How to Sell an Electric Motocycle (and other stories)

I’ve been trying to remember when my interest in electric motorcycles became an obsession… when it went from “this is a cool idea” to “I’ve GOT to have one of these things!”, and I’ve finally got it. It was a leisurely walk down Newbury Street on the way to a coffee.

This young guy had a weird looking bicycle- I stopped and talked to him. He was a natural salesman- this was an electric bike, and his excitement and enthusiasm was infectious. He rented and sold them in the Back Bay area. He offered, no, told me to take it for a spin around the block, and I did.

From that moment on, I was hooked.

When I was a kid I worked in a camera store, for a guy named Will Garrick. He told me how to sell cameras. He said, it’s like puppies. You want to get rid of a bunch of puppies? You say, here, hold the puppy for a second… “Teddy,” he said, “…nobody gives back a puppy.” Thus, the “Puppy Principle of Sales” was born. The first thing you do is to take the precious, beautiful camera out of the case and hand it to the customer. You don’t even ask.

So, bringing me back to the reason I started building this thing, it really was about getting a chance to feel what it’s like to ride it. Simple as that. Honestly, there was so much that went into actually building the bike, I had kind of lost sight of that until I took my first open-road, full-throttle ride in Maine… “The feeling you get when you can just screw the bike up to speed with an absolutely flat power curve is just remarkable- and something you have to feel for yourself. “ (…from another post.) Once my pulse got back down to normal, I started to remember why I built this bike…

In the meantime, I’ve been looking at all the websites of all the companies building and trying to sell these things… I’ve been reading the enthusiast’s posts, and they all play the same angle. Never pay for gas… performance… Green Energy… like that. That’s not how you sell an electric motorcycle.

You want to sell an electric bike? You want an enthusiast for life? Give them the keys.

We did that with film cameras. In the late ’90s, we did that with $30K digital capture systems… (the first thing you do is to take a picture- after that you can tell them all about the thing.) I’ve seen it many times now, for the short time I’ve had the bike on the road. Two times in particular- one guy was an old Harley dude- very interested in the thing. After talking for a while, I said, aw, hell, just get on the thing and take it for a spin. After he got back he was all wound up- seems he squirted the throttle on it and got his eyes opened. Another guy, after seeing me blast to 60 past him, was practically shouting “I HAVE to build one of these things!”

I had a great lunch with a dear friend who’s been in the photo business for decades now… funny, she wanted to talk more about electric bikes than photography, and is maybe the single most successful sales rep I’ve had the pleasure of working with. I was talking about how the engineers sell the bikes. She said, “…yeah. It’s kind of like going on a date with your resume, isn’t it?”

It’s not that the numbers and the facts and the details aren’t important… but you’ve got to get the love, first. Once you have that, your client will get the numbers to work… I assure you.

My advice to Brammo, Zero, Quantya, Mission, MotoCzysz, Mavizen and anyone else selling these? Put butts in seats. Any way you can.

Events, rallies, road tests (Zero had sort of a less than forthright road test scheme through CraigsList- the only company that has such an offer, but completely off-putting the way it was implemented…) Give reviewers a bike for a week. Go to every known place where motorcyclists congregate and be prepared to let everyone even remotely interested take the things on a road that they can screw it wide open. You’re going to sell ten times the bikes from the back parking lot or a winding road than you do from the showroom floor.

After my lunch with my friend… I got her so excited about the feeling of the electric ride, if I’d had my bike there she would have taken a ride right then and there. Her first ride on a motorcycle…

And funny. She never asked how far it will go on a charge.


6 responses to “How to Sell an Electric Motocycle (and other stories)

  1. In deeed, I once tested a Quantya in Munich at the ISPO sports fair, the year it received the Brand New Award from the fair, and I have to say I was sold!!! how that thing accelerates…my budget was low so I did not buy it…but If I had the cash…

    great advice for shops!

  2. This is so true. I appreciate you writing this. It helped me confirm what I already knew. I am a rep for Zero and this has been my philosophy. I’m just slow in implementing it. Thanks for the nudge!

    • Tony, I should be more clear about my comments on Zero. I saw a CraigsList ad for a Zero in the Boston area and responded- it was kind of unclear as to what was going on, but it looked like a simple “bike for sale” ad.

      When I contacted the poster, he said he was a dealer in the area for Zero- he asked me if I’d like a test drive. I said yes. He said he’d get back to me when he was in my area.

      About a month later I got an email with my address, along with about 20 other people in the “cc” field… something that really ticks me off.

      He apologized, but by then I was well on my way to build my own bike.

      There’s nothing wrong with his basic idea- in fact, it’s brilliant- but he needed to be a little more upfront, a little faster on the response, and a little more knowledgeable about the use of email.

      If I had been in his place, I’d have a bike in the truck. You want to ride it? If you’re serious, I’ll be there this afternoon… I think it’s how you have to do it with a product like this.

    • Also… Tony! I LOVE your site!

      Great idea showing the videos right out of the gate! Take a look guys, this is a dealer who knows how to sell a bike! (Just click his name…)


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