Editor’s Note: This article is the first in a new series on dealership conquest sales.

To borrow from a Chinese proverb, a journey to a full-fleet color conversion begins with a single step. For Intermountain New Holland, a 2-store dealership in south-central Idaho, it started with the hiring of a salesperson who earned a custom harvester’s trust and demo of one unit. Up until 3 years ago Rock Bottom Custom (RBC) LLC was not spending a dime in the dealership’s wholegoods, parts or service business. Its swather fleet was 100% Massey Ferguson.

Today, the dealership has put the customer into 6 New Holland swathers (rolled annually), 2 New Holland tractors, 4 Thunder Creek fuel trailers and several air compressors, with more to come.

“It sounds like a textbook conversion,” says David Orr, general manager. “But it’s a lot harder than that, and includes a lot of long hours and long days.”


Intermountain New Holland

Twin Falls, Idaho

Major Line: New Holland

Stores: 2 (Heyburn and Twin Falls, Idaho).

Shortlines: Degelman, Supreme International, Colombo Bean combines, Art’s Way (sugar beet and manure spreaders), Bad Boy Mowers, Thunder Creek Equipment fuel trailers, Bushel Plus, Grouser, Makita Power Tools, Rhino, Westfield.

Founded: 1948 (Mini-Cassia Equipment Co., Heyburn, Idaho.)

Owner: Jarrod and Karen Hunt purchased Mini-Cassia Equipment in 2014 and consolidated Twin Falls Tractor and Northside Implement in 2017.

Customer Base: Row-crop producers (sugar beets, potatoes, barley and corn) in the “Magic Valley” of south-central Idaho, so-named for the damming of the Snake River that turned a desert into the an ag heartland. In addition to row-crop business, the dealership serves the forage the highly populated dairy businesses, including some that are milking as many as 60,000 cows.

This article, based on an interview with the salesperson bouncing in rye fields alongside his customer, explains how the transformation of a color change happened for the Idaho dealership.

Meet the Players in the Color Conversion

The Customer: Dave Alves and his wife, Marianna, are the owners of RBC Based in Jerome, Idaho, it’s a custom forage harvester business serving southern Idaho. Alves is described by Intermountain as “a good guy but a highly demanding customer. He gets upset when things don’t work. He buys new equipment so he won’t inherit problems.”

The Dealer General Manager: Orr, a 7-year veteran of the dealership who came in as a sales manager after a 13-year career at Caterpillar and was tasked as GM to make a big push into the Snake River basin. 

The Dealer Salesman: Avelar is approaching his 4th year at Intermountain. He was hired in 2019 from construction dealer Modern Machinery to leverage his dairy farm upbringing and contacts to grow the dairy and haymaking business for the New Holland dealer.

Shortly after coming aboard (see sidebar on p. 22), he began checking in on his longtime friend Alves, who was running 4 Massey Ferguson WR 9980s in his custom cutter business and was preparing to add a 5th. 

As the story goes, Alves was having issues maintaining his Masseys. And while there was nothing extreme, says Orr, Alves didn’t feel the full support of that dealership. That gave Intermountain the chance it wanted.

The dealership had access to New Holland’s SR 260 Plus pre-production unit in the spring of 2020 and demoed it to a half-dozen prospects, including Alves. “He immediately ran it, and then put some of his main operators on it. After one day of running it, he wanted to get an order on the board to make sure that he’d get the new series when it was released a year later. The demo turned into a sale within 10 days.

“If you ask Davey today, he’ll say ‘I bought that first swather solely because of Daniel.’”

Everything went well in that first season and Orr’s team stepped up and delivered when Alves faced downtime. “That fall,” says Avelar, “we asked for a shot at all the units and we quoted him 4 New Holland SR260 swathers; as he wanted to keep his 1-year-old unit.

“He’d been planning on keeping them for 2-4 years but started gaining a lot more custom work. And so his plan was to run the one older style New Holland, and see our quote on 4 new Pluses.

“We gave him an option to roll them every year and keep the machines fresh. He started putting in about 1,200-1,500 hours per season, per machine. Five weeks into the 2023 season, he came to us with a need for even more capacity.”

“There are a lot of upgrades from the SR260 to the SR260 Plus. Dave said ‘I’ve got way more hours in than I thought I’d have. We talked about swapping the original SR260 for a SR260 Plus to make 5 Pluses.’ This also helped him keep all of his parts inventory, serviceability; everything the same and consistent. That was his second season with us, and he was halfway through second cutting alfalfa when we took in the original machine on trade to make it 5 Pluses for him. 


Rock Bottom Custom’s fast-growing cutting business and 1400 hours per year on each machine brought an escalating machinery roll business to a trusted dealer partner. Photo by: Alexis Humphrey

“And then last year, he needed to add one, making it 6. And again this season we just did 6 as well.”

Orr says this success story started with Avelar, who remains the key to the deal years later. “Dan and I have a lot of good friends in this business, but we know if we don’t perform, our friendships don’t mean squat.”

Avelar credits the team that backed up him and Orr. “Our parts and our service and management is why he keeps coming back. Of course, he’s a high priority for us. He spends a lot of money with us every year. As an example, two of us are here today for the startup. He knows the machines better than us. But it’s the little stuff that we’ll do to support him as a reason he continues to work with us.”

The pair says that Alves has come to believe if it’s late on a Saturday night or early Sunday morning, a call into the service manager is going to get answered. If the techs are out on other urgent calls, the manager will get in the truck himself. 

“The longer I run a test drive on a car or any piece of equipment, the more I want to own it…”

Alves is numbers-driven, says Avelar, who’s impressed with the level of detail. “For every part of his business, he and Marianna use spreadsheets to know what their costs per acre is per day and they share those targets. He tells his guys what they need to do to keep the business running,’ he says, “and if they want to continue to run new equipment, here’s what they need to make it work.”

Beg, Borrow & Steal: May the 4th Be With You

“It takes all of us to be productive in making things happen,” says Orr. “The first swather deal we did with him was an absolute nightmare because we couldn’t get the machine here in time, Dan walked Davey into my office and I nearly soiled my pants. He asked, ‘When am I going to have swathers?’

“I said, ‘May 4 — we’ll deliver them on May 4.’ Dan walked him out, and returned, asking ‘Where are you going to get machines?’ I didn’t know — but I knew we had to get to work because delivery times are important.”

Avelar interrupted Orr. “That’s another reason why I love working for Intermountain New Holland, because David looked me in the eye and said ‘We’re going to make it happen.’ 

Learn More Online

For more exclusive content on Intermountain New Holland and its “Color Conversions” success – including video of David Orr and Daniel Avelar, click here.

“It’s nice to work for a guy who is willing to do what nobody else will. We’re all on the same page and our service department is the same way. We’ll do whatever we need to do to keep the customer going. It’s late nights and early mornings, but that’s how you land the big fish; what keeps us moving forward.” 

Orr explains. “My salesmen don’t get a salary; they’re 100%-commission based. They only get paid to sell. When they go out and do their job, it’s my job to go find the equipment. I’d love it if we stocked every piece all the time, but the carrying costs that we incur as a business these days is just astronomical, so we’ll work to go out and find the units.”

“We have a lot of friends in this business, but if we don’t perform, our friendships don’t mean squat…”

Orr, with Avelar’s help, “begged, borrowed and stole” swathers from other dealerships in Idaho and Washington. “And for the record, we delivered the last machine on May 4,” Avelar says.

Extra Parts Support Needed

Orr says they needed to boost their parts inventory to care for a customer who ran 3-4 times as many hours on his windrower than a typical customer. “There were learning curves that we had to hit on the run, but we definitely bolstered our parts department stocking levels. We try to push him into a big pre-season order early in the spring to get most of the parts he can expect to need — on his shelf. And then we made a commitment with our parts personnel. We’ve got a parts representative that makes the 30-minute trip to his shop twice a week to keep him stocked.”


Shortlines, as well as fuel trailers and air compressors, are additional revenue sources and door-openers to satisfy “new to the dealership” customers. Photo by: Alexis Humphrey

On the service side, the dealership extended a hand and asked for his trust. “We had a hiccup last year with some production issues on some headers. We took him out of a unit that he had traded to us and said, ‘Until we get this fixed, you’ll run our machine.’ Our commitment was that he may not always be in the newest machine should a problem occur, but we’d keep him going with another unit. Being broke down in his business costs way too much money.” 

Lazy Demos Unwelcome — Closing a Tractor Deal

Orr says “our industry is riddled with demos where the salesman drops it off in the corner of a field and says, ‘If you have time to run it, great.’ That checks the box with the manufacturer and the dealer they work for. They can say they took it out on a demo, but the customer might have put 2 hours on it. 

In Pursuit: ‘My Customer Encouraged Me to Join the Dealership’

Customer Dave Alves (Rock Bottom Custom LLC) and Intermountain New Holland Salesman Daniel Avelar grew up in dairy families and had known each other most of their lives. And you might say that Avelar’s pursuit of this important customer could be traced back to long before his first day on the job in 2019.

 “I’d been working in a construction dealer, Modern Machinery, and was regularly around Davey’s operation.” Avelar had sold a few front-end loaders to Alves over the years, though he wasn’t exactly happy with the support there.

 When Alves heard about the opportunity at Intermountain New Holland, he encouraged Avelar to make the move, even though he wasn’t doing any business with the dealership. “He was a big advocate in getting me to switch,” Avelar says.

Growing up in ag and familiar with all the shortlines, Avelar preferred the opportunity with a company striving to get bigger in the ag space like Intermountain offered. David Orr and owner Jarrod Hunt lured him to zero in on bringing the dairy and related customers into the fold.

“We, on the other hand, may be generous to a fault. But I know the longer I run a test drive on a car or any piece of equipment, the more I want to own it. Of course part of that is qualifying that lead and making sure that the guy is ready and wants to demo. But there are also times where you need to say, ‘I left the keys in it; I’ll get with you tomorrow.’ Because sometimes his day is going south; something happened. You’ve got to be able to read your audience to understand how hard to push on a given day.”

An example of persistence was shown through yet another color conversion, this time on a New Holland T7 tractor. Intermountain infiltrated Alves’ fleet of 7 red units —2 250-horsepower Magnums pulling hay mergers and 5 articulating Case IH tractors. “He lets us quote here and there, but he’s a loyal guy,” Avelar says. “We learned that he wanted a newer tractor to add to his fleet as his business grew, and last year we had a T7 260 with just a few hours on it.” 

Avelar made him aware that they had one in stock and, as Orr, remembers, “we just kind of forced that demo on him when he was working a field 10 miles from the store.”

They convinced Alves to do a road demo, says Orr, but it proved to be a nightmare. They had a hard time hooking up the hose connections and then experienced fuel-related problems on top of it. “It was as bad as a demo can go,” says Avelar. “I thought we should just take it home. We’re wasting his time and our time.’ 

“We forced a demo on him when he was working a field 10 miles from the store. It was as bad as a demo can go; I thought we should just take it home…”

“We went out Saturday and again on Sunday and his operators and main crew guys said, ‘We get it; things happen. The biggest thing is you guys are here. You guys were here late Friday, you guys were here early Saturday working through the issues and making it right.’

Problems thus can be helpful to demonstrating commitment. “It comes down to confidence that these guys are going to take care of me. No matter what piece of equipment you buy, it’s going to have problems, whether operator error or something from the factory or through PDI,” Orr says. 

Alves has said the Intermountain team goes above and beyond and will jump through hoops to get his equipment running. “Being a custom guy, he’s only making money when they’re running,” Orr says.

After the weekend, Alves shared the news with Orr and Avelar. He said: “My guys said that with your service department and our responsiveness that you deserved a shot on the tractor.”

Add-On & Upgrade Sales

That service directly turned into other sales, too, including the T7 tractor, 4 Thunder Creek fuel trailers and pull-behind air compressors. 


Following the swather sales, Intermountain New Holland put Rock Bottom Custom LLC into two T7 tractors. A botched demo allowed the dealership to showcase its perseverance and commitment. Photo by: Alexis Humphrey

Orr is a fan of shortlines. “We strategically look at those product lines. It isn’t necessarily about making a bunch of money off of them — they’re carrots. It gets us talking to the right people — not just the owner, but the foremen, the bosses and the managers. And when you start looking at a fuel trailer at $35,000 — he’s bought 4 of them in 3 years — and $20,000 air compressors, Daniel has created another quarter of a million dollars because of the first color change. 

“The swather got us in the door, and quality shortlines give us another opening. I can put that disc or manure spreader on the back of anything. Those tools don’t care what color is in front of it, they’ll work. Quality shortlines are a direct contributor to color change.”

In fact, Avelar discovered RBC recommending the dealership’s shortlines to his own farm customers — even when Alves himself hasn’t used them. “He’s been a huge advocate for us on other shortlines. He’s doing custom work for this or that dairy, and he flat out tells them ‘You need to look at Intermountain New Holland on the Degelman spreaders or the discs because I’ve been in fields where they’ve been used.’”

Avelar adds that Orr continually preaches that the dealership “must make it simple for the customer to get the repeat business.” He adds, “Not a lot of guys are buying brand new stuff every single year, so we try to build our book of business to where we’re rotating around on these guys. Alves shares with others what it’s like dealing with us on the swather side and that we’ve simplified the buying process.”

Intermountain’s Conquest Sale — In the GM’s Own Words

By David Orr, General Manager, Intermountain New Holland

Our latest conquest was with a custom forage harvester. He was running 5 Massey Ferguson self-propelled windrowers and today runs 6 New Holland SR260+ with the 416+ Header. He is currently averaging about 1,400 hours per machine annually.

 The key to getting him into New Holland machines was first getting him and his guys into a machine to operate on a demo. Over the course of the demo he committed to purchase one machine and see what happened. That fall he committed to roll the remainder of his fleet over to all New Holland machines.

 Key factors to his decision

  1.  He had a relationship with our salesman. (This got the first machine.)
  2.  A relationship with Intermountain New Holland — from the top to bottom — is what sold the rest.
  3.  Prior dealership’s limitations in parts inventory; the customer felt like had to order everything outside of normal wear items. Intermountain New Holland increased its in-house parts but more importantly, set up a parts-stocking shelf in his shop for his guys to access the parts as they were needed.
  4. Service reliability when a machine was down. The customer was concerned about the lack of urgency by the service department of his Massey Ferguson dealer. “We, in turn, put a point man in front of that customer to handle both parts and service needs. So whenever he has a problem, he contacts the same person for a consistent support experience, along with constant contact with the salesman that is managing his account.”

And Alves’ opinion is meaningful. “A lot of guys in the valley know him. They know how fast he goes and when he rolls into a farm, that time is money,” Avelar says. “He’s known to be hard to deal with, and can be, but I feel like every butt-chewing that I’ve taken has been legitimate. And so people know that about him and some will say, “Well if you’re keeping Davey happy, you guys are doing something right.”

The Dealer is the Key

When it comes to the topic of color changes, Orr says it’s not about the fancy ad campaigns developed in places like Lancaster County, Pa., or Racine, Wis., that deliver a color conquest.

“Color changes start at the dealer level. It starts with the relationships that the dealer body itself has, whether it’s through a mechanic, a parts guy, a niece or nephew or a salesperson. To make a large color change like we did, it comes down to the dealer body that is willing to go out on a limb and beat their head against the wall to figure things out for the customer.”

That doesn’t mean he turns down the attention that the corporate office will give to key customers on some dinners out a couple of times a year. “The customer always feels special when big corporate folks travel out to see them. The more involvement we can have in a positive light from the brand, the easier the brands become to work with on the portfolio they offer.