to both grow off-season sales and position your dealership for a stronger busy season next year.
In this guide, we’ll examine five best practices for how to make the most of the slow season at dealerships.
After all the equipment wear and tear customers endure during summer usage, the fall and winter present good opportunities for dealerships to service these units. So, use downtime to increase outreach to customers about service.
Make lists of:
You can use a CRM to keep track of everything. Then, reach out to these different groups to let them know how you can help them get ready for next summer. Consider offering discounts to service vehicles during the off season so that customers have more incentive to come in now, rather than pushing service off until next year.
“Just like the farm or auto industry, service is one of, if not the most important, aspect of your business that will allow you to survive,” notes Kyle Kelly, general sales manager at Kelly’s Port in the Lake of the Ozarks. “There’s a battle not only within the boat business, but also outside the boat business, competing for discretionary income. We as a marine industry need to continue to strive and fight for our customers and make sure they are happy with their investment.”
In addition to driving off-season sales via your service department, you can also use the off season to launch new sales and marketing initiatives that you’ve been thinking about but never found time for.
That can mean anything ranging from launching a blog to pull in search traffic, to sponsoring local events, to scouting out new locations for expanding your dealership.
Launching these new initiatives doesn’t necessarily lead directly to off-season sales, but you can set yourself up for future success.
At first glance, that might not seem to be an issue. After all, the dealership already made the sale, and it’s up to the customer to decide what to do after. But if customers aren’t actively engaged with your products, then they’re less likely to:
“So, a few years ago, we created a camping club – Camp Moix – to organize camping trips around the state, four to five times a year. It helps our customers get out and use their units, while letting us interact with them. We also fix small problems with their units, cook for them and provide entertainment – all for free,” notes Moix.
Launching this type of creative initiative doesn’t provide an immediate revenue bump, but over time, that customer engagement can pay off.
If you haven’t had time to tackle clean-up projects — the little tasks that make your dealership shine — use the off season to cross these off your list.
From landscaping to lighting, consider how you can upgrade the physical condition of your dealership. You likely won’t have time during the busy season, so if you can tackle these projects now, you’ll be able to provide a great experience for customers next year.
In addition to upgrading the physical condition of your dealership, consider tackling more operational clean-up projects. For example, maybe your shelves are full of accessories that hardly sell.
You can clear out the old, unproductive inventory and get a temporary boost in off-season sales by offering big discounts. Meanwhile, you can set yourself up for the next busy season by analyzing your inventory needs and stocking up accordingly.
The off season is also an opportune time to focus on employee training. Making sure your technicians and sales staff have the knowledge needed to excel at their jobs can lead to more sales and happier customers.
This training can take many forms. Some staff might need to become more familiar with how to use certain products. You might want to let them conduct more real-world tests to get a sense of how customers use equipment.
In other cases, employees might need more training in areas like technology. If employees haven’t quite grasped how to efficiently use your dealership management system (DMS), for example, then training them during the off season can help everything run smoothly during the busy season.
Lastly, use the off season to analyze your operations. In addition to looking at inventory management, as previously mentioned, you can run reports using your DMS to analyze data in areas like sales and labor efficiency.For example, you can measure your Repair Event Cycle Time (RECT), which is the time it takes to go from starting to completing a Work Order. With IDS, you can benchmark your RECT performance against national and regional averages for other RV and marine dealers every month.
By measuring RECT, you can be better prepared in areas like having the right level of staffing and inventory to handle busy periods. That way, you can retain customers and provide a great experience that encourages referrals.
With a strong DMS, you can also get a clearer sense of your finances to see whether you should invest in new initiatives, like expanding rental sales. Plus, you can set clear, realistic financial goals for next year.
Overall, making the most of downtime puts you in a better position in terms of revenue opportunities and profitability.
You can also improve customer experience and employee experience, which similarly contribute to long-term financial success. Meanwhile, you can incrementally grow off-season sales through initiatives like discounted service opportunities and inventory clearouts.
Ready to see for yourself how you can improve operations and grow off-season sales with a strong DMS partner? Check out how IDS can help your dealership:
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