A hands-on approach and an emphasis on support can keep customers coming through the door, rather than clicking on a computer.
Breaking into the precision farming business can be a challenging endeavor for a farm equipment dealer, especially in today’s market, which is becoming increasingly saturated by new products. Established dealerships are looking to expand their precision footprint by enhancing or adding new services.
For dealers relatively new to the precision fold, hardware is still the gateway to building a customer base, but alternative retail options can pose a threat to sales.
“We’ve gotten beat up by online competition,” says Sean Malone, precision farming specialist with Triebold Implement in Whitewater, Wis. “I’ve had customers tell me they can buy a piece of technology cheaper on eBay and that’s something we’ve tried to focus on.”
Precision Farming Dealer recently visited the single-store New Holland dealership, which began selling precision farming equipment in 2012. With one other major brick and mortar competitor in the area, Triebold has tried to carve out its precision niche selling entry-level guidance and auto-steering systems.
While business has grown, Malone says an area of emphasis for the precision team has been to build a rapport with customers to ensure a long-term relationship. This is especially critical when customers hint that a cheaper monitor or steering kit is only a couple of mouse clicks away on eBay or a similar online retailer.
“What we’ve really emphasized is selling confidence in the equipment,” Malone says. “We know a customer could shop around and maybe find a better price on a system, but if there is a problem, who is going to be there to help them?”
Malone recently priced out 3 Trimble FM-750 displays for about $2,900 each for a customer who said he could get the systems for about $1,000 cheaper online.
“I knew he was going to use the system for granular fertilizer application, which would probably save him about $2,000 that first year,” Malone says. “Once I shared that, he was able to get over that cost hurdle because he knew it was going to payoff. That wasn’t information he was going to get making an online purchase.”
Giving customers a hands-on experience is another successful approach Malone uses to attract customers. Outside the entrance of Triebold Implement is a smaller New Holland tractor equipped with Trimble’s EZ-250 auto-guidance system, which customers can test drive on the lot.
“I can demonstrate a 10 or 15 foot swath and talk about the savings from reducing overlap in the field,” Malone says. “Once a customer gets in there and sees it and tries it, that makes the sale a lot easier.”
If customers are leaning toward making an online purchase, Malone makes sure they understand the difference, especially on the support side, if they bought from the dealership.
“A lot of our precision sales come through new equipment so we push the OEM backing of the products,” he says. “We’re here to support customers as long as they run in the field. If they go online, they are kind at the will of whoever will help them.”