Thanks in part to the number of large corporations based in Springfield, Mo., the region is a strong market for the commercial cutting business. Attracting that segment of equipment buyers has been an important part of S&H Farm Supply's sales growth at its Rogersville location, located 10 miles east of Missouri's third largest city.

To reach that customer segment, Mike Wiles, store manager of the Rogersville location, worked to develop a mailing list through a number of different methods. One of them was simply paying attention. "I told everybody that when they see a commercial operation — they've all got signs on their trucks with contact information — to bring me that address so we could get it in the database."

That list was used to invite commercial cutters to the dealership for "Commercial Mowing Night," held for the first time two years ago. S&H put out a barbeque buffet and gave door prizes and specials on parts, and invited its manufacturers reps to talk with the customers.

"In the ag segment we often hold open houses where customers talk with manufacturer's reps," says Eric Schnelle, president, S&H Farm Supply. "I got a lot of feedback from the commercial cutters that they really enjoyed visiting with the company reps. I guess in their line of work, they're not always in touch with the manufacturers. I think that helped Mike and the store gain a lot of brownie points from these guys.

"But it was all about building relationships and showing the customers that we're committed to the commercial lawn mower business," says Schnelle. "That's key to developing this business. They want to feel like they're in a partnership with the dealership."

As part of that partnership, S&H has found that many commercial cutters will leave all of the service work to the dealership. "A big chunk of them are not really mechanical or they don't have the time," says Wiles. "The commercial cutter really resembles a commercial hay operation. Our mindset in Rogersville has been similar to what Lockwood [S&H's headquarters store, which has a production ag customer base] has done with the commercial hay operations. The staff knows who the customers are who need to keep their balers up and running."

That also means operating the lawn and garden side of the business in Rogersville as a separate unit. "It's like some dealers will do with combines," says Schnelle. "They have a service plan put together and they pre-sell on parts and equipment."

"We really have to look at the lawn and garden market that way. We couldn't do that in Lockwood, but in a market like Rogersville we can. We have a separate lawn and garden parts specialist there because we realize the commercial cutter who needs a set of blades doesn't want to stand in line with everybody else. That's new this year, and I think it has worked well."