What Monkeys Can Teach Us About Selling Boats

In today’s ultra-competitive and economic environment, selling boats is certainly one of the most difficult professions out there. It takes a lot of experience and perseverance to succeed in it.

So how surprised would you be if I told you that looking at monkeys eating bananas could help us understand one of the fundamentals of selling boats?

Let me explain!

We all peel bananas the same way: from the stem. But did you know that monkeys, who are known for having a diet often based exclusively of bananas, actually peel them from the other side?

I remember hearing a story about a tourist in Central America, peeling a banana by the stem and being laughed at by a group of local children. The kids knew the right way to peel a banana was from the other side. (

So, if we’ve been peeling bananas all wrong, we’ve probably acted incorrectly in many other areas of our life! In fact, we often spend our lifetime doing things incorrectly but are unaware of it so we rarely have an opportunity to change.

What if you’ve been doing things the wrong way in boat sales? Maybe you just didn’t know it and couldn’t have done it otherwise, but it is never too late to learn. So let’s get on it and review 2 common misconceptions.

Misconception 1: Putting yourself or your product as the hero of the interaction client/salesperson.

One of the most important keys to success in sales or marketing is to make the client the centre of attention (and not the sales person or the product).

In an effective message the customer is the hero, the goal is what the customer wants to accomplish, and your salesperson is a supporting character who helps that customer achieve that goal.

Your batman days are over! It’s time for you to accept that you’re in fact Robin. You’re helping the main character and you’re on a quest to help them shine.

At last month’s Southampton Boat Show, I came across a great example of a boat broker who was doing an amazing job selling boats as the supporting character. He was giving away a book to his customers called « Buying a RIB – Everything that you ever wanted to know but have been afraid to ask ».

His main goal was to support his clients and answer their main questions and fears in purchasing a RIB boat. As said by the world-class marketer, Jay Abraham: “The way to greatness today is to transfer your ultimate passion away from your product, service, company, and instead, fall in love with your clients.

Misconception 2 : Promoting the benefits of your products rather than answering the real fears of your clients.

I am currently writing a course about boat sales called “The 30 Secrets to Boat Sales«


I’ve been calling some of our clients and asking them the following question: “Imagine being at your retirement party. I come up to you and ask the following question: “What is the most significant tip that you could give me that helped you during your career selling boats?

This morning, I was talking to my friend and client Mike Joyce, CEO of Hargrave Yachts. I have a lot of respect and admiration for Mike and I always learn very interesting things from him. One of Mike’s points was that companies always focus on what they think their product’s benefits are or can do for the clients, rather than focusing on what the clients really want.

The conversation went like this:

Mike: Vince, Do you know the only car company that increased car sales during the recession?
Me: No.
Mike: Hyundai.
Me: Interesting, how?
Mike: Well, do you know what the main fear people have during a recession ?
Me: No
Mike: Losing their job. And this is exactly what Hyundai offered. They offered a guaranty to buy back the car from the clients in the unlikely event that they lost their job.

Once our conversation was over, I started Googling « Hyundai car sales recession » to learn more about the brilliant move from Hyundai. Here are some explanations below.

(Source March 2009.

Hyundai scored a big marketing win with its incentive program that allowed owners to return a new Hyundai within a year if they lost their job. Called the Hyundai Assurance program, the South Korean automaker sweetened the deal later by offering to pay up to three months of car payments before taking the car back so that owners would have time to look for a new job. While the rest of the auto industry had been hit with slumping sales in 2009, Hyundai sales were up in January and about even in February compared to 2008. Some of that certainly has to do with the peace of mind provided by the Hyundai Assurance program.

But an incentive program isn’t successful just because it sells more vehicles. The value of the incentive to the automaker goes down the more it cuts into the profit of each vehicle sold. So how much has the Hyundai Assurance plan cost so far? Aside from a few marketing dollars to get the word out – nothing. That’s because despite selling 55,133 vehicles through the end of February, not a single owner has taken Hyundai up on its offer to buy back their vehicle. So, at this point, the incentive program has been a home run idea that’s sold more cars but effectively cost Hyundai nothing. Of course, that could all change if within the next year our economy turns into Great Depression II and Hyundai owners begin returning their vehicles en masse. Until then, however, Hyundai will likely continue to enjoy a better sales performance each month than its competition.

It is human nature to always focus on ourselves. I wrote an article about it called “The mouse, the cat and the cheese“. To read it, check  page 20 of our marketing report “In Your Clients Shoes”.
We experience the same problem in business and we constantly need to remind ourselves to focus on our clients. Remember this wonderful quote by Dale Carnegie: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” This wisdom can be applied in your personal life but in your selling boat strategy as well. So good luck for the new boating season and always feel free to reach out to me if you need anything.

Vincent Finetti

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