Last month, in preparation for a special report in June (stay tuned for one of our most fascinating projects ever), I sat a “green farmer” with a “red dealer” who’d not yet consummated a big-ticket deal.
I’m not going to take up space on this 45-year-old’s farm operation. Let’s just say he’s a forward thinker, is comfortable with change and like other customers (prospects) in your database. That is, a most valuable type farmer that may be eluding some of you. Here are 4 things a farmer wants a rival brand dealer to know about gaining his business.
Truth About Brand Loyalty. While his dad would’ve questioned different stickers on his machinery, he doesn’t care. He assumes the equipment he’d buy is reliable and the only real disaster is an inability from you to get him running again. The fear of brand changes exists only in farmers over 50. He’s been lent four different combines in 5 years and all function well. Farmers may stay with a brand or dealer, but you won’t naturally hold them with the same success anymore.
Don’t Make a Bad Situation Worse. Most farmers “get ugly” when high wear and fail parts aren’t inventoried. But don’t expect sympathy for your inability to plan for chaos. And responding poorly to his call into the service department boils his blood. “Good service advisors make your problem better immediately,” he says. “And I’m not talking being able to get a tech to me at a moment’s notice.”
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For instance, he doesn’t want to hear how covered up the shop is. His situation is top priority to him and he needs you in problem-solving mode. “The good ones know to rob a part off a machine, when to get you the loaner, or to say they’ll have someone to me in X hours (and mean it — he can keep busy with other work). The parts and service guys secure him to a store, and they get measured on the bad days.
Impact of Consolidation. He understands the efficiency that manufacturers, dealers and lenders desire, and how eliminating redundancy can look attractive in consolidation. But there’s a uniqueness to farming that may elude some of the corporate “suits,” he says. “It’d be most most efficient for us to plant 8 hours a day for 20 days, so why do we plant 20 hours a day for 8 days? It isn’t efficient, but that’s what we must do in farming.
“Some of these outfits have smart, excellent people but have no concept of farming,” he says. “We’re not trying to ruin someone’s evening when we insist on a part at 6 p.m. on a Saturday night. We’re working.”
He appreciates dealers who keep staff around on “snakebit” weekends and who’ll leave a part at his back door on a Sunday night. “Dealers should know how much money I’m losing when I can’t run.”
The loss of the single-point of contact and managers who know farming is a casualty of consolidation. “It’s not that you’ll lose the farmer’s business over it, but you can lose the loyalty.”
Innovative Products. He’d admitted he’d never given much thought to the role of specialty products in his choice of dealers. But he mentioned the number of shortline pieces he’s owned greatly outnumbers the big pieces. “We don’t trade a major piece but every 7-8 years,” he says. But at least one shortline product is traded annually. Without the shortline business, there’d be far fewer touchpoints with the dealerships.
Precision Opens Up Other Brands. Until now precision has bound his equipment dealings, with the belief that same-colored technology communicates more seamlessly. With ISOBUS, he says, this notion is “getting blown up by the dealers who want to go after other colors.” He’ll soon be able to walk into any store and buy any tractor without a long list of technical worries.