Lessons from the (failed) motorcycle sale

A couple of years ago I thought it was a great idea to buy a motorcycle. It was, at the time, a fun thing to have. After a few life changes, however, its practical limitations and usability have outweighed the fun factor. To Craig’s list it went with pictures, descriptions and my asking price.

I got a call from an interested buyer. Thirty minutes of questions later, copies of the service record provided, a purchase price settled on, and even a firm commitment to come with check in hand, I felt certain I had a sale. He lived six hours away, so we agreed to meet in the middle, a three-hour one way trip for both of us.

I saddled up, and my son followed behind in a car to get me home. We got to the meeting place. The buyer took one look at the bike (BMW 6000 in good condition) and said, “I don’t think so.”

I am a sales guy. I have been in sales for 20 years. You would think I could qualify a prospect.

What went wrong?

  1. He got Cold Feet. Completely out of my control. A motorcycle is a big purchase, especially when it’s your first bike. Maybe he thought he was man enough to handle it, but when it came time to get on it, he just couldn’t do it. No offense.
  2. Technically unqualified. I had neglected to ask about his licensure. Was he licensed to drive it? Did he know how to drive it? I took an intensive three-day course to learn to handle a bike, and was – frankly – still mastering those skills two years later.
  3. Historically unqualified. I had neglected to ask his motorcycle history. Was this his first bike? This is a big bike. It has a reverse gear. It weighs 800 pounds. It’s not like riding a Schwinn. If he had no previous experience and had not become licensed, this bike would not be a good place for him to start.
  4. Reasons for buying the bike. I didn’t ask why. What was his motivation? Clearly, there wasn’t enough to complete the sale. I don’t know what his intention was, but this wasn’t the thing to meet it.

I had qualified him because he called, seemed interested, and had a check. The thing I didn’t do was unqualify him. Our friends at Sandler Sales Training always advise you to unqualify prospects. They operate on the philosophy that we may NOT be a fit, and there may NOT be opportunities for us to work together, and, by the way, we’re really expensive.

Perhaps if I had thought of the reasons he might NOT buy the bike, I wouldn’t have taken a six-hour road trip in a rain storm on a motorcycle through the mountains.

By the way, it’s still for sale. But it’s really expensive, and it might not be a fit for you.

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