Dealer Spotlight: School Bus Sales, Iowa
Dealer: School Bus Sales
Interviewee: Dwight Houseal
Title: Business Development
Q. What are you doing that has made you successful with alternative fuels?
A. First, we find a lot of value in offering tours. It’s a great way for customers to see first-hand how the product is made, how the product works and why it works the way it does. Many of my customers want to put their hands on the system and see exactly how it integrates into the school bus because that’s how they better understand and become comfortable with the new fuel.
We tracked an 80-percent close rate last year with our tours. Everyone who made the trip to Livonia, Michigan, left with a new appreciation and understanding for propane and the design, engineering and processes involved in developing the product. We already have two groups coming through this month in the new year.
Another important tool we use for selling is demo buses. We always bring a propane or a gasoline bus demo when visiting customers because it’s a great way for districts to understand what they would be buying. It’s one thing to talk about it sitting in an office or conference room, but being able to walk around, climb under and drive the bus provides a level of comfort to the district that they’re purchasing a safe and reliable product.
Q. How are you positioning gasoline and propane in your area?
A. We find out what problems they have with their current buses. A lot of the districts are simply tired of the challenges that come with diesel emissions. We then push for propane because it’s a good option for districts who are fed up with the after-treatments required with diesel buses. We know there may be objections to propane, because it is a new fuel for many. If the district says no to propane, that’s when we discuss the benefits of gasoline.
Q. Is there any advice you’d like to give to other dealers?
A. Knowledge is the key. You and your team need to know the product’s features and benefits better than anyone else. Take the training courses offered by Blue Bird and ROUSH CleanTech. Ask questions. Understand why and how the system works so that you can better sell the benefits.
On top of knowing the Blue Bird product, you also need to understand your competitors’ products and where you out-pace them. I don’t suggest selling against the opposing product, but instead, go to your meeting and sell how your bus will benefit them. This expert knowledge helps you build confidence with the customer, which leads to sales.