Defining the role of a precision farming specialist is essential, but challenging.

Jack Zemlicka, Technology Editor

When building a precision farming operation, one question farm equipment dealers have to consider is how many hats should their precision specialists wear?

Several equipment dealers weighed in on this topic during a discussion at the first Dealership Minds Summit, presented by Farm Equipment Magazine, and held Wednesday in Kansas City, during Ag Connect.

“We kind of struggle with how to structure our precision department and who do they answer to,” says Boyd Mitchell, manager at Mitchell Equipment in Atkinson, Neb. “I’ve been fortunate that my point guy is my son, but now he’s doing a lot of selling and he doesn’t have time to supervise the other guy I hired, so it’s tough.”

One option is allowing the precision salesperson to handle service calls to a certain point, as is the case at Farm World in Kinistino, Saskatchewan.

CEO Tex Prete says his salesforce take laptops in the field and can do minor on-farm precision troubleshooting, but if it requires harness changes or more in-depth service, a call to a technician is made.

“Our salesperson deals with sales and support to the point of programming. If it’s something he can do with programming and set-up, he’ll go out and help with that,” Prete says. “If it goes beyond that, it’s automatically referred to the service department and then the customer knows he’s paying whatever the shop rate is.”

But drawing that fine line between where a salesperson responsibilities end and true service starts is easier said than done.

For Jon Carlo, sales manager at A&M Green Power Group in Red Oak, Iowa, it’s a matter of making a “cultural shift” within the dealership.

A&M trains their equipment technicians to handle the bulk of precision service calls, rather than their salesforce.

“That’s a transition we’ve made and it’s taken 3-4 years to get our technicians up to speed to deal with support of our precision products,” Carlo says. “The other challenge I see with the sales department with installing precision equipment is how do you charge for that.

“If a technician comes out, the customer knows they are going to get charged maybe $90-100 per hour. We’ve had a cultural shift to train our technicians and our customers that if they call me, I’m going to call the service department. We’ve had moderate success with this approach.”