“I think honesty is a key component and focusing on the positives. “Honesty — Realize what situation farmers are in and try to capitalize on planting the seeds for future sales. The fact is farmers still planted crops this year, they still have to harvest them, and they need machinery, parts and service to do it. Sales are still out there, but we have to be a little more creative. If we buy into the negative outlook, then we are going to react negatively.

“Positives — CROPS WILL BE HARVESTED! There are incredible incentives from manufacturers right now. Balance sheets are stronger than ever meaning farmers, given the right value proposition, will invest in new products. Incentives can be a motivator but reminding them that things are pretty damn good considering the last 10 years, we need to just get out there and do our jobs.”

— Clint Schnoor, Agri-Service LLC, Twin Falls, Idaho

“In this downturn, we have actually been able to see total sales for us remain rather positive. It is down, but it’s not devastating. Keeping people motivated is a full time job in good times and bad. As the manager, it is time for me to step up my interaction with the sales team. Returning to the ‘basics’ is paramount. People need constant reminding that this downturn has been expected. Constant phone calls, customer visits actually need to be stepped up. The conversations may not be about sales at all. Relationship building has to be a regular part of the day. Sales are not a matter of the market being down, it is what you do while you are down that matters.

“You can’t just stay in the office and wait for the phone to ring or the market to go back up. You have to be creative, consistent and move forward. Tough times never last, tough people do.”

— Alan Esche, MacAllister Machinery, Fort Wayne, Ind.

“As an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan), our employees already have a lot of incentive to maintain their sense of urgency. We have added a few incentives in key areas to try and stay ahead of potential pitfalls. However, I think one of the biggest keys to maintaining a sense of urgency is having employees who care about our customers and take pride in what they do.”

— Shawn Skaggs, Livingston Machinery Co., Chickasha, Okla.

“During a downturn in sales, it normally means your customers will be still be using the machinery and it will still need to be repaired and possibly more. This is the shop’s opportunity to bring the dealerships profit center to a new high. There are many things that can be done to bring in the work with inspections of machinery to find repair work, along with allowing more time to upsell more parts and service as well as possible new equipment sales to replace overly worn machinery by helping customers make better buying decisions.

“The motivation comes when they see they can make a difference in the dealership. Incentives will improve their performance and one that is often overlooked is as simple as bonuses on dollars spent from additional sales brought in. Incentives on additional sales from suggestive selling is a program that stands on its own and ties sales to the shop profit and growth. The shop is a profit center and anything you choose will be better then doing nothing.”

— Art White, Whites Farm Supply Inc., Waterville, N.Y.

“My experience is that if you have the right people in sales positions, they don’t need incentives because they are naturally motivated. So, with these individuals it falls on management to keep them fully involved in the company’s situation and also make sure the used equipment is priced right to sell. For the order takers, incentives will probably inspire them, but you are really only rewarding poor performers.”

— Alex Lush, Connect Equipment, Rockwood, Ont.

“In the past, incentives have worked. Lately, we have found they don’t unless you have highly motivated salespeople. They seem to lose their focus if you provide incentives on too many units in inventory. Expanding the number of customer contacts and customer touch points from other departments seems to help with providing leads for the salespeople to follow. That way they are focused on what the customers want and matching it with what we have in stock.”

— James Sommer, Service Motor Co., Dale, Wis.

“I am a firm believer in incentive-based pay. The typical employee has changed in the 34 years that I have been involved in the business. Currently our group of stores pays commission to the sales staff. A bonus program has been established for the store managers as well. So far, we have not implemented a bonus program for parts or service staff. I believe that will come in the near future.”

— Fred Rodkey, Rodkey New Holland, Rossville, Ind.

“We ask them, ‘What did you sell today?’ This reminds them to sell something big or small. The salesperson who sells something nearly every day is the winner.

“Too many salespeople just wait for the big sale, and when they miss they get all dejected.”

— Curt Hanson, Mid-State Equipment, Columbus, Wis.

“Incentives definitely still play a part in the success, but operating as a cohesive team with a high level of trust, communication, support, engagement from everyone involved is critical. Some of the things we do include:

  • Monthly 1-hour sessions with a professional sales coach as a sales team. These are very intentional workshops where we use real ‘live’ examples and team members have the opportunity to give one another input and feedback.
  • A weekly Monday morning sales team meeting where each salesperson shares highlights/victories from the previous week, plan for the coming week and what each would consider as major victories for the coming week.
  • Lead generation from historical data at the start of each month lets salespeople know we care and want to help.
  • Reading and discussing inspirational books and videos as a team Leadership generates prospect lists for specific trades.
  • Action creates confidence and accountability to create and generate action.”

— Paul DuToit, PrairieLand Partners, Emporia, Kan.

“We have adjusted our pay plan for a period of time to focus mainly on getting rid of used equipment to improve our used turns. Normally, we pay on gross margin per sale. Now we are paying a percent on the gross sale.

“The other thing we have been doing is sharing all of the important information with our whole sales team. We have set a target on the amount of used inventory we want on hand at the end of our fiscal year. We are celebrating every significant sale that gets us closer to our goals. We are making progress in reducing our used inventory levels at this time. We feel that keeping customers engaged in the selling process is critical even if we have to adjust our selling prices below our cost. We do not want them going to other sources for their equipment needs.”

— Doug Neufeld, PrairieLand Partners, Hutchinson, Kan.

“I let them know that each customer coming through the door keeps our doors open and each of us with a job. If they are good employees, they understand this and help our customers so they will continue to come back.”

— Larry Moore, B B Sales Co., Guymon, Okla.

“Your question surprises me, ‘urgency’ during downward sales. Here at C&R Supply the customer is always the most important person and quality and accuracy for him are the common practice all year long. The slowdown time finally allows us as employees to explore the different news sources for what is new, what changes we could consider, what other markets we should consider, product improvements and changes, etc. We have a fun but have a very busy place to work, but now we have a little time to discuss past, present and future thoughts with fellow employees before the next busy season comes.”

— Kevin Crisp, C&R Supply, Sioux Falls, S.D.

“With slowing down time, we keep staff motivated by getting jobs done that we have not been able to do throughout the year. This includes building equipment for displays and redoing the shop. This make the staff feel like they are being heard on their concerns about how to make workflow better when the times are too busy to pursue the ideas. In our shop all of our trucks and trailers are due for their yearly DOT inspections so, this also takes up time.”

— Walter Steffler, Durham Kubota, Oshawa, Ont.