"The parts department isn’t a particularly sexy department, so most dealers usually put their focus on the sales department. We haven’t been that way. Parts first is how we look at ourselves.” That’s what one dealer recently told me when I asked him what set his dealership apart. He went on to explain how the parts department is the first priority when it comes to training, showroom space and merchandising.

One way the dealership has managed to stay focused on being a “parts first” operation is through training. The company has a full-time parts trainer, who also works the counter. All new employees go through a 2-week onboarding and training process before they ever interact with a customer.

Every member of the parts department — regardless of how long they’ve been with the organization — participates in seasonal training. During the seasonal training, the parts staff will discuss the equipment that is going to be used during the upcoming season, reviewing common problems that may arise during the season.

The training also serves as an opportunity to get everyone together in the same room to discuss equipment. “They’ll talk about areas they know are challenging and manufacturer intricacies of where to find the right information. It creates an environment for sharing knowledge,” he says.

For this issue’s special report, we surveyed dealers on their parts operations and compared to a similar survey Farm Equipment conducted in 2014. During the past 3 years, dealers have made some strides in their parts sales. In this year’s survey, 33% of dealers say parts sales made up more than 20% of total dealership revenues. That compares to just 23% in 2014. But, there’s still work to be done. 

The dealer I mentioned above is right, parts aren’t particularly sexy, but they are an important part of the business and shouldn’t be treated as an afterthought. It’s not enough to rely on walk-in business. You need to be actively promoting your parts business and looking for opportunities to grow your sales.

Being proactive and setting and reaching goals shouldn’t be limited to management. The entire team, from the counter employees up through management, can and should play a role. In a Farm Equipment webinar earlier this year, Kelly Mathison, a trainer with the Western Equipment Dealers Assn.’s Dealer Institute, shared how to apply Smart Goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time Bound) to the parts department. The gist of it is when you set goals you also create a roadmap to achieve the goal. In addition to setting the goal (we want to increase parts sales by X amount), the steps to accomplishing the goal and deadlines to achieve it are recorded.

This helps keep the team on track and accountable. As Mathison puts it, “Everybody has their marching orders, everybody’s focused on what they want to work on.” We use the Smart Goals system here at Lessiter Media, and I’ve found it’s helped me focus beyond the day-to-day and tackle bigger picture goals. If you didn’t catch the webinar the first time, it’s worth going back and watching as Mathison goes through the whole process step-by-step.

Take your plans and break them into smaller bites that are more manageable and you’ll start seeing your team accomplish its goals. Give the parts department the attention it deserves, get the team working together on achievable goals, and parts sales just may start looking a bit sexy.