How do I become an RV dealer
Motorhome dealers: This is how sales and service work
Look, touch, gather impressions and receive comprehensive advice in a personal conversation - this is only possible when buying a motorhome from a dealer. Even in times of increasing digitization. Those interested in buying can now find an online configurator on the websites of many motorhome manufacturers and often also 360-degree interior shots of the individual models, but the final purchase is not possible online.
Nevertheless, the virtual offers are not useless gimmicks, as they provide a great view of the respective equipment, possible options and pricing. "Today our customers have much more prior knowledge than they did a few years ago," explains Marc Maier, who is responsible for sales at the Burmeister Caravan Center in Bodman-Ludwigshafen in southern Germany. May for a day promobil take a look behind the scenes here and learn more about the tasks and processes in a trading company.
A day at the motorhome dealer Burmeister
Burmeister is a brand-independent dealer and sells both motorhomes and caravans in almost all price ranges. In addition, there is a holistic offer - from sales and rental to accessories and customization to repair and inspection services. In addition, the company has been on the market for decades and can look back on a lot of experience.
The more than 60 permanent employees are organized in three specialist areas: the commercial area, the technical area and sales. For everyone, the day begins long before the first customers reach the exhibition area.
The sales team usually starts processing customer inquiries that came in via email the day before or outside of business hours. That can be two times, but on some days it can be 20. The inquiries mostly relate to offers on the company's own homepage or on Internet portals such as mobile.de. The maintenance and updating of such offers is also part of the day-to-day business.
After the inquiries have been distributed, the senders are usually contacted by phone, because personal discussions have top priority. So that customers can always reach someone during the day, they are - if necessary - forwarded to an external call center based in Germany. Its employees are trained accordingly and can provide initial information if you have any questions.
Another important daily task is waiting in the two safe cabinets in the sales team's office. The keys of all exhibition vehicles are safely stored here. Before the local sales business starts, every single motorhome is unlocked in the morning. Customers should enjoy free access while strolling through the area and be able to look around in peace. The vehicles are then locked again in the evening.
The sale of the vehicles does not follow a prescribed pattern, but it is still systematic: Above all, it is important that customers feel welcome from the start and are not pressured into anything. The actual sales pitch can be preceded by a non-binding meeting over a cup of coffee in the reception area. Whereby “sales pitch” is actually the wrong word. "We don't see ourselves as salespeople, but as consultants," says Marc Maier and adds: "There should also be a human fit between us and the customers."
What does the dealer earn when the sale is concluded?
As usual in the professional field, the consultants receive a commission after signing a purchase contract. However, this is not based on the income that a sale brings, but on the pure number of pieces. For employees, selling a cheap Sunlight is just as lucrative as selling a much more expensive Morelo. Competitive thoughts among each other are effectively prevented, which is why the colleagues in the team sometimes pass on a customer to each other if you are not on the same wavelength with him.
After getting to know each other, a needs analysis usually follows in order to be able to serve the individual customer needs in the best possible way. This is followed by advice on the appropriate exhibition models, contractual matters are then settled in a discreet atmosphere in the offices of the “sales tower”, which was built at the time when Michael Burmeister was still running the business alone. The entire area can be seen from here.
About 65 percent of all vehicles sold are stock models. Which brings us to the second important task of sales: vehicle scheduling - in other words, purchasing planning. In times of the industry boom, this requires a lot of experience and a sure instinct. The manufacturers' production lines are busy, and delivery times are now around twelve months. That is why you have to calculate carefully: If the farm is already bought empty before the end of the season, you unnecessarily let sales slip by the rag. Conversely, vehicles from the previous season can usually only be sold with discounts, which is also at the expense of sales. Since the existing vehicles are not bought on commission but financed by credit, the company is taking a high risk here.
Due to the long delivery times, new vehicles have to be ordered in spring, i.e. weeks before they are presented at the dealers' conference. The manufacturers' sales representatives provide information on the new products. At this point in time, however, prices and equipment options have often not yet been determined. So that there are new models on the farm at the start of the season in September, the company secures a basic supply of mobiles by ordering sample cars.
The best-selling models from the previous year and the manufacturer's registration numbers provide orientation for the selection. The rest of the annual order falls on so-called assemblies. A certain number of units is reserved with them, but the choice of floor plan and equipment remains variable over the course of the season.
Incidentally, most customer orders come in in September and October - after the Caravan Salon. A big winter slump as it used to be can now hardly be observed.
When the new vehicles are delivered, Sebastian Korb initially takes over vehicle administration in person. He takes care of the acceptance, creates a file, marks the vehicle keys and determines the storage location. With several truck deliveries per week, even the 42,000 square meter company premises can become too narrow.
"In the past, the vehicles could still be temporarily stored by the manufacturer, which is no longer possible today due to the busy production", says Korb. That is why you have to rely on additional locations in neighboring locations for storage.
This is how the RV workshop works
It is also Korb who forwards internal orders to the company's service workshops for further processing. From here on, Klaus Streit's technical team takes over. The technical operations manager is responsible, among other things, for what happens in the company's four workshops. The vehicles are prepared for handover to the customer in the delivery workshop. The work involved includes a technical check, during which any defects are eliminated, as well as the installation of accessories, such as an awning or a reversing camera. More specific retrofits, such as a second garage door, can also be included in the order papers.
A sticker on the individual vehicles informs the total of 17 fitters about the planned work and its status.
Burmeister often orders the vehicles with fewer features than they are ultimately handed over to the customer. Retailers prefer to order some parts themselves from accessory suppliers in order to be able to offer the customer better quality or a price advantage. In order not to have to sit on stock unnecessarily, the parts are always ordered customer-specifically, so the in-house warehouse is relatively small.
Individual modifications are also possible. In the premium workshops, motorhomes from the Carthago and Morelo brands are upgraded according to customer requirements. This can be, for example, the installation of a gas tank system or an inverter. Finally, before each handover to the customer, a thorough cleaning is required. The diesel tank can also be filled on request.
The service workshop takes care of inspections and maintenance of the motorhomes. As a rule, the vehicle owners need an appointment for this, but people passing through with acute problems are also helped, but longer waiting times are not excluded. According to Klaus Streit, it is important that the work is verifiable, which can only be achieved with expensive special systems such as the compressor-controlled gas testing device. After the test, the device spits out a kind of receipt that documents the work and the condition of the system at the time of the test.
Since Burmeister also operates a motorhome rental company in addition to the sale, these vehicles also have to be maintained on an ongoing basis and damage repaired if necessary. This is also done by the company's in-house workshops. The motorhomes are only available for one season in the fleet. Then they go into used car sales - with seamless maintenance and history.
The Burmeister Caravan Center is based in Bodman-Ludwigshafen near Lake Constance. The company was founded in 1989 by managing director Michael Burmeister when he took over a small business in Bodman. Initially, only models from the Knaus brand were traded. Ten years later, the company moved to an area of 6,500 square meters in Ludwigshafen, which has grown to 42,000 square meters to this day. The range of brands has also grown: in addition to the Knaus models, the portfolio now also includes motorhomes and caravans from Carthago, Fendt, Hymer, Malibu, Morelo, Pössl, Sunlight, Tab and Weinsberg. Many models are available as preconfigured, lavishly equipped Burmeister editions that promise customers an attractive price advantage. This is made possible by ordering large quantities from the relevant manufacturers.
In addition to advice and the purchase of a motorhome or caravan, Burmeister also offers comprehensive services from inspection to customization in a total of four workshops. In addition, customers can stock up on camping furniture, dishes and much more in the company's own accessories shop. Burmeister also operates a rental in cooperation with Intercaravaning and the ADAC. The vehicles can be booked via an online portal or directly from the dealer. The rental fleet only includes new vehicles that are offered as young used vehicles after a season (spring to autumn).
According to Managing Director Burmeister, the most important factors for the success of the company are a "high quality of encounter" for customers, a strong team and ongoing investments. The next extension, a new building with a showroom, transfer hall and automatic washing facility, will be completed in autumn.
The staff ...
... from the sales manager to the service technician. These are the people behind the scenes.
- Age: 42
- function: Sales management
- task: Head of the advisory team, vehicle disposition
- Career: Secondary school leaving certificate and commercial training. Afterwards initially advisory work at the German lawyers and notaries insurance as well as management and sales in a gallery. Has been working for Burmeister for ten years as head of the advisory team and vehicle dispatching.
- Age: 29
- function: Sales advisor
- task: Customer advice and sales, vehicle disposition
- Career: University entrance qualification and commercial training, worked for the Burmeister company for seven years, including two and a half years as shop manager.
- Age: 34
- function: Marketing, back office sales
- task: Vehicle administration, social media management
- Career: Business school and commercial training, with Burmeister for nine years, including one year in service.
- Age: 51
- function: Technical management
- task: Management of the service office, management of all workshops, advice and preparation of cost estimates for retrofitting, compliance with occupational safety and nature conservation requirements, purchasing tools and machines, etc.
- Career: Secondary school leaving certificate and apprenticeship as a carpenter, advanced training as a specialist in caravan technology, advanced training as a 230 V specialist for defined activities Has been with Burmeister for 18 years.
- Age: 39
- function: Service technician for premium vehicles
- task: Customer care before, during and after the vehicle sale. Conversion and upgrading of new vehicles as well as individual conversions.
- Career: Secondary school leaving certificate and apprenticeship as a carpenter. Then various stations, including trade fair and special vehicle construction. Has been with Burmeister for twelve years.
This article is part of the promobil Report series "Behind the Scenes"
Here we show how the recreational vehicle industry works.
promobil industry report
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