As 2019 is slowly drawing to a close, dealers and their customers are exploring opportunities to update or upgrade technology and equipment prior to year’s end. 

But with many regions dealing with harvest delays, precision specialists have perhaps put off having those purchasing conversations with customers. Given the circumstances farmers are facing with late-emerging crops, there may be different in-season selling opportunities for dealers, particularly on the agronomic side, says George Russell, founder of the Machinery Advisors Consortium.

Aerial scouting, in-field sensing and agronomic services are among the technologies he cites as having growth potential as farmers look for ways to more efficiently manage their crops toward a profitable harvest. 

We had a chance to sit down with Russell to discuss the current market and how it could force some dealers out of their comfort zones, based on customer demand for in-season services, to expand their precision business or partner with outside companies for agronomic services.

Precision Farming Dealer: What are you hearing on the precision side in terms of where the market is heading? 

George Russell: Some people call this a Black Swan year with the occurrence of things that don’t happen very often, but they have tremendous implications on the industry. This is where people need to be using different tools because they are under stress. In the past, in a year like this, you would have seen farmers make buying decisions as a result of needing to get over the ground quicker, whether that meant bigger planters or more horsepower. 

Take that level of need and overlay some other aspects that can help get the work done quicker. Agronomic solutions are emerging in importance. There were a lot of farmers who re-planted this spring and used aerial imagery to quickly decide which areas should be re-planted or where fertilizer needed to be applied because it had washed away. Some of those tools proved practical in a year like this.

PFD: How much interest and even adoption will we see heading into harvest and after with some of the technology tools which may not have been a priority for farmers in a typical year?

Russell: As we go into harvest, we will see a lot more valuable testimonials of what technology in general can be doing to help people. We’re in a conservative industry. But this is a chance to try something different and people may be forced into doing things differently. 

This is going to sound trite, but solution selling is a trend that gets talked about a lot. But when you have so many moving parts and you’re looking ahead to putting grain in the bin, there’s still opportunity to make some changes and to have a positive outlook. So if you’re in the solution selling business, this is a target-rich environment to try to find different solutions. This year is going to put some pressure — good pressure — on those who talk about solution selling to actually help customers find the right solutions. Those who are able to do it well will win the season. 

PFD: With the solution-selling strategy, is there one approach over another that you think will be more effective?

Russell: I go back to the three phases of adoption of technology that come out of a lot of the work that you do and to help sensitize dealers to that. There are still a lot of people that are still in phase one, just figuring out how to make the machines work better together in terms of efficiency and optimization. 

But I see more people curious about moving to the next couple phases in terms of adding the agronomy somehow, whether that’s collaborating with other agronomic solution providers or getting more of that expertise in-house.   

George Russell is a founding member of the Machinery Advisors Consortium. The group offers training, consulting and coaching to improve processes and people, resulting in increased customer satisfaction, customer value and business profitability for machinery dealers. Russell will also be moderating a precision leadership panel at the 2020 Precision Farming Dealer Summit in St. Louis. He can be reached at