The Fortune is in the Follow-Up

By Bob McCann, Lead MICD Program Consultant

Let’s say you’re in the market for a new SUV – a big investment these days. You’re torn between two models from two different dealerships. They seem similar from the looks, performance, price and test drive.

Bob McCann, Lead MICD Program Consultant, shares tips about pre-sale follow-up and why it's a huge step of the sales process.
Bob McCann

The salesperson at one dealership has called to check on you since your visit – “What questions do you have?” He texted and asked how your weekend was, taking the kids to the cabin. He continued to ask, “Where are you driving to next?” The other salesperson? Crickets. You haven’t heard a thing.

Which person are you likely to buy from? The one who cares enough to know about you and your situation and why you need the bigger vehicle (that ride to the cabin was cramped), or the one who seems to care less if you return to buy?

Touchpoints & Rapport

Our boat buyers are thinking the same. And pre-sale follow-up in the boat sales business is a long-and-delicate process due to the large number of people who don’t buy on the first visit to your showroom.

The pandemic had a major impact on boat sales all over North America to the point that pre-sale follow-up was transformed from traditional prospect follow-up to quickly closing the sale, and then following up to keep them on the hook until their boat arrived.

It’s time we flip the follow-up process to accommodate the 187-day buying cycle we managed before covid lockdowns had people buying boats on the spot. If you want to outperform the competition and be the top salesperson at your dealership — or better yet, in your market — you better Get Real about Follow-Up or Get Gone says, Jordon Schoolmeester from Garage Composites.

Selling boats is about building relationships and spreading the word that you can give the customer what they are looking for. You need to be the first person who comes to mind when a customer is ready to buy a boat, and staying top of mind requires follow-up.

The pre-sale follow-up process in the marine industry is by no means a linear process. It is composed of many touchpoints, which should be managed by multiple channels: return visits (be-backs), phone calls, emails and texts (with permission). Very few boat dealers have the luxury of a boat that is totally unique and sells itself. Most must work hard for sales, and in the changing climate, it really is survival of the fittest. If you are not in a customer’s “line of sight” or on their mind, you will simply not be considered when it’s their time to buy.

A significant element of your successful long-term sales strategy is follow-up. It is designed to build relationships and bring customers back to you, repeatedly. One simple follow-up call, text or email can be the thing that makes a customer choose your product over the competition.

Improve Your Sales Process

After working with dealers going through the Marine Industry Certified Dealer program, I’ve learned that many boat buyers never receive any follow-up after visiting a dealer’s showroom.

We cover this sales step in Certification and took a deep dive into the process in the Continuous Certification Curriculum and then again at Dealer Week, our annual conference and expo.

Below is the section from our Guide to Improving your Sales Process:

Pre-Sale Follow-Up — Following up with a customer who has spent meaningful time with you is not only suggested but expected by customers who are considering large ticket purchases. The reality is that the average boat buying cycle can be measured in months, and when a prospect doesn’t hear from you, it will make it easy for them to look elsewhere.

Every customer will require a different frequency of contact during their buying cycle. Some will need to be phoned the same day because they are ready to go boating this weekend, and others may need more time to consider the purchase. However, EVERY customer should be followed up with promptly and systematically after they visit your showroom.

These post-visit contact points should include several communication methods in the event your emails land in their junk folder or your voicemails aren’t heard. For instance, a quick email or text (with permission) can be sent shortly after they leave the dealership thanking them for their time with a link back to their dream boat. There is no reason for not calling the customer the next day to thank them again for the visit and to answer their questions that came up after they left. The real intent for the call is to continue the rapport building, answer their questions, overcome their objections to buying now and creating desire to revisit the showroom, continuing the buying process from a distance, or taking a deposit securely by phone or online.

To ensure your customer doesn’t miss your follow-up by overlooked emails or voicemails, consider separating yourself from that sea of fiberglass or aluminum by sending a classic follow-up letter. A letter is a good opportunity to allow the sales manager or owner to engage. Some people are simply wired to speaking with the boss, and doing so will deepen the connection with the dealership and might help to sell a boat!

As important as your initial follow-up with a client who visited the dealership, the follow-up is not complete until the CRM is updated. Add what was learned from the contact to your CRM immediately before anything is forgotten, along with scheduling your next contact.

Pre-sale follow-up is a huge step of the sales process and is dependent on executing on the steps that lead up to the follow-up. The underpinning of the sales process is building rapport and establishing a relationship. Therefore, it’s far more effective and fun to follow up with boat buyers you have good rapport with.

For more help with fine tuning your sales process check out these guides and courses:

And make sure you’re following up with every prospect, every time. The Fortune is in the Follow-up!