Survey Results – and How To Train RV Salespeople


Well, we’re back from Oregon, and I’m calling our trip there a success.  First, I want to thank all of our readers who completed our survey last week.  We got over 700 responses, and we appreciate every one of them.  Your answers played an important part in the training we were able to give to two different groups of dealer salespeople over two days.

I’ve been promising I’d report on the survey results and I will, but first I want to say a few words about the dealer training.  If you hadn’t heard, Winnebago asked us to come present to groups of dealers during the course of their Class B Dealer Training at their new (former Country Coach) facility in Junction City, Oregon.

fitrv-winnebago-junction-city-plant

This facility will soon be churning out Class A diesel pushers.  Well actually it is already on a limited basis.  Things will really kick into high gear soon.  But until they do, it was a great space to pull in a bunch of Class B rigs and train dealers on them.

class-b-training

About 30 RV dealer salespeople each day came through the training.  In addition to numerous Era and Travato rigs and factory personnel, Winnebago also brought in representatives from suppliers (Ford, Mercedes, Truma, etc…) to help conduct the training.  We can tell you that these folks had access to all the knowledge they could have asked for about the Winnebago Class B RV product line.

funny-lunch-pic

Stef and I led a lunchtime session each day.  We were asked to speak about the Class B lifestyle.  Our goal was to try to help the dealer staff understand who these customers are and how to help them.  I think our sessions went really well!  Both days, the audience was engaged and asking good questions.  This is remarkable when you consider that they had plates full of mouth-watering barbecue in front of them the entire time we were speaking!

james-stef-lead-presentation

This is where your survey responses really helped out.  We like to think we have a good handle on who our readers are, and what’s important to them.  But we wanted to make sure that we could back up the points we were making to the dealers.  That’s why we had the questions in our survey that we did.  I know some of you thought we had left off choices, or asked the wrong questions, but there was a reason why we asked each question as we did – and it all boiled down to making sure we could get our message to sink in with the sales folks.

So let’s start with the survey questions.  Here we go:

question-1

We were very aware that we left out a bunch of features that might have been personal favorites (bathroom?  hello?).  But we were trying to show a couple of things with this question, and you guys didn’t let us down!  The main point we were trying to get across is that most Class B buyers are very different from the “granite counter tops and surround sound” Class A buyers.  That comes through clearly in these responses, and we hope we made the point that trying to “upsell” a B-van customer into a Class A or a Class C would be a big mistake.

And while it’s OK if it feels like “camping” in a B-van, we do still want to be comfortable!  We want to bring along the gear for hiking, biking, kayaking and more, but when we’re done with that, we’d rather not stay wet and sleep on rocks.

Enough said.  On to question 2:

question-2

For the most part, Class B RVs are designed around two people, and buyers know and accept this.  Over half of you indicated you had no need for additional person capacity in a Class B.  That’s sort of how we thought it would go.  But over 40% of you did express an interest in extra capacity – at least some of the time.

So the main take-away from this question is that yes, a B-van is small, and customers get it.  Stef and I fall into this group.  This also means that a rig like the Travato K, which is an uncompromising couple’s coach, will interest a heck of a lot of customers.  But for a significant number of folks, features like extra seat belts and sleeping arrangements – at least some of the time – are important, so sales folks should know which floor plan options will work for which customer.

As a final note, the “space for entertaining” was rarely cited, even though it shows up in a lot of brochures.  We like to think this is because most B-van buyers want to use their vans to “get out there”, not “get in there”.  This thinking is further brought out in Question 3:

question-3

While it wasn’t a majority, the largest number of respondents to this question want to use their Class B RV as a comfortable base camp for whatever adventure awaits.  We also thought it was interesting that almost 20% of respondents mainly intend to use the rig for traveling.  Taken together, over two thirds (67%) of respondents won’t likely be using full hookup campgrounds that often.  So things like exterior storage for pink flamingos aren’t as important.  We wanted to make sure they got this.

But another point we were trying to get across here is that B-van customers are often more “traveler” than “camper”.  It’s the rare Class B that sits in storage and only comes out two or three times a year to sit at the lake for two weeks without moving.  We really wanted the salespeople to understand that Class Bs are used differently and more frequently than other types of RVs.  So having to wait three weeks for a service appointment is far more of a hardship for a Class B owner than for an owner of a travel trailer or class A.  (I actually told them the long wait for service was “death”.)  We hope they took that message back to their service managers.

question-4

I’ll be the first to tell you that the answers to question 4 were bound to be biased. After all, the question was only available on our “other blog and website”!  But what this did point out – with great clarity – was that most Class B customers have really done their homework, and they know what they’re talking about before they even set foot on a dealer’s lot.

The most common complaint we hear about dealer personnel – by far – is that “I knew more than the dealer did!”  And it’s probably true.  After all, you guys have probably watched our reviews, and many others, for any motorhome you might be considering.  Some of you research for years before you make the move to buy one.  You’ve asked a few questions of owners on forums.  You’ve called around.  And you may have even had to drive 200 miles just to find the motorhome you’re interested in on a lot somewhere.

“Don’t try to BS your way through it with this customer,” is the main thing we were trying to get across here.  If these customers have questions, they’re probably going to be difficult ones.  The salespeople at the training were leaving with all manner of resources at their disposal, and we encouraged them to make use of them.  We can tell you that at least the 60 or so salespeople we spoke with got the message.

Question 5 was one that we weren’t sure how the answers would shake out:

question-5

What I draw from the answers here is this:  We pay a lot of money for our B-vans.  Heck, on a dollars per square foot basis, they’re the most expensive RV you can buy!  So we don’t want them to fall apart until we’ve abused them into the ground.  Quality rules the day.  That’s the main lesson.

Another conclusion I can draw is this:  Besides the Travato, just about all the Class B RVs are in the same price ballpark.  Knowing this, I would think there are about 23% of Class B customers who would lean heavily toward the Travato.

And I may be really reaching here, but I think dealer service isn’t a very important purchase consideration because 1.) we expect that we shouldn’t need it (see the majority answer above) and 2.) we’ve all kind of given up on dealer service (sad, but true).  I know we’ve got a healthy segment of do-it-yourselfers as an audience, and I think that may have been an influence on this one.

The final question was just for fun:

question-6

We honestly had no idea how this would shake out, but 55/45 seems about right, based on our travels.  The advice we gave the sales folks on this one was to make sure they had some treats stashed away in their desk!  🙂

Also, I shared the results of this question with Mel, our cat.  He was completely unimpressed, and made no commitment to be less of a jerk about driving…

 

Well, there you have it, we did receive some positive feedback on our presentation from the attendees, so we really hope we helped them “get it”.  If you happen to be shopping for a Class B RV, and you get one of the salespeople who attended our training, we sincerely hope we made the interaction a more positive one for everyone involved.

 

 



James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling certified coach, and lifelong fitness buff. When he's not driving the RV, or modifying the RV (or - that one time - doing both at once), you can find him racing bicycles, or building furniture, or making music. In his spare time, he works for a large IT company.


    20 thoughts on “Survey Results – and How To Train RV Salespeople

    1. Bill Sprague

      James,

      Wow, do your pie charts track with my thoughts and needs as a solo traveler! When I was looking at truck campers, I participated in a survey or two one what folks wanted in their truck camper. Most wanted back country, all weather, non-slide-out campers. What does the industry push? Huge multiple slide pavement queens.

      Why doesn’t the RV industry listen? Good, used Class B’s are snapped up within days of when they hit the dealer’s lot.

      Just my $0.02 and worth about that.

      Bill

      Reply
    2. Sandy Lake (Susan Bently)

      Service availability is crucial. Please impress on dealers to beef up service departments. Waiting two months for an appointment is excruciating.

      Reply
      1. Stefany

        You would have been proud of James, Susan. One of his Power Point slides he made for our presentation said, “Waiting 3 weeks for a service appointment is death.” LOL!!!

        Reply
    3. Jeffrey Meek

      The Winnebago 4×4 Concept Adventure Vehicle has everything my wife and I choose for our lifestyle. The size is not intimidating for me to drive. My wife has been driving gooseneck slant load horse trailers with quarters for a dozen years. No fake wood feels like contemporary European design. We are ready and willing to learn living with no Air Conditioner. Key word is learn. You will be my new best friend when a mounted retractable clothes line is standard. The dinette/ work surface is my favorite feature. Perfect Size! Plenty of storage. Our life has 1)clothes to wear 2) clothes for spare 3)clothes to wash. Puh…Leeze produce! Anything more than a crock pot, cast iron pan and 3 knives is a luxury. Office! Office! I dun’t need no stinkin’ office building.

      Reply
      1. Bill Sprague

        Hear hear, Jeffery! I’m an old solo traveler with a Folbot, flyrod, hiking boots, and camera and the Winnebago 4×4 Concept Adventure Vehicle fits my travel envelope perfectly. If I find I need AC, I’ll just drive to where it’s cooler (and has a lake).

        Reply
    4. Alain

      James seems to be barely containing a good laugh in the picture. Any inside jokes you care to share? Your sense of humour is one reason I enjoy this blog.

      Reply
      1. Stefany

        Alain, James didn’t even realize we were taking pics! I was instructing Jason, the training organizer, on how to take photos with my phone…this happened to be one of Jason’s test pics! James was probably giggling because I was being overly pedantic about photo taking instructions.

        Reply
    5. Liza (The Family Glampers.com)

      This was a great piece! We’re currently shopping for our first camper (we’re going to go camper first and hopefully evolve into a RV over time) – but I’m bookmarking articles like crazy to try to learn as much as I can when it comes time to buy!
      Thanks for helping us learn as we go!

      Reply
    6. Sue Ann Jaffarian

      Did you talk to them about the no-no of talking down to women buyers? This is a major annoyance. And more and more women are buying RVs on their own. When I was first looking into RVs I spoke on the phone with a salesman who after about a minute actually told me: “Bring your husband down and I’ll explain it all to him.” Grrrr. Needless to say, I’d never contact him again.

      Reply
    7. David

      You both are a blessing to the RV industry and class B group. We took delivery of our Travato (Travis) K in late August. You are spot on with the homework being done beforehand and yes, we knew more than any of the salespeople. In fact, we already decided on the unit and the dealers were only addressing price at that stage. But questions asked were above their knowledge level. What a sad commentary. The price is very expensive per Sq ft as you mentioned and quality and reputation was the driver. Service is another different matter. Our decision was based on your sharing your experiences and honesty with your overviews. So glad you had the opportunity to do the questionaire and provide results with dealer groups. Real life unbiased experiences from owners and their blogs speak loudly to the reality of the unit. Stay healthy and continue sharing your thoughts and experiences with us. We are like family! Also, buy another bell for future reviews. (Sorry Stef) Keeping current is paramount.

      Reply
    8. Mark Roberts

      Well done. The results of the survey and your interpretation seems to line up well with my sensibilities. I’m delighted someone is out there as my champion!

      Reply
    9. Scott Baldassari

      Thanks. Sure hope you got through to some… “Up” selling (and I use that term loosely) to a different class of RV is a sure fire way to tell a prospective B customer you have no idea what they are looking for.

      Anyway, now the good stuff: When is the “Changes I’d like to make to my Travato” poll gonna come out that you can deliver to Winnebago? 🙂

      (Personally, I don’t really need any changes, but it sure makes for interesting reading/dreaming)

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Based on the speed at which they’re making them, I think they’ve got a running punch list of changes for the Travato!

        Reply
    10. Ed

      Thanks for sharing the results – I hope the info you imparted to the sales people really sunk in! Next time I go to shop for my Travato, I’ll look for the sales person wearing the “FitRV Approved” badge!!!

      Reply
    11. Paul Alan Jackson

      You Both are The Best, love the site, love the reviews, love the fact that you are people……Thank You for all you do!

      Reply
    12. Dan

      Question 5 is interesting. Kind of says, “don’t bother selling an extended warranty.” I wince every time a dealer touches our van, then have to see what I have to fix afterward.

      Reply

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