"The Navigator" News Blog

The Buying Process In Action

For thirteen years, I’ve been explaining that the customer’s buying process is far more important than any “sales process” we might create – and that, if we’re to be successful, our sales process absolutely must harmonize with the buying process.  What I didn’t expect was to get validation from the world of motorcycling.

Two product introductions, however, have perfectly illustrated why the buying process is so important.  As many of you know, I’m an avid motorcyclist, and so I pay attention to introductions of new bikes, and two of the more exciting ones this summer have been Yamaha’s introduction of their new Venture touring bike, and Harley-Davidson’s introduction of eight new models that replace their Softail and Dyna lines.  One company used the buying process the right way – and one, in my opinion, did not.

To refresh your memory, customers buy things in a defined 4-step process. Those steps are:

Motivation:  Something or someone provokes the customer to recognize that they have a need that could be solved by a purchase.

Investigation:  Once the customer has recognized a need, available goods and services are measured against their needs and wants, product(s) are narrowed down and possible purchases defined.

Evaluation:  Price and terms – is it affordable, does it represent good value, are the terms acceptable?

Decision:  The customer buys or doesn’t buy.

In June, Yamaha unveiled their new Venture.  Yamaha has built Venture full-dress bikes off and on since the early Eighties, and their new model is an impressive-looking bike that’s targeted at bikes like the Harley Road Glide, the Indian Roadmaster, the Honda Goldwing, etc.  It’s gotten great reviews in magazine ride reports, and pictures are all over the Internet.

In July, I decided that I wanted to see one.  Now, I’m not a prospect – I love my Harley Road King, and I plan to stick with it for years to come. Besides, I’m not even close to being done customizing it!  Still, I’m a biker and I’m curious.  So I stopped into my neighborhood Yamaha dealer (a month after it was unveiled) and asked about it.  I was told, “Ah, you know the manufacturers.  We’ll have them sometime in September or October.”

This, by the way, is typical of most bike manufacturers.  They roll out a bike a few months before it’s actually in dealerships.  The idea is to drip out information, build anticipation, and whet customers’ appetites for the new bike.  While this sounds good, I wonder how many bikers do what the guy I met did.  While riding my Road King, I happened to cross paths with a guy on a brand new Indian Roadmaster.

I complimented him on his Roadmaster, and he told me something funny.  He was a long time Venture owner, and when he saw the articles on the new Venture, he went to the dealerships – and was told what I was told.  The problem was, he was in a buying mood.  He was Motivated.  And once motivated, many times, it’s hard to shut a buyer off.

Denied the opportunity to continue the buying process on the Venture, he went down the road, ended up in an Indian dealership, rode a Roadmaster (truly a magnificent bike), and presto- his need to buy was satisfied.  Yamaha, the company that Motivated him, never had a shot at his business because they didn’t have the product available.  What’s more, he told me, his buddy did the same thing (went to a dealer looking for a Venture) but ended up buying a new Honda Goldwing.

Meanwhile, in August, Harley-Davidson introduced eight new Softail models.  This was done abruptly, all at once, no slow buildup.  The next day, Harley’s demo ride trucks had Softail models available to ride, and within two days, dealers had them in stock – not as display models, but to sell.  I went into a Harley dealer a week after introduction, and they only had one Softail available – because the others had been sold.

Of course, some Harley riders like the new ones and some don’t – but for those that don’t, the 2017 models are still available and are selling quickly.  The bottom line is this – when Harley Motivated customers to take a look at the new models, the new models were there to ride and be sold.  Harley might not sell everyone – but they won’t MISS any business for lack of bikes on the floor.  It’s doubtful that anyone will be going to another dealer because they’re fired up to buy and Harley is two months away from delivery.

What’s the lesson here?  When buyers become Motivated, more often than not they don’t put their motivation on “hold” until you can deliver product.  For that reason, it’s best to have product introduction and availability as close to simultaneous as possible.  Yamaha’s Venture will probably be a success, but I’ll bet they lose a lot of potential sales before bikes hit the showroom.