Spring 2020 is going to be a spring that we remember and one that brought business challenges unlike any we’ve experienced before. But crops still got planted, parts were purchased and equipment was serviced. There have been challenges indeed, but those challenges have brought opportunities to connect with your customers in different ways and also fine tune some processes.

I recently sat down with sales trainer Greg Martinelli for our new “Thought Leaders” video series. Toward the end of our conversation he said that it’s important to keep in mind — particularly in a time like this with new challenges none of us have experience before — that difficulty generates opportunity.

We’re all learning new ways to do business and communicate right now. Those who had been resisting technology up until this point, aren’t left with many alternatives. Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams … words that weren’t necessarily part of our lexicon are now part of our everyday vocabulary — and use. As we grew more comfortable with the technology, much of what we feared would be lost in the “face-to-face” interactions of being in person turned out to be nothing to worry about. In fact, a number of dealers have commented on the efficiencies that have been gained through this time, some of which could be a “new normal.”

The new video series (along with our “Daily Recaps” and “Day in the Life” series articles online) was an opportunity we found to stay in regular touch with a lot of industry influencers, and probably resulted in more scheduled interviews than might have been the case in normal times. In a similar vein — and for the first time since the program launched 16 years ago — we’ll be conducting our Dealership of the Year interviews all via video conference (coverage will be in the July/August issue of Farm Equipment.)

And there’s big opportunity for salespeople in this environment, too. “Communicate with [customers] frequently and check in with them and try to bring them any positive message you can, or at least a neutral message. Find out what’s going on with them, and what they’re doing to cope,” says Martinelli.

Salespeople are in a unique position that allows them to take the pulse of the market. Martinelli equates salespeople who go from farm to farm all day to a doctor who is treating the same diseases all day. “They’re the greatest person to ask, ‘How do I solve this disease?’”

Salespeople are the same way, he says, whether they’re going from farm to farm all day long or checking in over the phone during recent times. “Bring that resource to your customer. Don’t discount how important that is … You can say, ‘Here’s what others are having success with and here’s what’s not working,” he says.

He advises salespeople to take advantage of the wealth of information you have from your daily interactions with customers. “Take this opportunity to step up and bring your resources to your customers,” he says.

In this issue we have an update to our every 3 years Brand Loyalty study (see p. 42), and once again farmers have pointed to dealers as the differentiating factor in their loyalty. You may have different challenges than you’re accustomed to right now, but you can find the opportunity to improve your service — and strengthen that loyalty.