Last week, I had a chance to attend John Deere’s 2014 product launch event in Columbus, Ohio, which was truly a sensory overload showcase of new equipment and technology.
The event kicked off with a virtual reality presentation of the manufacturer’s new line of 7R and 8R series tractors with Tier 4 Final engines, and the evening featured a rock concert-style introduction of products, complete with an indoor equipment parade.
There was no shortage of hype surrounding the launch, but as I was sitting in the stands watching progressively larger machines roll past, an industry analyst sitting next me said, “Iron can only get so big. It’s going to plateau and eventually, it’s all going to be about the technology.”
This comment stuck with me as I strolled the show floor later and had an opportunity to ask dealers how they are preparing for this evolution. The majority agreed that their business is shifting toward an increased focus on getting technology into the hands of their customers, rather than just putting them behind the wheel of a new tractor, sprayer or combine.
But when we started talking about how ready they are for this shift, dealers said they are still looking for a little more guidance.
“Technology is taking off a lot faster than the equipment right now,” says a dealer from Kansas. “Right now, we don’t feel very well prepared.”
Another dealer from Indiana who helped establish a precision farming department for the 3-store chain 7 years ago, says the biggest challenge is modifying his mentality from being an iron dealer to someone who sells knowledge.
“Customers are not used to that yet,” he says. “They’ve always expected us to give knowledge away for free, especially when it came to equipment.”
The theme of this year’s event was “Delivering Distinctive Value” and Luke Gakstatter, vice president of sales & marketing for Deere’s Ag & Turf Division lauded dealers for their capacity to learn and understand new technology.
But he also noted that just a couple years ago, dealers were somewhat skeptical about the growth of precision farming.
“They’d say, ‘The technology sounds interesting, but let’s talk about the iron,’” Gakstatter says. “The conversation has changed a lot since then.”
Certainly, the conversation will continue to evolve, and it will be important for dealers to make sure they take an active and vocal role to make sure they are prepared for the future.