In late August, John Deere rolled out its newest tractors, combines and precision ag products and systems for 2012 at a media event in Indianapolis. Amid the hoopla, John Lagemann, Deere's vice president of sales and marketing for its ag and turf division, was asked about Deere's expectations of its dealers in what he called the "Age of Telematics."

Generally, he describes telematics as the wireless transmission of information. His response to the specific question about customer training told a much bigger story about the expanding role of equipment dealers.

"The element of our enterprise that is held responsible for delivering and executing that message is our sales organization and, more specifically, our dealer organization," Lagemann said.

"The bottom line is we want to deliver a positive customer experience. Dealers will be required to execute the training, have the special tools, have the parts and whatever capability that's necessary for the customer to have the right kind of experience. The dealer will have to prove to us that he or she is qualified to facilitate delivery of that experience."

Larry Christenson, who heads up Deere's dealer network, added, "Dealers must be able to take leading-edge technology and translate it into customer value. They're no longer just selling product features and benefits."

This is a tall order, especially when you consider how rapidly technology is transforming agriculture. This issue of Farm Equipment provides you with an in-depth view of what agriculture will look like in 2021 in our special report starting on p. 16.

It would be a serious mistake to take lightly the speed of these changes or the critical role dealers will play in bringing the new advancements to market.

Somewhere in my "Food-for-Thought" folder I found something that was written years ago that captures how rapidly we continue to evolve.

If you were to condense all 50,000 years of man's recorded history into a 50-year timeframe, it would reveal that we know almost nothing about the first 40 years, except man eventually learned to use animal skins to cover himself.

Using this timeframe, it was only about 10 years ago that man emerged from his caves to construct other kinds of shelter. Only 5 years ago, man learned to write and use a cart with wheels. It would have been in the 48th year that Christianity planted its roots in human existence.

Gutenberg's printing press would have seen its first use just this past year. It was only 2 months ago that the steam engine began providing a new source of power and Newton explored the laws of gravity. Last month, electric lights, telephones, automobiles and airplanes came into use. Only last week did we develop penicillin, television and nuclear power.

It's been only in the last few minutes that we've seen the development of Global Positioning Systems that will be critical to helping agriculture feed the 9 billion people who will inhabit the earth by 2045.

Helping farmers keep up with this hellish pace of change is falling directly on you, Mr. Dealer. If there's one question that you must to ask yourself, it's "Am I willing and able to accept this responsibility and the speed-of-light changes ahead?" There's little or no way out; the writing's on the wall.

The costs to become a leading-edge dealer are high, but so are the rewards.

As a media colleague said as we discussed the dealers' dilemma at the meeting, "The dealer who can pull this off will own the market."



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