Bob Oberg isn’t natural salesman; he’s a natural sailor. He knows boats. The athletic 41-year old with a shy smile seems uncomfortable standing by a boat, waiting to talk about it. But get him on the boat he becomes confident and words flow out with ease; stats are no longer numbers, they’re information to be shared.
Bob sells Beneteau where sailboats easily start at $300,000. The company has been participating in the Annapolis Boat Show since 1976. Bob has been selling at the show since 2011. He’s been in sales only about six months longer than that.
Before stepping into sales, Bob spent his first dozen years at Annapolis Yacht Sales, the Annapolis Beneteau dealer, fixing boats with a specialty in electrical systems. Back then, Bob raced his own boat, a 22-foot Star Olympian. He was a regular on the Annapolis sailboat racing circuit; crewing on bigger boats where you show up to win, not crack a beer.
It was a big decision of whether to make the change. Bob and his wife, a marketing director in health care, talked it over and decided to try living with commissions instead of wages. It was “one of my better decisions,” said, but it may not have seemed like it at first.
At Bob’s first boat show, Beneteau didn’t sell any new boats. Last year (2012), the local dealer sold at least six new boats and a total of 29 contracts on new and used boats. Bob attributes the difference to buyers “tired of not doing what they dream about doing.” Bob sells dreams.
“Buying a two-to-three hundred thousand dollar boat is not a knee jerk reaction,” he says “(buyers) will decide they’re going to do it or miss an opportunity in life.”
Bob’s job at the boat show will be to explain the opportunities being offered by Beneteau. His day begins at 7:30 a.m. showing brokerage (used) boats at various locations in the area. He then goes to the office and follows up on leads. At about 9:30 a.m. he heads over to the boat show to be ready when it opens at 10 a.m., spending the day talking to hundreds of people.
Social events begin when the show closes at 6 p.m.; a Beneteau owner’s party one night, a fundraiser at a local pub another night. Then, back to the office to follow up on leads. “There are times when you have to work hard and this is one of those times,” Bob said with a shrug.
Bob will be back at the sailboat show with his shy smile off to the side, waiting to win over a customer. He’s not a high-pressure guy; he’s a sailing guy looking for a conversation about boats.