Tips and considerations on how to establish and develop precision farming business gathered at Farm Equipment’s Dealership Minds Summit.
Jack Zemlicka, Managing Editor & Ian Gronau, Associate Editor
Unlike other departments within dealerships, precision farming can be an especially difficult one to organize and manage because there is no industry template for how to structure this rapidly evolving segment of the business.
Precision specialists often fulfill multiple responsibilities within a dealership and tracking their time, productivity and contributions to the bottom line can be challenging for dealership management.
At the second Dealership Minds Summit, presented by sister publication Farm Equipment in Cincinnati, Ohio, more than a dozen farm equipment dealers from across North America sat down to candidly exchange tips and considerations for how they structure their precision farming business.
Our Precision Farming Dealer editors sat in on the intimate roundtable and here are 20 takeaways gleaned from the discussion.
1. Consider precision farming as a “5th department” to dedicate the time, resources and training to make it profitable. “This can be expensive, but it’s a game changer.”
2. When hiring precision specialists, seek out passionate, ambitious individuals because “mediocre people will cause failure.”
3. Keep your specialists productive during slow seasons by offering and charging for customer training, demonstrations or precision “check-ups.”
4. Changing or adding a new supplier can potentially lead to precision personnel turnover.
5. Beware of “burning out” your precision specialists by stretching them too thin during busy seasons.
6. Precision is a specialized field and dealers can’t count on their sales, service or parts managers to handle technology issues.
7. Know who your precision specialists answer to at the dealership and establish a direct supervisor for them.
8. Decide whether a centralized or multi-store precision department is going to be most economical and efficient for your dealership.
9. Hold your specialists accountable for their time spent on sales and service calls. “Sometimes there is no one driving the specialist and the managers don’t want to boss him around because they’re scared that they’ll make him mad, and they’ll be needing him soon.”
10. Be prepared for some precision specialists to transition to salespeople, either due to the potential for higher compensation or burnout/stress.
11. Internships can be an excellent opportunity to cultivate new precision hires and a way to establish seasonal expectations at the outset of employment.
12. Understand that the relationship/communication between your precision specialists and salespeople is as important as the relationships between salespeople and the service department.
13. If billing for precision service, make sure your specialist uses a company logoed vehicle for support visits. “A service call is implied and the farmer won’t be surprised to get a bill.”
14. Have a system in place to track precision inventory and be conscious of “product obsolescence” to avoid stocking out-of-date technology.
15. Invest in your specialists training with the expectation that their knowledge of technology will build customer trust and lead to additional sales.
16. If your precision specialists divide their time between several departments, clearly communicate how much time they should be dedicating to precision to avoid confusion, especially during planting and harvest.
17. Take advantage of “precision peer group” opportunities and encourage interaction with other specialists servicing different brands/products.
18. Be upfront with customers about their precision warranty coverage and repair costs. “I tell my customers, I’m not selling jewelry.”
19. Track your precision specialists’ time. This is both for billing purposes and also to keep them on task.
20. Don’t expect your precision business to be profitable overnight. At best, it may be a “break-even proposition” in the short term. Plan for precision as a long-term investment.