Unlike the professional farmer, who often walks into the dealership knowing exactly what he needs and what he wants to pay, the rural lifestyler may know only that he or she needs “some equipment to finish a job this weekend.” Upon entering an equipment showroom, it’s likely that these consumers will have no idea what type of machinery is available to help them get the job done.

In spite of this lack of knowledge, one of the secrets to selling more equipment to the rural consumer — something we’ve revealed in these pages many times — is that this customer wants to be treated with respect. He or she doesn’t want to be talked down to or brushed off.

At the same time, however, rural lifestylers and professional landscapers are looking for a salesperson who can speak their language while performing the role of the equipment expert. This is true even today, with the amount of Internet research consumers are doing these days.

Big box stores often do not have the expert personnel available to advise the rural consumer on purchases, nor does the employee at those stores have any incentive in going the extra mile for the customer. Rural consumers can easily end up with incomplete or contradictory information that can result in them making a purchase that turns into an expensive mistake.

For many consumers, the long aisles and impersonal buying experience of the big box store are losing favor to speciality shops. This is good news for you as equipment dealers, and it means the days of brushing off the hobby farmer to get to the large acreage farmer or contractor must be left in the past. There are good profit margins on compact tractors, mowers and accessories, and the consumer has the money to spend on quality equipment. It’s time to embrace this market.

Last year, market research conducted by The NPD Group showed consumers are buying more from specialty retailers, including outdoor power equipment dealers. “Since the start of the economic downturn we’ve entered a new mind set as consumers,” says Kevin Gilbert, director, NPD. “People are getting back to their roots and putting an emphasis on supporting local, homegrown businesses. The specialty retailers are capitalizing on that.”

Gilbert says “Regardless of the focus mass retailers place on educating employees on the products, consumers are finding value in knowing their questions are being answered by experts on a personal level.”

More than three-quarters of the dealers who responded to Rural Lifestyle Dealer’s 2012 Dealer Business Trends & Outlook survey have hired salespeople dedicated to the rural consumer. The results of the survey indicate this focus has a significant effect on their level of optimism for increasing revenue in this segment in 2012.

Survey results also show dealers are confident about the strength of the rural economy. If your business hasn’t already, now is the time to hire someone who understands — and can support — the market.