Would you buy a truck from someone who drives an old clunker? Would you eat at a restaurant where the proprietor calls the women servers "chicks" or "broads?"
My point is that when selling and servicing farm equipment technology, it's important that both your words and actions reflect the advanced technology you're representing. What you do and what words you and your staff choose are important.
Our recent focus of "Technology for Profits" has been on the bottom line benefits for management of various hardware and software technologies and applications available for use in your dealership. This column focuses on the bottom line of how your dealership is perceived by your use and application of that technology. We'll also look at the tools as well as terms that you and your staff use when utilizing business technology.
Mechanics or Technicians?
How do you refer to the people who work in your shop? I'm talking about the people who know about pressure, flows, electricity, solenoids, controllers, receivers, actuators and the myriad of other electronic and mechanical devices that are on the farm equipment you sell.
Think about our knowledge-based economy where we place a premium on people with the skills and interests to use their knowledge in the application of hardware, software, the Internet and GPS. The term for this group is "knowledge workers."
Now, think of who in your dealership would most likely be categorized as "knowledge workers?" High on your list - if not at the very top - should be the people in your shop.
So what do you call them? Some of you would call them mechanics. But how should you refer to them? Yes, call them technicians.
Words are important especially as they relate to your customers' perception of your dealership and your staff.
You very well may have some mechanics in the shop. Guys who like to cut and bend and torch and weld. Shop mechanics who don't mind be called grease monkeys.
But most shop employees, especially those in the younger generation, prefer to be labeled as technicians. They know more about the application of technology than just about anybody in your dealership. They are revenue producing professionals whose livelihood is dependent on making the new, more complicated farm equipment work properly and with top-notch efficiency. They use advanced electronic and mechanical tools to work on the most sophisticated machines in use today on farms everywhere.
So let's call them by right name. They deserve it. If you want to call them grease monkeys, then you shouldn't expect them to act any differently.
This is important not just because they deserve to be called technicians. It's important not just because it affects how you perceive them, how your other employees perceive them or even how they perceive themselves. It's most important because it becomes how your current or potential customers view your service department and your dealership.
If you call the shop employees mechanics and you're trying to sell an advanced piece of farm machinery to an "A" level customer, isn't there a disconnect? What will that potential customer think about your service department when you, yourself, use antiquated terminology to describe their capabilities.
Whether you acknowledge it or not, the perception and performance of your service department sells wholegoods. More and more, if you are aiming to convert the user of another brand to your brand, it will be because of your reputation for service. So call them what they are - technicians.
Salesmen & Smart Phones
Just as perceptions about your service department are vitally important, just as important is how customers view your sales department. For example, an essential tool for salespeople these days is the cell phone because it increases his productivity and connectedness to their customers.
What does it say about a salesperson who jokes about not being able to use the features of his smart phone at the same time he's trying to sell the benefits of advanced technology on a piece of machinery. It says that he is not comfortable with change and may not be the best person to be describing the benefits of cutting-edge technology on the equipment.
Of course, selling farm equipment often comes down to "the iron" but perceptions are important when selling. Just as you may have mechanics in your shop, you may have sales people who just focus on the traditional ways of selling. The most productive and advanced farmers will want to do business with a salesperson and a dealer who use the technology available to them most productively.
Today's professional salespeople are equipped with laptops and/or tablet computers, driving vehicles fitted with GPS and Bluetooth technology and comfortable making all of these work together. Having a top-notch salesperson like this making a sales call sends a powerful message about your dealership's application of technology.
Other Things to Consider: Precision Farming & Parts
Are your parts counterpeople capable of answering questions about the GPS and control devices that you sell?
Many are not and often need to refer to someone else in the dealership to answer questions related to precision farming equipment. As precision farming rapidly advances, it is important that all customer-facing employees understand and know the technology.
So get the training for your parts department. Include them in the discussions about selling and servicing on all aspects of the leading edge equipment that you sell and service.
I've related this example in a previous column and it is relevant here when discussing the perception and performance of your dealership's application of technology.
Many of your employees that go on farm carry phones with video capability - or they should. Coach them to increase the business for your dealership by videoing the equipment that could be serviced or traded-in. Encourage them to use the video phone to walk around a farmer's tractor for a maximum of 30 seconds and have them speak to what they see. The words on the video, especially from a lead technician are very powerful. A sales rep or even a parts person delivering parts on farm could do this also.
Once back at the dealership, they can download the video to the Internet (YouTube or some other service), and then prepare a professional quote than can then be emailed, along with the link to the video to the farmer. The farmer sees and hears the condition of their equipment. For some larger operations, the owner or decision maker may not be aware of the condition and repair needs of all his equipment.
The close rate for these types of quotes will double, and this makes a powerful statement about your dealership's application of technology.
George Russell can be contacted at GRussell@CurrieManagement.com.