With NCAA basketball now in full swing, you’ve likely heard about the “points per possession” measurement of a team’s offensive performance. It’s used by coaches whose style is to methodically work a game plan for the highest-odds scoring opportunity. Unlike the frenetic pace of a “run and gun” offense, the idea is not to discover “more” chances, but to make those presented to you count.

Yesterday’s University of Wisconsin game had me pondering the offensive strategy of dealers. If there will be fewer sales opportunities (at least in total dollars) this year, the customers who do show up at your door (or landing page, or on a call report) must be captured, qualified and attended to with greater vigor than ever.

But equipment dealerships’ customer intelligence systems, we’re told, show a different reality. We’ve heard that few dealers properly use the customer relationship management (CRM) tools in their computer systems, thus losing opportunities presented in both sales and marketing. And competitive shortcomings in this area are not easily visible, nor is how much it’s costing you.

Our special report in this year’s SHOWCASE edition (45th annual) will hopefully get you thinking about leveraging an asset already in your possession — information. That information from normal activity can be more consistently collected, memorialized, tied together and shared, and then deployed to increase your odds on the next sale.

To better relate database and information system opportunities back to what you see every day, we tried something different (a first) to approach this topic. We commissioned experienced store manager Mike Wiles (10 years of experience at S&H Farm Supply) as a writer to attend the Digital Dealer Conference in Las Vegas for us last fall. His assignment at this digital strategy conference for auto retailers was to describe what is taking place in the auto world today (a leading indicator) and what could be at our disposal next. His report on “what is possible” in CRMs is on p. 36.

Our research into this area connected us to Scott McCrea, who combines shortline marketing experience with 13 years in lead-management in the auto industry. In sharing some of his studies in farm equipment dealerships, he opened our eyes to “what isn’t happening” with those sales leads that you’ve invested so much in getting.

His recent study of personal inquiries into a well-known dealer group showed 68% of leads for a row-crop tractor were NEVER followed up on. And when the customer did get any response at all (some astoundingly poor), only half took place within 24 hours. Some farmers will move on, but perhaps worse is the one who doesn’t wait for his initial inquiry to be fielded. A second attempt into the dealership only to land in voice mail hell is a strike two.

Tools now exist that keep all departments informed, maintain commitment and accountability, alert you to buying signals (at the parts counter, service shop, on-farm precision calls, etc.), and even predict purchases. So a review of options (including what already exists in your computer system) will be worth a closer look in 2015.

And independent applications, like what McCrea is making available this winter, can consolidate leads in minutes (vs. the typical batch process handled by your receptionist between calls), automatically distributes them with a ticking clock, and tracks each result in real-time. And now for less money per month than it takes to fill up your truck.

The discipline that can now be brought to the art of sales and marketing is too striking to dismiss. While increasing your odds of success, the byproduct is a customer with a sense that your dealership cares. And isn’t that what every farmer making a living off machine uptime needs to feel from you first?.