Shopping tips from a boat sales consultant

SEPTEMBER 2018

Buying a boat is much different than an automobile for more than the obvious reasons. Getting you from one place to the next is the fundamental use of a vehicle. More than just a mode of transportation, a boat is your ticket to fun, from fishing and cruising to tubing, skiing and more.

That also makes the boat-buying experience different—especially at a Bass Pro Shops Boating Center. To get an idea of what makes it different, and worth the time, here is what customers can expect as explained by an experienced sales consultant.

Meet Danyeal O’Brien, a Certified Sales Consultant at the Bass Pro Boat Center in Springfield, Mo. Her inside insight can help guide you along before you even visit the showroom for the first time.

What can a customer do before visiting the showroom for the first time?
Doing online research on the boat brand websites is a great start. We know that 90% of our customers do that before coming in. An informed customer is more confident about what they want in a boat. They can also think of questions to ask me when coming into the showroom.

Beyond the obvious, what else on the websites can be useful for the customer?
What I like most are the videos. Those show the boats in action with families onboard fishing, cruising or whatever else the boats are designed to do. The videos inspire ideas, excitement and how the boat can help them create their perfect day on the water. There are even how-to videos about trailering, engine operation, storage and maintenance. So, basically everything you need to know you can see in a video on the boat brand websites.

How do the prices compare between the website and the sticker price of the boat at the dealership?
We use nationally advertised pricing and call the process NO HAGGLE NO HASSLE. So, the price the customer sees on the website is the same in our stores, brochures and ads. We hide nothing inside our prices. So you don’t have to worry about whether or not your negotiating skills are good enough to haggle over the price.

What other helpful websites are beneficial for researching the perfect boat?
BoatTEST.com is a respected website that I really like to use, because it’s like taking a virtual test drive of a boat. The content is in video format so you can see the boat tested by an unbiased reviewer. During the walkthrough segments, you get to see key features of the boat, how it works and what it does. Then, the reviewer takes the boat on a test drive, putting it through its performance runs. The results and stats are shown in the video, so you can see top speed, fuel economy and however else the boat handled in the test.

What can the customer expect from you when looking at a boat?
I always try to get to know them as a person first, not as a customer. Striking up a conversation about anything but the boat is how I begin. That surprises a lot of people expecting me to hit them from the start with hard-sell tactics. We just don’t do things that way with our boats and company culture. If I can get them to start talking about their families, that might eventually lead into a conversation about a boat. I am selling fun, so what’s most important is finding out about their lifestyle and what they plan to do with the boat.

So, you don’t expect to sell a boat to someone who comes in the first time?
Not at all, or maybe the next time either. My job is making sure the customer is informed about what they want in a boat. That can take multiple trips, phone calls and emails. There is nothing worse than buying a boat only to discover that it was the wrong boat. Buying a boat is so much different than a car, which you are basically using as transportation to get from one place to the next. A boat is more of a lifestyle purchase. Making sure the customer is completely informed to make the best decision about their perfect day on the water is always my goal.

What brings them back to the store?
I believe it’s the quality and value of our product. Also, how we make the buying experience the same as what boating is all about on the water, which is having fun. 

What are some overlooked questions and scenarios you encounter with customers? How do you help them?
The first thing is towing capacity. I like to make sure their vehicle meets the requirements for towing capacity. Another consideration is storage—where they plan to keep it, if there is enough space or if HOA restrictions are an issue. It’s easy to get focused on the actual boat being in the water and forget about those important details.

What else should customers consider about the buying process?
The amount of time it takes. Some first timers come into the store thinking they might hitch up to the boat and leave that day, like they would when buying a car. Financing might take two business days, and it takes us about that much time to prepare the boat for delivery to the customer.

But the boat appears showroom ready. Why so long on the preparation?
Because we want everything to be just right. We are very particular about our quality control process. It actually begins at the factory and continues at the dealership. We inspect the boat coming off the truck, before the customer is introduced to it. And then we do a final inspection with more than 70 items on the checklist.

When is the best time to buy a boat?
That’s actually one of the best questions of them all. Of course, I am supposed to say anytime, which is true. However, boats these days are so feature oriented, they can literally be customized down to the cup holders. The takeaway for would-be customers is giving themselves plenty of time before their boating season even begins.

So, for a lot of people that is in winter, right?
Yes, and here are the reasons why. What the timing part comes down to is whether or not everything the customer wants on a particular model is in our inventory. If not, we can pull the inventory from a nearby dealer. Another option is installing some of the optional accessories at our dealership. Otherwise, the purchase might become an order that must be built at the factory, shipped to us and then delivered to the customer. That can take several weeks, depending on the model. Of course, we want the customer to take delivery of the boat in plenty of time so they can enjoy it all season long. 


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