Emotion can heavily influence — for better or worse — the decision-making process for farm customers when considering the purchase of a new piece of equipment.

Preconceived notions or even misinformation about a product or its capabilities, especially when it comes to ag technology, can torpedo a sale before it even has a chance.

But an effective way to mitigate the emotional element of a customer’s purchasing plans is simple math. Jamie Brand, business development manager for AgriVision Equipment, prides himself and the dealership’s ability to let numbers do the talking when it comes to proving the ROI of new integrated precision technology.

“The math is significantly different when a grower purchases the right piece of equipment and uses it the way it was intended to be used,” he says. “What can start out as a highly emotional process, we ultimately want to make it purely a business decision for customers. It's just about the math. We give customers options and they can choose the best one for their operation.”

The simplicity of AgriVision Equipment approach is layered with complexities — including field demos and the creation of an ROI calculator — but the dealership’s team has a specialized sequence and continue to add services that advance customers along the decision-making path.

‘The Power of 17’

Brand joined AgriVision Equipment in 2018 in a newly created position, and at a time when the dealership was expanding from 10 to 17 stores. The rapid growth provided an opportunity to rethink the structure and objectives of the precision department.

“What can start out as a highly emotional process, we ultimately want to make it purely a business decision for customers. It's just about the math…” – Jamie Brand

Rather than operating as an Integrated Solutions department, common among Deere dealers, AgriVision created a Business Development Department, which includes a Strategic Product Development Manager, along with a 5-person connected support team, and AVE Technology Support Specialists.

“We talk about the power of 17 a lot within the dealership, and the ability for us to be better together as team to allows us to better serve our customers. We want our individual locations to be self-sufficient, but we also want them to be connected,” Brand says. “From the technician team to the sales team, to the parts team, to the connected support team it’s critical they understand the grower's business and how we can develop more of a consulting relationship vs. just a transactional one.  

“There are so many aspects to JD Link terminal management alone, and certainly around subscription, activations, software updates and just making sure that growers have everything aligned when they go to the field.”

AgriVision Equipment launched the AVE Connected Support Center in the spring 2019 offering internal support to employees to help them better serve our customers.

In the spring of 2020, the dealership expanded its support to work directly with growers, ag retailers, and independent ag service providers as well. The dealership utilizes the AgriSync platform to log service calls and track support time.

“We want our connected support team to know our growers, ag services providers and AVE employees accounts, by name,” Brand says. “Build relationships vs. just providing a service. During the next 3, 5 or 7 seven years, connected support is going to be crucial.”

Optimizing Opportunity        

A critical step to delivering value with the dealership’s connected support program is ensuring that purchased equipment is optimized. This includes planter setup, in the form of AgriVision’s Planter Pass Max service which Brand says plays into proving ROI to customers.

“When we start looking at these planter meters pushing out anywhere from 15-29 seeds per second, if they're not fully optimized, we can see quite a difference in what that planter’s optimum performance is vs. just being good,” Brand says. “Industry wide, not a lot of growers are taking the time to optimize their seed meters prior to planting.

“When we start looking at these planters going from 5-7 to 8-9 miles per hour, and what customers can get done in a day, it’s staggering. So, investing in an optimization package to maximize that performance is a small investment.”

Brand says another key part of the ROI calculations the dealership does with equipment is considering the true cost of ownership, for example, comparing the value of a JD Max Emerge 5e vs. JD ExactEmerge, along with potential reduced inputs and yield increases during the time of ownership.

“We start looking at more acres per day because on average ExactEmerge planters in our area are running 7-7.6 miles per hour, vs. 5-5.2 miles per hour on planters that don’t have brush belt and IRHD technology,” he explains. “So, we’re gaining speed, and if it costs $150 an hour for the tractor to run, and we're getting 50-53 acres done versus 42, we're putting less hours on the tractor.”

Brand helped develop a planter specific ROI calculator that allows for real numbers to be used when talking through technology purchases with customers. One of the assumptions made when working farmers through the ROI model is that equipment is fully optimized.

“We must help grower optimize their equipment and technology to reach maximum impact from the investment,” Brand says.

“If it costs $150 an hour for the tractor to run, and we're getting 50-53 acres done versus 42, we're putting less hours on the tractor…” – Jamie Brand

The AgriVision Equipment team typically has a series of 8 questions they will plug into the calculator and walk customers through with the goal of helping growers evaluate the impact of how a new technology investment can have on there operation.

For planters, the first two questions are how many acres of corn and soybeans does the customer grow. Then they will ask how often the customer trades planters followed by what yield increase the customer expects to achieve with the technology for both corn and soybeans.

They then ask if the customer expects to be able to reduce soybean seeding rates, with better downforce, better seed-to-soil contact and better singulation.

“This typically leads to a conversation about what population should we be planting and soybeans,” Brand says. “In most case growers believe they can drop their population by 8-10%, so they want to know what kind of seed savings that pencils out to.”

They then ask how the customer markets their grain and what they believe they can market it for in the coming year.

“We then figure out the investment difference a grower would spend between an ExactEmerge vs. MaxEmerge 5e. We plug that into the spreadsheet,” Brand says. “Then we look at true cost of ownership, based on the field performance we’ve tested with these planters and how many years customers keep them.”

Calculations are made based on the customers responses; an ROI number is determined with a specific dollar amount. While the dollar figure can differ, Brand says on average, customers see 400-600% return on investment with planters during an average of 1-3 years.

“We understand growers don't want pipe dreams,” Brand says. “They want true math. When customers come in planning to or wanting to buy a new planter, there can be high emotion involved.

“But once we’ve walked through the numbers, it’s a business decision — whether a farmer makes it or not — we want to put our customers in the best position to make that decision.