As farmers increasingly adopt precision farming technology, it’s no secret that there’s a tremendous business opportunity for precision farming dealers. However, that opportunity will require a big investment in providing technical support, especially for non-technical customers.
Skip Klinefelter began adopting precision farming technology 8 years ago in his 3,100-acre corn, soybeans and wheat farm near Nokomis, Ill. He was quickly frustrated with the lack of technical support offered by local dealers. To solve the problem and increase his expertise of precision technology, he became a precision technology dealer.
Klinefelter says his frustration nearly a decade ago is still common in the industry thanks to the increasing demand for precision technology and the industry’s ability to recruit, train and implement enough technical specialists. “Our business has doubled every year, and keeping up with the technical support is difficult, but we have found some ways to help farmers help themselves,” he says.
Based on his dual experience as a farmer and dealer, Klinefelter offers some tips for dealers to improve service and support of precision technology.
Point of Pain: Solutions
Long periods of idle time vs. the heavy use of precision equipment in spring and the fall mean farmers often forget how to operate the equipment, Klinefelter says. As he’s adopted precision farming technology in his operation, he finds the hard-earned lessons he’s faced valuable in helping other farmers on their journey. He suggests:
Understand their needs. The wide variety of precision equipment makes it very likely farmers will over- or under-buy because they don’t fully understand their needs. “That’s where a good dealer comes in. When you fully understand their needs, you can steer them toward a system they truly need and they will have confidence that it will work. Keep in mind their return on investment (ROI),” he says.
Establish expectations. This technology is foreign to many farmers and they need extra help to learn it and use it. When Klinefelter started out using precision technology, there was a significant learning curve, but a knowledgeable dealer can lessen that curve for a customer. Klinefelter says it’s impossible to hold every hand, especially in a service-after-the-sale mode, so he finds it helpful to carefully outline what support services are part of after-sales support and which service is fee based.
Start training with the basics. He says that educational meetings on precision equipment are a must-attend function for any farmer using precision equipment. “We will start each meeting with reviewing how to turn the equipment on. That seems way too basic, but in every session, there is usually someone who needs to be refreshed on that. These aren’t really selling meetings. If you do a good job, the sales will follow.”
He also finds technical support is available through online sources, such as company websites, chat rooms, blogs and technical question and answer documents that can be found online.
Help price shoppers focus on value. “Price shoppers almost always shoot themselves in the foot. We need to constantly remind them about the value they are getting from this equipment. Those who focus on price too much end up with equipment or support that can’t accomplish what they intended it to do,” he says.
Remind about maintenance. Klinefelter says some of the greatest ROI farmers can achieve is from annual equipment tune-ups and perhaps minor equipment upgrades that improve equipment performance. “We have penciled in a 1,200% ROI from calibrating corn seed meters annually or adding Keeton seed firmers. When you remind farmers about these types of savings, they will usually listen. I know I did.”