When asked to write a column on sales and marketing for Boating Industry, it was an unexpected honor. After a week of trying to decide how to begin, I figured the best way to start was to introduce myself and define two key terms.

In 2008 after the mortgage meltdown, I made the difficult decision to close down my mortgage company and do something I had a true passion for: boating.

I pursued Jeff Hall of Hall Marine Group for a sales position. After my first full year selling, I wasn’t breaking any records. As a matter of fact, my manager, Larry Bunch, would refer to me as a “No-boat-selling son of a gun.”

To say I’m not a natural born salesperson would be an understatement. But by my second full selling season, I’d developed several systems and tools that propelled me to being a top salesperson within the six-location dealership. I was outperforming many others with decades more experience and larger databases of clients. As I continued selling, I wrote a book called “Marine Marketing Strategies” and opportunities presented themselves.

These opportunities lead to me helping others in the boat business with sales and marketing. And now I coach folks in the boat business how to sell more boats at higher margins without wasting time or money.

I don’t tell you my story to brag or toot my own horn. I share it with you so you understand that what you will be reading in the column are techniques and strategies that work in today’s selling environment. And, they are methods, concepts and tactics that can be learned.


One of the best definitions I’ve heard comes from a mentor of mine, Joe Polish of Piranha Marketing. Here’s his definition:

Selling is what happens face to face or over the phone with a potential buyer. I add one-to-one emailing and texting in today’s world.

Marketing is what you do to get a potential buyer on the phone or face to face; pre-interested, pre-motivated, pre-positioned and pre-disposed to doing business with you. Essentially, you are selling in advance.

It’s the second part of the marketing definition that is most challenging and often missed altogether.

Let’s face it: getting people to look at boats is fairly easy. Delivering someone who is properly positioned is a whole different football game.

Look at each prospect below. Which one gives your salesperson better starting field position to make a sale?

Prospect #1: Visits your website, views your inventory listing, views all the pictures, reads the short description and calls into your dealership to schedule an appointment to inspect the boat.

Prospect #2: Visits your website, views your inventory listing, views all the pictures, watches the video on the listing – which does a short walk-around on the boat demonstrating some of the biggest selling points – describes the unique selling points (USP) of your dealership and directs them to several specific areas of the website to find happy boater stories and additional resources that boat buyers will find valuable. After watching the video, reviewing a few testimonials and reading a few helpful articles, the prospect calls into your dealership to schedule an appointment to inspect the boat.

With Prospect No. 1 your salesperson is starting at the 1-yard line. They must take them 99 yards to score a sale because there was little to no selling or positioning done in advance.

On the other hand, Prospect No. 2 has your salesperson starting on the 50-yard line. The marketing on the boat listing and website alone has pre-positioned the prospect to be better educated, likely less price-focused and made the salesperson’s job much easier.

Now, here’s this month’s challenge: Take a look at your boat listings and website and ask yourself, ‘How can I deliver a more pre-interested, pre-motivated, pre-positioned and pre-disposed prospect to my sales team by doing more selling in advance?’

Matt Sellhorst is the author of the book “Marine Marketing Strategies” and head profits coach at Boat Dealer Profits. Sellhorst was also the winner of the MDCE Best Ideas Contest, Boating Industry’s Movers and Shakers Bold Moves award, a top producing boat salesman and speaker at many industry events. Visit for more information.