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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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.