Customer relationship management — or CRM — software isn’t new and has been covered in the pages of Farm Equipment several times over the years. But the benefits bear repeating, and the system is only as good as the information you put into it — garbage in, garbage out as the saying goes. 

“CRMs can be viewed as cumbersome and not a good tool to manage the day-to-day life of sales activity for a salesperson. That is the hurdle that sales managers must overcome,” explains Michael Prengler, vice president of operations for HBS Systems. 

“It is management’s responsibility to provide a streamlined sales process and match that process to their CRM showcasing the benefits it provides.” 

The second challenge, according to Prengler, is dealership sales staff needs to allow the CRM to do the heavy lifting of tasks, alerts, reminders and scheduling.  

Ultimately, a CRM should integrate with their calendar and more so it syncs to items like quotes and appointments; however, if this isn’t happening, salespeople tend to rely upon Outlook/Google calendars outside of the CRM and develop their own processes. The more functions the sales team does outside of the CRM, the more it lags behind, he says.  

Updating customer and general market information along with other critical data after each interaction with a customer within a CRM helps transfer the knowledge from the field to a broader audience. 

For example, when marketing  has updated customer information, with details on what filter, tractor, zero-turn mower, etc., has been purchased, the proper promotional offers are distributed to the correct customers.  

Another example Prengler provides, “When you know the number of hours that have been run on machines, you can then mine that information and integrate it within your CRM to send out service alerts to that specific list of customers. Those are just a few examples of why it’s critical that a CRM integrates with your business system.

“Ownership has to convince their salespeople that the tool is there to help them. We’re not trying to pounce on you, watch you and hover over everything you’re doing.”

Feeding Marketing Automation

One clear benefit of a CRM is its ability to feed marketing automation and improve the efficiency and accuracy of a dealership’s lead generation. 

Back in 2017, Titan Machinery implemented a new CRM system across all of its locations to improve its lead generation, says Nadine Swee, marketing automation specialist for the 56-store Case IH dealership group. 

The CRM allows Titan to segment customers to build profiles based on landing page engagement, open rates or specific equipment searches and purchases. Over time, additional information can be introduced from acreage totals and crop types.

Sales reps should react within 30 seconds to qualified leads interested in an online reservation, as closing odds drop significantly when delaying the initial interest, says automated marketing specialist Nadine Swee of Titan Machinery.

Click to enlarge

Titan Machinery Uses CRM to Power Marketing Campaign

In coordination with Case IH’s 175th anniversary, Titan Machinery put a large investment into skid steers, with the intention of selling them behind an automated marketing campaign titled “Red 175.” A predetermined e-mail system served as the core distribution strategy for contacting leads, starting with a general message detailing the celebration of Case IH’s milestone, an announcement of the skid steer availability and a link for interested buyers on the purchasing process. 

From there, three more emails were sent at different intervals depending on how recipients responded to the original message, Nadine Swee, marketing automation specialist, explains. The wording and descriptiveness of each message varied on how far a particular lead went in the process, ranging from those who opened the first e-mail and the subsequent link for more information to those who ignored the first e-mail altogether. 

“If they looked at it and clicked on it, then they got the ‘you look like you’re interested’ kind of an email,” Swee says. “If they went the other direction and didn’t do anything, we sent them anther email in a week, vs. waiting 2 or 3 weeks to get back to them.”

Those who opened the original e-mail and clicked on the additional link were directed to a standalone landing page, where an in-depth description on the campaign’s offerings is displayed alongside a form to enter their contact information. 

At this stage, Swee suggests keeping the required information at a minimum to ensure the lead is generated. If need be, supplementary details can be gathered later in the process. 

“It could be as simple as first name, last name and email,” Swee says. “It could have a phone number, but for qualification forms, shorter is better. If you require more information, they’re not going to take the time to fill it in. We did, however, ask for a location because if we’re selling a brand new skid steer in our area of responsibility, we had to know where to send that lead.”

Once the form is complete, the CRM will automatically send out a confirmation email with two options: reserving their skid steer immediately or to contact them at a preferred time. For the immediate reserve option, Swee stresses the need for a salesperson to address the action within 30 seconds, noting the volatile nature of customers.

Print was another distribution channel for the campaign, which Swee says came in the form of easy-to-produce, easy-to-mail postcards. In order to track print-based leads, Titan used a custom domain titled under ‘Red 175’ so the CRM system could file the source accordingly. The strategy expanded, using different tags, to any social media advertising done for the campaign, again allowing the Oracle system to automatically determine which specific social media channel generated the lead for a skid steer.

Through those increasingly accurate profiles, sales reps can send timely messages throughout a customer’s buying cycle, Swee says. The data enables Titan to expand beyond its original approach of untargeted, broad brand awareness messages. (See Titan Machinery Uses CRM to Power Marketing Campaign above

“We know if a customer prefers a specific store or if they’ve purchased something in the past 6 months, so we have the capabilities to say ‘you bought your combine, we’ll do that math,’” Swee says. “We can send a targeted message to say, ‘You’re getting close to your next oil change. Here’s some filters to consider and when you should come in.’”

Not the End-All Solution

In a previous article, Charlie O’Brien, a consultant for the off-road equipment and financial services industries and former vice president of the Assn. of Equipment Manufacturers, and Tommy Jones, director of sales and marketing for Precision Risk Management, warned against thinking that implementing a CRM will be the end-all solution to improve sales. 

“Subpar sales performance is not typically a CRM issue. It is typically a sales process issue, a people issue or maybe just a training issue. Implementing CRM when problems exist in other areas is simply applying a band-aid when the patient is hemorrhaging,” they write. 

“Implementing CRM when not addressing other process issues may do more harm than good. Unfortunately, many find after making a large investment in CRM there are other contributing factors that also need to be addressed to be successful in upgrading sales effectiveness. 

“Companies must identify, implement or upgrade to the most efficient sales processes in an organization first, and then, and only then, should they implement CRM.”

However, they add, if your dealership has the processes well identified and everyone follows the sales process, a CRM can add tremendous efficiency to the entire organization. They offer this example of an equipment demo: 

“Unlike contact management, CRM supports workflow, which means the demo process can be automated within CRM to provide reminders, notifications, etc., automatically, to everyone in the organization involved in delivering a successful demo. 


“The customers are where you’re going to generate your sales, so the better you can stay engaged with those customers and be aware of those engagements, you’re going to make more money…” – Michael Prengler, HBS Systems

Reminders to the prospect for things like date of the demo, time, location, can also be automated. Rather than the salesperson calling or sending emails to everyone (prospect, trucking, service), to ensure everyone knows their role, the salesperson enters the pertinent information about the demo into CRM, and the system automates all notifications and reminders based on date or time parameters you establish. 

“The salesperson does not need to spend time coordinating all the stakeholders, unless the CRM system provides a warning that someone has not completed an assigned task, when due. Workflow in CRM significantly reduces the administrative time required for salespeople in setting up and managing demos.”

Holding Staff Accountable 

As mentioned above, a CRM is only as good as how committed the entire sales and marketing teams are at entering notes, activities, conversations, inquiries, etc. The staff needs to be held accountable for doing it and know what the consequence is of not using the system. 

Jeff Bowman, former chief experience officer with Titan Machinery, says holding staff accountable is the crux of making a CRM work. Accountability = Clarity + Commitment + Consequences. He provides the following formula for CRM: 

  • Clarity: Clearly connect the data being requested to the action that will be taken on/with it to generate leads, sales and customer loyalty. Use data and examples to give evidence that it will work. Now the team knows WHY and HOW.
  • Commitment: After the hard work of providing clarity, you need agreement from sales reps that they will provide the information required. So, ‘Yes, I understand and I will do that.’ The trick is, the request needs to come from their boss, not marketing, IT, etc. The commitment cascade starts at the top (of sales, at least). Now two-way expectations are set on WHO does WHAT.
  • Consequences: Most CRM efforts never even make it to consequences, good or bad, but this is critical to locking in results and making future improvements. First, measuring results and celebrating success is paramount. Don’t assume they know that your new data-driven plan is working. Second — and back to the boss requirement — there needs to be supervisory follow-up wherever commitments are not kept. In most cases, a reminder of WHY, HOW and WHAT was agreed upon will work, but sometimes it will require a performance discussion. Positive and negative consequences provide the required SO WHAT to reinforce improvements.

He adds, “Each step takes hard work, close collaboration and alignment across teams, and several iterations. If you notice your CRM effort losing traction, check first to see if one or more of the “3C’s” have been missed.”

Garton Tractor, a 10-store New Holland and Kubota dealership in California, had to reevaluate its sales and CRM process. 

Ben Garton’s, chief marketing officer, first method was what he calls the “cookie-jar” method. 

The thought behind it was that by placing every lead that came through into a CRM, the sales team would take each lead as it comes, with equal priority. But that wasn’t the case, Garton says. The good leads were quickly picked up by the sales team, while the small sales would sit. 

Recognizing a need for change, Garton and his team tried the “quarterback method.” Sales managers would collect leads and forward them on to salespeople to follow up. 

However, the leads would often remain in the inboxes of busy managers, resulting in sales staff getting requests that were already several days old. 

Exclusively Online

Visit for the following exclusives:

Trial by fire helped Garton devise his current plan: giving leads to a select group of enthusiastic salespeople to function as a dedicated online sales team. 

These employees are actively engaged in the posting of equipment for sale and respond quickly to online leads. This both ensures the appropriate salespeople are getting the online requests and pushes staff to be more proactive in online selling.

For a CRM tool to make a difference, dealers need to find that right combination of motivation to use it and consequences if you don’t for their sales team, and that could be different from dealership to dealership and even salesperson to salesperson. Once that is found, the benefits can reach all departments of the dealership.  

“At the end of the day, people are in business to make money. And a CRM helps you make money. The customers are where you’re going to generate your sales, so the better you can stay engaged with those customers and be aware of those engagements, you’re going to make more money,” Prengler says.

Does Your Dealership Have the Right Technology Tools in its Arsenal?

Finding the Parts Inventory System That’s Right for You

Increased Cyber Threats Require Dealers to Be Proactive, Not Reactive

Assess Risk, Value to Avoid Costly Consequences of Cyber Attacks

Taking CRM to the Next Level

Fleet Management Data Offers Bottom-Line Boosting Opportunities

4 Changes Dealerships Must Make to Stay Connected to Customers