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How to make big waves in the maritime industry despite supply chain challenges

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Chairman/CEO of S&S Houseboat rental† Freedom Boat Club Marina, and 2019 Young Marina Leader of the Year.

Recent years have seen the sale of lamps in the marine industry (as well as in most outdoor recreational industries)…if you can sell the product, that is. The water sports community couldn’t hide from the supply chain crisis. Because of this, I have noticed that some consumers are buying used boats at new prices just to get out on the water. The question is, “How can I motivate my sales team if we don’t have any products to put on the showroom floor?”

The nice thing about the shipping industry is that most dealers also have a marina on the water or very close to a marina. This is your key to thinking outside the box to retain and motivate your sales teams. Hopefully your sales team is good at selling boats, not just selling boats. If this is the case, read on.

The first option is daily boat rental. This is your highest margin option. Think of short-term rental in the sailing world. This is a great way to reach people who may have sold a boat and still want to get out on the water, or families who are on vacation and want to do something. Do a market research and find out what type of boats consumers are looking for or using in your area and start with one or two of them.

Second, look at a franchise’s option for a boat club. Sure, you’ll have to give a percentage to the company, but the benefits of a national club backing marketing, insurance, and support can be worth it in many cases. Clubs are a great option for a moderate boater who cannot justify the expense of owning, insuring, maintaining, storing, etc., their own boat. A national club is also suitable for someone who has multiple residences, as many national companies have reciprocity for members in all marinas.

Also, look for those private unicorn sales opportunities that can turn your team around. Usually the margins on used vehicles are not enough to get people excited. But not in today’s world. Although it takes some time and work, they are there and people are paying for them. Offer your team a bonus if they find vehicles that you eventually buy. Social media marketplaces, advertising, and even just word of mouth are great places to find those gems that can earn big margins when availability is low. Of course, “anyone could do this.” But they don’t. Whether it’s because they’re lazy or not good at searching the web, the deals are still there and waiting for you to find them and put them back into circulation.

If your sales force falls short or falls into an unmotivated funk, get creative and start thinking outside the box. These are quite unusual opportunities for sales teams. However, modern problems require modern solutions and in order to survive we all have to look at things we never thought of. And when your team members see success from this kind of effort, it can get them excited about selling new shiny objects again and create more life around their slowing motivation.


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