This article was written by Denise Hanna, CPYB, for the Yacht Broker Association of America’s newsletter.
As yacht consultants, we are not only selling boats, but we are also selling dreams. Many of our buyers have researched for years, traveled to many boat shows, and carefully studied all the various brands and options before deciding which boat to purchase. The lead times for new products used to be about one year but have now stretched to two or three years. The project starts once the contract is signed with a deposit. It is the responsibility of the yacht consultant to help guide the buyers throughout the entire process. In this new covid era, some brokers treat the deal as a transaction and as soon as the Purchase Agreement is finished, they feel their job is complete and they move on to the next deal. They are not managing the project along the production timeline, assisting the client with changes to work orders, meeting them at the factory for tours, and not properly handing the boat over at the completion of the boat.
It is critical that we manage the expectations of the buyers and be involved every step of the way. Once the contract is signed, the consultant should schedule a “build-out” meeting with the commissioning manager to review all factory or aftermarket options possible. Assisting with choices of dinghies, watermakers, lithium batteries, solar, and other options is critical, so they know exactly what they are getting. Review the change orders to make sure all options are correct. Plan to meet at the next boat show to review the boat again during the wait time, help them schedule a charter for a few days on the model they are purchasing, or plan a visit to the factory with the buyer. As the boat nears completion, there is work to be done to finalize financing, insurance, and shipping of the boat or delivery by water. Once the boat arrives in the USA, the broker should coordinate with the commissioning team to set a goal for the handover date of the boat. This is typically three to four weeks after arrival at the handover destination.
At this point, the buyer has been waiting for at least a year to see their boat so the expectations are extremely high at this point. The yacht consultant should arrive ahead of time to make sure that the boat is ready to go whether the handover is in Annapolis, St. Thomas, BVI, Florida, or even in France. When the buyer arrives, you should have a red carpet, ribbon across the doorway, champagne in a bucket, and a gift bag of goodies or brand clothing for them to open. Have a champagne toast and possibly a christening after walking through the boat, take photos to share with them and possibly on social media, and take them to lunch or dinner at a nice restaurant nearby. Spend a day or so while they are meeting and sailing with the commissioning team to make sure all is as expected. For the consultant not to be present at this critical moment is unacceptable. The buyer would arrive at an empty boat with no one there to greet them, toast with them and ensure the boat is fully prepared. They have invested a lot of time and money and they expect special treatment. It is part of our job and will help form lasting relationships with the buyer as you will spend quality time sharing this happy moment in their lives and getting to know them on a personal level.
The consultants who consistently form lasting relationships with their buyers are the ones who will have the most referrals and repeat clients throughout their careers. I also suggest that consultants take the time to meet with used boat buyers once they have closed on the boat and are taking her to her new home. A simple bottle of wine, gift card, and a note can go a long way after the purchase, survey, sea trial, and finally the closing. The more involved we are in the process, the more value we have in the industry.