Opinion: New Market Requires Eliminating Old Techniques

A formal suit picture up close of Sobel University President Jered Sobel

Over the previous three years, a major conversation point has been supply and demand. Now we must consider the market from a sales execution standpoint. Each marketplace will go in various unknown directions over the next year.

Sales practices that worked the previous three years will be ineffective in 2023. Three main supply and demand states exist in our industry, and we will examine how to thrive in each.

Demand Outpaces Supply

When buyers exceed available RVs, everyone industrywide feels as if they are winning. When everyone is making money, salespeople believe they know everything necessary, managers think they are inventory management experts, and some owners consider themselves geniuses. Over the past three years, successful sales teams only had to show up, do the work and hope more inventory was arriving.

When demand outpaces supply, whoever has the inventory wins.

Some thrive better than others during the good times. The winners have sales teams with solid fundamentals and strong systems. Sales teams with strong fundamental system execution keep the endless consumer run from falling through the cracks. Sales professionals with the greatest skill set, operating within quality systems, prosper with the opportunities.

Consider an angler who has the most modern technology and unlimited bait, hooks and lures. They will excel beyond everyone else fishing in the same waters for the same fish. Similarly, the disparity between the bottom salespeople and the top becomes much larger when business is thriving.

Over the past three years, some salespeople had industry record years, while the sales average at their dealership rose only in pace with the market’s increase.

Dealerships with accountability and systems, sales teams with solid fundamentals, and sales professionals with the greatest number of tools win, relative to the market, when customers outnumber RVs.

Supply Outpaces Demand

When RVs outnumber customers, industrywide we can feel as if they are losing. When everyone is working as hard as possible just to make money, these occur: salespeople feel as if they are on a hamster wheel, not earning what they are worth; managers struggle to turn inventory in an adequate time frame while still maintaining profit margins; owners constantly stress about operations until the market turns.

When supply outpaces demand, whoever has the highest technical skill level wins.

Before the past two recessions, I taught sales professionals not to participate in a down economy. If sales professionals are still receiving new opportunities, they are not in a recession. They must become expert marksmen.

Dealerships who train during more prosperous times are prepared for the lesser opportunities. Sales professionals who developed client bases never fear an economic downturn. They have a sufficient customer retention rate to avoid the hit. Managers who hold their staff accountable at a high execution level perform admirably, even with the odds stacked against them.

For those executing quality sales systems, inventory management is no concern.

Poor-performing salespeople leave the industry when business gets tough. The average sales professional does the work necessary to pay their bills.

Top performers still excel because they have the required skills to outpace the marketplace and those around them.

Dealerships who train in the good times, sales teams who execute high-level systems as a group and sales professionals with client bases and expert marksmen skills win, relative to the market, when RVs outnumber customers.

Supply Somewhat Equals Demand

In any given marketplace, when supply and demand fluctuate between equal, customers choose the winners. When all dealerships have RVs, and no one prices themselves dramatically out of the marketplace, consumers have the ultimate say in who succeeds.

This is important. When supply and demand fluctuate near the same, the dealership providing the best customer service wins. When consumers can buy from anyone, they choose whoever best takes care of them.

This is where the challenges really begin. Too many salespeople use techniques no longer fitting current market conditions. Too many managers are just now holding their staff and themselves accountable. Too many dealerships are reacting to inventory challenges.

Currently, I am enjoying the exodus of slick-talking salespeople and old-timey managers. They moved into our industry and made money when demand outpaced supply. When the market normalizes, those auto industry professionals no longer serve customers’ needs.

The difference can be seen in the auto industry. Customers need to buy a vehicle so they can drive to work and pick up their kids from school. No one needs an RV. The difference fundamentally changes the way RV salespeople conduct business when not in a peak market.

Here’s an example: The write-up step is not for negotiations. Yet many dealerships insist on using antiquated techniques/forms or try to skip the step altogether. I previously discussed the concept called The Triangles. In The Triangles, the information quality gathered up front, coupled with a manager checkpoint before showing inventory, enables a customer to be under budget on an RV fitting their needs.

Executing this step correctly puts salespeople in an upside-down triangle, where they spend more time with the customer and less time at the buying process’ end. When sales professionals keep a consumer under budget on an RV, the customer can easily decide to buy now.

The challenge occurs when dealerships try to skip the write-up step, leaving customers confused about how all the moving parts are managed. Because they did not have any written conversation about the numbers, customers may feel the need to propose offers and counteroffers to buy. Avoiding the full conversation provokes controversy and conflict.

Dealerships relying on old auto techniques like the four square or modern computer system versions of the four square provoke the same conflict and controversy. The customer refuses the initial proposal, and a series of bumps and slick sales lines create stress for the potential buyer.

By the time the exercise is complete, the customer may still buy because they want the RV, but the decision occurs despite the service received. When customers have a choice of whom to buy from, sales professionals cannot afford to leave customers with a bad taste in their mouths. Doing so leads to losing repeat business, referral business, long-term customers and results in negative online reviews affecting our businesses.

When steps are skipped, the correct triangle time frame is flipped into the old version, and customers leave because salespeople cannot confirm what they clarified with them two hours previously—in the correct time frame.

Normal Market Conditions

Though I do not know what will happen next, I do know we are in normal market conditions again. Dealerships that held their people accountable for professional development through the good times are gaining market share now. Sales professionals who actively built client bases, followed systems and constantly learned new tools are making as much money as they ever have.

Sales managers who are reinforcing and using modern techniques and sales systems are not dumping their inventory or worrying about profitability.

To excel in the current market, dealerships cannot just say they are acting in customers’ best interests. They must be training on modern techniques and reinforcing modern systems to actually do so.

Jered Sobel serves as president of Sobel University, a company providing training for management, salespeople and consumers across North America. He is best known for designing the industry-standard onboarding sales training manual and co-authoring the consumer guide to purchasing an RV. Among his previous work experiences are roles as a dealership salesperson, a general sales manager and hiring dealer staff.

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