A focused, collaborative approach to sales and service of farm technology can position dealerships for sustained success.

Plotting a course for precision farming growth can be a challenge for dealerships, especially if they don’t have a streamlined sales approach. There can sometimes be a disconnect between the ambitions of salespeople and the expectations of precision specialists installing and servicing the technology.

This is a challenge 4 Rivers Equipment is looking to overcome in the coming year. The John Deere dealership group operates 8 ag stores in two states — Colorado and Wyoming — which share some overlap with its construction business.

“We’re green and yellow, so we’re fairly diverse,” says Chad Pfitzer, integrated solutions manager. “But we’ve only got one marketing person who tends to focus a little more attention on the construction side. We’ve been a little limited in coming up with a creative marketing strategy for our integrated solutions group.”

With support from the dealership’s owners, Pfitzer recently began working with MuddEQ, an independent consulting company based in Iowa, that offers precision farming marketing strategies for equipment dealers.

“I can count on one hand how many dealers have a defined direction for where they want to go with their precision farming business,” says Hannah Long, account executive with MuddEQ. “This includes big and small dealers. One of the common issues we see is salespeople don’t understand technology from a precision specialist’s perspective and that can lead to lost sales opportunities when they get on a customer’s farm.”

The goal of 4 Rivers’ collaboration with MuddEQ is to come up with a more focused sales approach for precision products, based on the technology needs of individual customers, rather than an “everything under the sun” pitch.

“Our salespeople are used to selling iron, not agronomy,” Pfitzer says. “So one of the questions we asked is, ‘How can we engage our salespeople in the process and perhaps put their best interests aside, and get to know our customers on a different level?’

“We came up with the concept of having a conversation with the customers that starts from the ground up, and asking questions about the limiting factors of seed genetics and soil types.”

Pfitzer says they are branding the program, “Furrow Focus,” and in the process of training and educations the dealership’s salespeople on the objectives. Phase one is building “agronomic portfolios” of customers by electromagnetic and RTK mapping their fields to better understand what technology is best suited for their operation.

“This is the short-term deliverable for us,” Pfitzer says. “We charge $10 per acre for our mapping services, so this is an immediate revenue source for us, but helps us build a baseline of information and tees up those future conversations about equipment.”

Long-term, Pfitzer hopes salespeople will be able to leverage customers’ agronomic portfolios for more targeted sales of farm equipment or precision technology. With the impending economic downturn in the equipment market, Pfitzer says it’s going to be important for the dealership to emphasize the value of precision technology and grow this side of the business.

“We’re accountable to make this department profitable,” Pfitzer says. “Ultimately, it’s not a break-even proposition, and we want to make sure we have a long-term gameplan for success.”