OK folks, winter is about over, and it is time in the dealerships for...March Madness. Yup, happens every year. Even though the cash register doesn't ring like it needs to in the winter time, there is something to a slower time that we enjoy but from the doldrums must awake. 

As the weather turns warmer, the days lengthen, the grass greens, the time changes, the consumer customers come out in mass. They break out the old tools to start a new year of planting, cultivating or manicuring whatever enterprises that need attention. 

Our winter ended last week. There was a line at the parts and service counter that had not been there since last fall. Just like the annual basketball tourneys, our bracketology time has arrived. Instead of a national B-Ball championship, we keep charts of the best requests for parts and service and award them seeds in a contest we chart every season.  

Parts contestants so far are a repeat of years past but always pose a challenge. 

"Yes, how may assist you in your project?"

"I need a set of blades for my mower."

"Ok, what mower do you have?" 

"Uh, it is a red one."  

"OK, how wide is the cut?" 

"Well, it is about this wide," as they spread the arms. 

"Two or three blades?" 

"Uh, don't remember." 

"Did you purchase a set of blades here last year?" 

"No, Uncle Bob put a set on a couple of years ago though."

Now the parts professional starts the detective work. Where did you purchase the unit from? How do you engage the deck — sir, that means "turn on the blades"? My guys are good and patient and finally laid out a set of blades that did match Uncle Bob Smith's ticket of 4 years ago. And so, it starts. These are the mid seeds.

Top seed so far is: "Do you have oil mix for my chain saw I got for Christmas?"

"Yes, we have the gallon mixes."

"OK I need 32 of them." 

"You going to do a lot of sawing?"

"No, but the saw says it takes a 32 to one mixture!"

The service technician has his clipboard as the weed whackers roll in. It ran fine last fall and now it will not crank. "Yes, sir, I am sure you drained the fuel and ran it dry after last use?" The answer is always yes, as the tech sloshes the syrup in the translucent tank...again a mid-seed. Dirt Dauber's mud nest in the muffler is a low seed.

Now for a top seed:

"I need you to look at my mower."

"This piece of bovine waste cuts terrible."

"My yard looks like cows ate it down."

"Just look at those blades, I bought them here this morning (they are new and sharp as a razor), I need to talk to the engineer." 

"Uh, sir, you have installed the blades upside down." 

"No way! They will not go on but one way, and it should not make a difference. That is a poor design."

"Yes, sir, just leave the unit with us, and we will do the contacting and you can pick the unit up in the morning." 

Another top seed was the customer whose air filter stopped up, so he poked holes in it to let it breath better. One would be hard pressed to make this stuff up.   

The dealership challenge here is coaching the student customers through the season. NIL (Name, Image and Likeness) is a term in frequent use in college sports today. That is a challenge for us as well.

First, not calling customer Names we will regret. Two, the Image some customers exhibit can influence us to think they are all top seeds and three, the Likeness factor as to the dealership.

We have to service them, winners and losers, and still have them "like" us to come back and roll the cash register tape again and again. Decades ago, there was a 1-800 help line for first-time computer users. The customer called in and after an hour with no success the technician stated he now knew what the issue was.

"Do you have the box the computer came in?" he asks.


"Can you put it back in the box with all the packing?"


"Then I suggest you do this and take it back to where you purchased it."  

"OK, and what do I tell them?" 

"Tell them you are too stupid to own this thing."

Fellow dealers, we don't have this luxury of telling the customer to "put the tractor back in the box." We have to fill out the brackets and make each customer have the experience of a national champion. Might even offer them a trip to the White House?  

Until next time — be a winning coach and commentator and fill out a perfect bracket.

Told from the perspective of an in-the-trenches owner/operator — Tim Brannon of B&G Equipment, Paris, Tenn. —  Equipment Dealer Tips, Tales & Takeaways shares knowledge, experiences and tips/lessons with fellow rural equipment dealerships throughout North America. Covering all aspects required of an equipment dealership general manager, Brannon will inform, entertain and provide a teachable moment for current — and future — leaders within equipment dealerships.



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