Converting the Forever Shopper

As a boat dealer it is almost a guarantee that you have had repeat customers. Those customers provide such a great feeling. You sold them a boat and then they came back.

You did a fantastic job with the first sale. Then service took over and made the customer feel loved. Loyalty blossomed and that customer came back with “2 footitis” and moved on up. Hooray, it’s time to celebrate!

Then we all have the other repeat customer … the one that already has their own boat. They tell you “I like my boat.” They add, “I really like my boat, it’s just got a couple things that aren’t quite right. So, I’m here to see what you’ve got because it’s time to make a change.”

That was 3, 4, 5 years ago. Or maybe it was 7 or 8 boat shows ago.

I recall a personality test I took when I was younger which had the question, Are you happier with:

  1. The option to buy?
  2. Having purchased?

Most of us can answer that without a doubt about one or two of our customers. And the answer is, THE OPTION TO BUY!

A Familiar Face
We have had one customer that sees us every year at the boat show. Then we see him in the spring and again in summer. We know his wife, we know his kids, we know his boat. And we know he likes to look.

Our sales manager has worked with him. Now, I would describe our sales manager as a closer, period. If I want a boat sold, he sells it. But not with this customer.

Finally, after a couple years with our sales manager, my business partner gave it a try. Both of them have priced boats, created quotes, designed a “perfect boat” and yet the customer is back again in the winter at the boat show with the same storyline of him being “ready to make a change.”

This summer, it was my turn to try to convert him from a shopper to a buyer.

“We’ve got a demo in the water of that boat you like so much,” I said with growing confidence that I could close the deal. “So come on over and I will take you out on it.” Sure enough, that afternoon we were out on the water, and we had a clear, calm, sunny and beautiful ride.

He loved the boat. I was happy, too.

And yet, no deal!

I let him know the demo was a great price and that it wouldn’t hang around long. In fact, it sold the following week.

Guess what he said when we called to inform him that his favorite boat sold? “Well, that is the one I wanted, I guess I will have to keep looking.”\

A Need for Further Nurturing
We believe we have developed a relationship of trust and understanding with this customer. The value of his trade was realistic. We provided incentives multiple times, with an aggressive price. We invested plenty of time with him.

family on a pontoon boat for demo

So, what now? We haven’t given up, but we need some new or additional tactics to help this gentleman overcome his inability to make a final purchasing decision so we get him in the boat he desires to own and has spent so much of his (and our) time seeking.

We are turning to MRAA and its valuable best practices and resources, installing tactics to help our sales team close more deals. We will:

  • Provide an even more personalized demonstration of the boat.
  • Invite his family and friends to get out on the boat with him. Doing the demo ride at a time that is convenient and with optimal weather and water conditions. 
  • Allow his family to use the boat and its amenities and drive it as though they own it.
  • Emphasize the safety features of the boat and provide ongoing training to help them more comfort operating the vessel and gain confidence while on the water.
  • Listen to the family and “throw-in” an accessory like a tube, wakeboard, skis, or other item that helps fulfill the intended use plans.
  • Introduce the group of family and friends to our service department leader to learn about our services provided for storage, preparation and the priority of boat-buying customers receive in the service process. 

Help Them Decide
“If they don’t “pull the trigger” on the purchase on the demo day, we will:

  • Send a handwritten thank you note to the family.
  • Make ourselves available to the family for any questions they may have about the boat or the deal.
  • Provide a second vessel orientation / second demo if any questions about the boat come up once the family has a chance to discuss it.
  • Remind the family that last year the boat that really wanted sold within a week of the demo ride. To ensure they have a shot at their new boat, a deposit will hold the boat until they finalize their decision.

Helpful Resources
Here are four MRAA resources to review to help your sales team enhance its closing techniques to convert more sales and be sure to help your forever shoppers become buyers!    

  1. Blog: One Way to Make Customers Happy
  2. Course: How to Navigate Difficult Customer Conversations
  3. Discover Boating: Grow Your Business with First-Time Boat Buyers
  4. MRAA Data: Pulse Report Sales Tactics (MRAA Members Only)

Let us know your best practices for success and how your dealership is converting the forever shopper into a buyer. Email me at