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Old 17-10-2021, 13:50   #1
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When did manufacturers get so exclusive at boat shows?

I went to the boat show in Annapolis today for the first time in 5 years. I was surprised at how much the higher end catamaran manufacturers had restricted access to their boats. Most of them seemed to have a 1:1 salesperson to visitor policy going on, which meant that only 2 or 3 people could be on a boat at a time, which meant that there was pretty much no way you were going to get on any of those boats unless you had made an appointment before hand or maybe showed up right when the show opened and put your name on a waitlist. I remember at one point you could hop on those boats as long as there was room, heck I remember crawling around a Gunboat at the boat show">Annapolis boat show long before I had the means to afford one.

It clearly wasn't a COVID thing, none of the big manufacturers were much different from years past. It just seemed that the high end guys decided that they no longer wanted the unwashed masses on their boats at boat shows....which makes you wonder why they even bother to go to boat shows? Ironically back when they had no problem with me putting my grubby proletariat hands on their boats I actually couldn't afford them, now I can but got turned away by most of them today.

Seems like a silly business practice. I know I could go on Thursday or contact them all and pre-book, but you don't get to fortuitously show your spouse a bunch of boats while you're wondering around on Sunday that way, nor can you more casually see what the boats look like if you're a couple years out from buying (kids in college in 2!). If any of those manufacturers are listening, maybe reconsider and do your 1:1 "serious buyer" stuff on Thursday and Friday and let everyone else have the joy of looking at the boat on Sat and Sun? You never know who you just turned off your brand.
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Old 17-10-2021, 14:14   #2
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Re: When did manufacturers get so exclusive at boat shows?

That's par for the course at most of the European boat shows for anything bigger than 40 ft or more than say, $300K. I always thought it was a bit mean and a rather snobby way to do business.

Whenever I attended Annapolis, I was pleasantly surprised about how free access even to the high end boats was, guess that's changing now.

FWIW, my buddy owns a high end Bang & Olufsen dealership. One day an
Asian chap with scruffy clothes and a beat up works van turned up wanting to look at everything in the store. My buddy took the time to show him everything he wanted to see and he left 2 hours later. Following day, he came in wearing a Hugo Boss suit and driving a Mercedes and placed an order for $150K worth of HiFi kit.

Turn out that the other two dealerships he went to wouldn't give him the time of day.

Some of these boat brands could learn from that.
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Old 17-10-2021, 14:24   #3
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Re: When did manufacturers get so exclusive at boat shows?

You don't want to waste time with tire-kicker. Sure, the ragged looked dude might be in the market for a $1.5 Million boat, but in reality, this is rarely the case.

I've done a few trade-shows in my past (in a different industry), and it was very often easy to guess, who will just waste your time. If one ran around with more than one bag of freebies - let the pretty-booth-inventory deal with him.
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Old 17-10-2021, 14:35   #4
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Re: When did manufacturers get so exclusive at boat shows?

A salesman doesn’t want to waste time with a tire-kicker, but that assumes that you can always, a priori, identify the tire-kickers. If you’re wrong, there’s no telling what you’ll miss out on.
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Old 17-10-2021, 15:16   #5
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Re: When did manufacturers get so exclusive at boat shows?

What I think Rob is trying to portray and Duncan did a good job reiterating, is that a tire kicker today might a dreamer and a saver. Who knows where that man will be in 3-5 years.



I have a couple friends who attend the Annapolis show, couple years in a row pre-covid, because they were identifying which cat they were saving up to buy and I can promise you- they will have it, its just a matter of time.



Those are the customers that this policy pushes away the most, the ones who are not quite ready, but deserve the red carpet treatment as a reminder of what they are working so darn hard for.
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Old 17-10-2021, 15:16   #6
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Re: When did manufacturers get so exclusive at boat shows?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joh.Ghurt View Post
You don't want to waste time with tire-kicker. Sure, the ragged looked dude might be in the market for a $1.5 Million boat, but in reality, this is rarely the case.

I've done a few trade-shows in my past (in a different industry), and it was very often easy to guess, who will just waste your time. If one ran around with more than one bag of freebies - let the pretty-booth-inventory deal with him.
If you're in an industry where there are only a few dozen people who can both afford your product and would be interested in buying it, you can't afford to alienate even one of them by foolishly screening them out as a "tire kicker". For example, the HH50 seemed like a nice boat, too bad they lost the ability to show it to one of the folks both has the means to buy one and will probably be in the market to buy one in the next 2-3 years because they'd only let two couples on the boat at once. I'd say if there is a worldwide market of, say 50 people for your product and you foolishly and needlessly lose one or 2% of your entire addressable market...you're perhaps not doing a great job at sales.?

By the way, I always wondered at the folks who were so very confident in their ability to screen out "tire kickers". Since they can never know how many paying customers they turned away, and especially in this case turning away one of the rare few potential paying customers is so detrimental, I'm not sure it's something I'd brag about? I know I'd fire any of my sales guys who couldn't explain how they knew what their false positive rate was on alleged "tire kickers" they turned away who were actually potential customers.
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Old 17-10-2021, 15:35   #7
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Re: When did manufacturers get so exclusive at boat shows?

Once upon a time, I worked as a floor salesman in a CompUSA competitor. I was told that if the customer didn’t buy something in 10 minutes, drop him. I ignored the advice. A guy came in, I spent over an hour telling him about stuff. He walked out and the manager complained loudly that I’d spent too much time with him. I ignored that, too. The next week he came back and bought $20k worth of stuff and over the next year, about another $80k. +1 for redneckrob. Talking with a customer is the investment a salesman makes to have steady customers that come back.
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Old 17-10-2021, 15:42   #8
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Re: When did manufacturers get so exclusive at boat shows?

Quote:
Originally Posted by redneckrob View Post
If you're in an industry where there are only a few dozen people who can both afford your product and would be interested in buying it, you can't afford to alienate even one of them by foolishly screening them out as a "tire kicker". For example, the HH50 seemed like a nice boat, too bad they lost the ability to show it to one of the folks both has the means to buy one and will probably be in the market to buy one in the next 2-3 years because they'd only let two couples on the boat at once.

Let me start off by saying that I completely agree with what you are saying.


Now, with that out of the way, boats like the HH50 have been sold already and brought to the show by the owners. If it was my boat, I would already be reluctant to take it to a show... never mind having it open for a free for all.


They are hardly a production cat company, more of a one off / semi-custom outfit.
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Old 17-10-2021, 16:17   #9
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Re: When did manufacturers get so exclusive at boat shows?

If the sales force is booked with potential buyers there simply isn’t time for dreamers. And they don’t care if someone buys in five years, they’ll be moved on or retired by then.

I just did a show unexpectedly flooded with the unwashed masses. It sucked because the buyers couldn’t get the time or interface they wanted. Some left early. Yeah, maybe in a few years the underfunded guys might be rich, but it doesn’t pay bills today.

One might put pressure on the show owners, IF their money comes from admissions and not slip space. Who would go to a show they can’t look at boats? One would think attendance would drop.
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Old 17-10-2021, 16:32   #10
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Re: When did manufacturers get so exclusive at boat shows?

Oyster has done that in the past for the Annapolis show. This year it looked like they let anyone onboard as there was a decent line both of the days I attended.

Hylas, Contest, and Amel let anyone on for sure as we toured all three.
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Old 17-10-2021, 16:43   #11
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Re: When did manufacturers get so exclusive at boat shows?

I was also at the Annapolis boat show and I 100% disagree. There wasnít a single boat I had trouble getting on without appointment and felt at times there were too many people on at a time.

I was there Fri and Sat. What day did you go?
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Old 17-10-2021, 16:46   #12
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Re: When did manufacturers get so exclusive at boat shows?

Hmmm. I went to Miami in 2020 and went aboard every sailing cat there. I was even dragged from cat to cat within a brand when I really didn’t want to see them.

Yes, they had the appointments and gatekeepers and all that. I was only looking to steal ideas for my custom build.

But the sales people were pulling me in to see these boats.

Rob, how did you dress? Were you carrying around a lot of freebies? What shoes did you have on? Hair neatly done? Wife or significant other in tow?

These things all matter to sales people sizing you up.
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Old 17-10-2021, 18:01   #13
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Re: When did manufacturers get so exclusive at boat shows?

Chota — If those things matter to a salesman, then he’s a fool. When I started looking for my current boat, I called a brokerage 500 miles away from home to inquire about a boat advertised very prominently on the back of a well-known magazine. He said I should come look at his selection. I drove down in my ratty, 20-year-old VW Rabbit, wearing an old pair of boat jeans and some winos (a cheap pair of canvas shoes, so called by a shoe sales lady). He showed me 4 boats, none of which were interesting. He then pointed me at a half dozen boats that he knew of that I’d go by on my long drive back home. Not all of them were his listings. The only qualifying question that he asked me was "Do you have financing arranged?" I ultimately found a boat for sale by the owner. A long story but the broker called the owner and then proceeded to get him to list the boat that I ultimately bought. He later told me it was a nice commission that he wasn’t expecting.
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Old 17-10-2021, 18:14   #14
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Re: When did manufacturers get so exclusive at boat shows?

Did you buy a $500k- $1mil boat?

That’s what these cats in question are selling for. Ragged, disheveled people are not buying these boats. Sure, they may look that way after a passage on the boat, but that’s not who is buying them.

Appearance matters just as much when they size you up to decide to permit you to look at the boat show as it does when the Coast Guard is looking for people to inspect or when a marina is deciding to let you stay long term.

Things need to be ship shape when you’re looking for approval or permission from someone.

I’m afraid to admit this bit of treachery on a public forum but Mr Johnstone personally showed me a gunboat at his facility. I feel bad, but I needed a good look at them to figure things out on my own build. I’ve been aboard all the most expensive high performance cats to gather ideas on how to best do mine. It’s all appearances and how you present yourself.



Quote:
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Chota — If those things matter to a salesman, then he’s a fool. When I started looking for my current boat, I called a brokerage 500 miles away from home to inquire about a boat advertised very prominently on the back of a well-known magazine. He said I should come look at his selection. I drove down in my ratty, 20-year-old VW Rabbit, wearing an old pair of boat jeans and some winos (a cheap pair of canvas shoes, so called by a shoe sales lady). He showed me 4 boats, none of which were interesting. He then pointed me at a half dozen boats that he knew of that I’d go by on my long drive back home. Not all of them were his listings. The only qualifying question that he asked me was "Do you have financing arranged?" I ultimately found a boat for sale by the owner. A long story but the broker called the owner and then proceeded to get him to list the boat that I ultimately bought. He later told me it was a nice commission that he wasn’t expecting.
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Old 17-10-2021, 19:03   #15
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Re: When did manufacturers get so exclusive at boat shows?

You flatter me, but thanks. No, it wasn’t a million dollar boat. The boat I originally wanted to see, but which had sold in the interim was about half that. But he worked for a very big brokerage outfit where million dollar boats were low-end. The original boat that I called about was a trade-in and priced to sell. My point was that he could have fluffed me off, but didn’t. No good salesman does. If you’re not buying today, maybe you’ll send in somebody who will. Or next year, you may be in the market. Treating people well is how a good salesman gets people to come back. And where I was, it was easy to find techies who’s options had just vested that were worth well into 8 figures who you’d walk across the street to avoid. Like the fellow who walked into the computer store where I worked, looking for some kind of accessory. He was the CEO of Sun Microsystems, but I was far better dressed. Just reinforces the books and their covers. If you really believe it’s how you present yourself, then you don’t believe in the old Texas jibe about all hat and no cattle.
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