The first dealership I ever worked for had a boat parked on the used-car lot. My second day there, I asked the used-car manager if it was actually for sale. I cannot repeat his answer here, but here’s the short version: It belonged to a friend of the owner, we owned it higher than high, and we’d probably never sell it.

Of course, he then told me there was a $500 spiff on it if I did. I didn’t, but someone eventually did, and I learned a lesson early in my career that I had learned in elementary school: Bartering works.

So how does this apply to us? Well, bartering is, by definition, “the exchange of goods or services for other goods and services without using money.” So, basically, any time a customer has a trade, we are bartering at least part of the transaction.

Should we stop there, or should we trade for motorcycles, boats, scooters, or even ATVs? I say yes. But whatever type of vehicle you take in trade, buy low and sell high.

Build a Powersports Network

We ask our salespeople to network and prospect. We need to do the same. Get to know the guys at the motorcycle dealership. Swap ideas as well. What products are they selling in finance? How do they handle accessory sales?

As you get to know these folks, you will build more than just a buy/bid relationship. You will build a network that produces ideas and better results.

Don’t rush it. When you have a product that is not yours, slow down. Be thorough. We can all bid a 2013 Accord LX with 50,000 miles and a clean Carfax. That is no great feat. When you get a trade that is out of your normal comfort zone, be smart. Make calls. Look at auction data, books, everything you can. There is no need to be the Lone Ranger on a tough bid.

Be prepared. What are the title issues? Can you show an ATV as a trade? Can you show a sport boat? Get with your title clerks and your state associations and find out. A great deal can quickly go bad if you screwed up the title work or showed a trade incorrectly.

Win the Trade Wars

We should be willing and able to make every possible deal. If you are in a small, locally owned store, perhaps you can swap services. If a painter comes in to buy a truck, maybe you can swap out for a painting project at the dealership.

In the end, this is simply an accounting entry, and everyone walks away a winner. Think about the good feelings that stem from that transaction. Guys saves a couple thousand dollars on his truck for giving up a couple of Sundays painting a part of the dealership, and your reputation as a dealer who can handle any trade grows.

Whether you are the owner, a manager or a salesperson, the job gets more fun when you get creative. Take all the trades you can, boost your team’s morale, and close more deals. 

Jason Heard is the general manager at Lee's Summit (Mo.) Honda. He is a 20-year industry veteran with extensive sales and sales management experience. Contact him at [email protected].