As one charged with sharing best practices, the opportunity to work a room with the industry’s “best of the best” minds for 5 days is a gift. Our company hosted two events, the Precision Farming Dealer Summit and National No-Tillage Conference, in St. Louis the week of Jan. 9.

With 56 presenters, 1,200 attendees and 47 hours of programming — not to mention the hallway conversations — I’ll admit my head is still swimming. And while we’ve got a full binder’s worth of notes to review before bringing you the full recap next month, here are 8 windshield observations from the 370 mile drive home.

1. One Team, One Vision — Top dealers are working to integrate precision and find one heartbeat encompassing sales, service and parts. Instead of making technology “so and so’s job,” these dealers believe that a team that understands how the technology works minimizes problems and expense for the farmer after the sale.

2. Little Things Count — Where else can you so easily cement a customer’s shoes into your camp? Simple things like a quick monitor update or preparing “how to” sheets to leave in the cab can lead to hundreds of thousands in equipment purchases. When your precision techs proactively deliver on things farmers value, you won’t need to chain the farmer to your dealership; he’ll close the lock himself.

3. Service Plans Ideation — The best dealers increase their odds for success by benchmarking others’ plans, getting close to the customers’ true point of pain, and knowing what they as dealers can (and cannot) commit to as “core competencies.” And then they refine those plans every season.

4. The “Gateway Drug” — Dealers continue to report that precision expertise attracts and lands competitors’ customers. Watch what happens when your tech makes it his business to know the rival color’s technology better than its own techs — and how to make it work for that customer.

5. Autonomy — Semi-autonomy is what we can expect, with the next evolution coming not through driverless tractors but powered implements, where the greatest economic benefits exist. Despite the hype of “concept vehicles” at farm shows, don’t expect this technology to emerge from the majors who have much to lose. Instead, watch what shortline suppliers and other innovators do to fill the vacuum; maybe some new distribution models, too.

6. Invest Now — Consensus was reached that dealers who are reasonably stable are wise to invest in facilities and business systems right now. You have the capacity to do things correctly and cost-effectively now vs. playing catchup later when “interrupting” sales to work on the business may be harder to pursue.

7. Knowing the Numbers — Lots of numbers were shared in St. Louis. Things like the dealer averaging $1.1 million per year in sales from precision farming; 10% margins on precision service plans; 50% margins on precision-related parts; a 30% precision service plan take-rate of all customers (all colors) in an AOR. The numbers aren’t as important as what they say about those citing them. Top dealers know their numbers, set goals and measure performance.

8. Make Your Own Energy — First-time attendees marvel at how refreshing it was that pity parties were totally absent from these events. While attendees pause long enough to acknowledge the current ag economy, they don’t dwell on it. Why? Because they’re already “on their way to a better way.” If you need a jump start or a clarity break, choose one of the many opportunities this winter to get with your dealer peers and/or farming’s innovators. Your business will be better for it.

“Up” your game on used equipment marketing by attending the Dealership Minds Summit on Aug. 1-2 in Omaha.

February 2017 Issue Contents