How would you define the role of a precision farming specialist 10 years ago? How about 5 years ago? What about today? 

Chances are, whatever definitions you come up with would be dramatically different — and if not — that could be a problem. Status quo is not a luxury that dealerships can afford in the precision farming business.

This past year, perhaps even more so than the last few, solutions were in high demand on farms, serving as a reminder for some dealerships and waking others to the significance of selling and supporting a systematic approach to ag technology.

The spectrum of understanding populated the 5th Precision Farming Dealer Summit in St. Louis in January, with attendees engaged in conversations on how to embrace the evolution of their precision objectives. 

“The best interface between the data and the farmer is not a screen, but it's actually a person...”

One of the clear takeaways from the speakers and hallway discussions I had was that while data is increasingly driving the decision-making process, it shouldn’t replace the relationships dealers have with their customers.

“One of the things we've learned is that the best interface between the data and the farmer is not a screen, but it's actually a person,” says Tom Rosztoczy, owner of Stotz Equipment, a 25-location John Deere dealership.

Rosztoczy participated in an executive dealer panel and shared that one of the primary goals and challenges for Stotz’s precision team is to “be a consultant to our customers.” His vision is to have a member of the precision team capable of not only crunching and analyzing data collected from the field, but then also sitting down with a customer and explaining the meaning and value of the information.

His message resonated with many who nodded in agreement during the panel presentation. But the point was further emphasized by business consultant Jim Henderson, who provided an industry outsider’s take on the need for precision dealers to be dot-connecters for customers, not simply sellers of iron or hardware.

“Start with solutions, not sales,” was a cornerstone comment of Henderson’s session, based on his experience going through the growing pains of launching a start-up tech company.

Dealers have also felt the discomfort of having to decide where and how to advance their precision business. It’s not the same approach as 10 or even 5 years ago. But a guiding principle is still understanding how to be that “systems integrator” who will work beyond the analytics and still sit across the kitchen table from a customer to listen to what they really need.

As Rosztoczy says, “We think we're in the equipment business or we think we're in the precision business, but we're still in the people business. Our farm customers think that way and they will do business with people they trust. Ultimately all comes down to people skills.”

Yours for a better farm equipment industry,

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Jack Zemlicka, Managing Editor