While equipment dealers typically sell trailers as a sideline, rural lifestylers who buy a lot of machinery consider them primary equipment.
More than 100 years ago people in the rural U.S. may have struggled to imagine a world that was not dependent on two animals for their transportation, food and livelihood — the horse and cow.
Today, these two animals are still part of our rural landscape. But we would be hard-pressed to imagine the rural U.S. without the equipment needed to transport those animals: the trailer. These days, rural lifestylers also have a variety of equipment, and trailers are needed to safely transport it.
Many rural consumers and hobby farmers needing access to a trailer is pretty much a given. Whether they’re destined to purchase a new or used trailer from a dealership is not.
As the dealers Rural Lifestyle Dealer interviewed for this article can attest, selling trailers can be hard work. But it’s also a great way to connect with a customer, to help them meet a challenge and keep their operation running efficiently. Sales success with trailers comes when a dealership is centered on the customer, their needs and interests — especially any hobbies or sports they participate in.
The Flaman Group of Companies, based in Saskatoon, Sask., has a division dedicated to trailers, selling everything from snowmobile and ATV trailers to trailers for combines and livestock. Snowmobile trailers in this wintery part of the country are a big part of Flaman’s business. Flaman has 10 stores across Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba.
Agriculture equipment is Flaman’s biggest division, with trailers second. “Trailers, agriculture equipment, rentals and parts and service tend to work together fairly well,” says Steve Whittington, Flaman’s Trailer Division manager.
Next to farm equipment, sales of a wide range of trailers is the Flaman Group of Companies’ biggest revenue producer. “Trailers, agriculture equipment, rentals and parts and service tend to work together fairly well,” says Steve Whittington, Flaman’s Trailer Division manager.
There’s a good tie between all of Flaman’s customer bases. While the sales team often focuses on selling specific products, agricultural salespeople are not restricted to selling farm equipment and can help meet their customers’ trailer needs, as well.
Flaman’s agricultural division actually makes up about 30% of the trailer sales, according to Whittington. Flaman is the largest light industrial trailer retailer in Canada, he says. Its agricultural transport sales are made up of combine and sprayer trailers and bale transport units.
Because large farms need to move equipment between fields, Flaman sells transport units to haul larger farm equipment. Many farms also use flat deck trailers for moving small pieces of equipment around. “Customers will take a 25-foot flat deck trailer and they’ll put bales on it or other pieces of equipment,” adds Whittington.
“Since we’re a shortline agricultural dealer we don’t really sell regular production ag tractors, except the small acreage types. The trailers we sell are usually under the standard 25,000 GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating).”
Community of Enthusiasts
Jennifer Thompson, marketing project manager for Flaman, is involved in a community building program that may ultimately boost trailer sales for Flaman. The dealership has partnered with snowmobiling associations in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba to launch a web-based photo contest. There are a variety of categories for submitted photos, including children and youth, trails, events and rallies and a trailer category.
- Develop a strong relationship with your trailer supplier. Many sales are based on the ability to customize a trailer for a particular application.
- Before suggesting the customer buy a certain trailer, get to know what other equipment the customer owns and what hobbies they enjoy.
- Think safety. Ensure your customer understands a trailer’s weight limits and whether their tow vehicle can handle the load.
Photos are submitted and displayed on a dedicated Sled’N Snap website. People can comment on the photos, and the site also contains links to articles about snowmobile safety.
A group of finalists will be selected at the end of March. The public will vote and the person who took the top photo wins the use of a $27,000 snowmobile trailer for a year. In addition, everyone entering the contest is entered to win a flat-deck tilt trailer to keep, which will be drawn at random.
The program was developed to be an online community for people who love snowmobiling. These individuals can share photos, leave comments regarding snowmobiling and communicate with each other. A “tips” forum gives pointers on what to do if you get stuck in the snow.
“We don’t have our name and logo plastered everywhere with this contest,” says Thompson. “That was important to us. This is a way to create a sense of community with people who love to snowmobile. Definitely we’re going to show some of our products, but that’s not the main focus.”
This aluminum enclosed snowmobile trailer by NashCar is available in 3 or 4 place models and is a big seller for Flaman’s trailer division.
Sled’N Snap was Whittington’s idea. “We worked with all three of the snowmobile associations,” he says. “Flaman is a company of conscience, doing whatever we can for charity. The associations wanted to promote safe riding, but their initial photo contest didn’t get as much involvement as they had wanted.”
Since Sled’N Snap started, 1,262 users and 576 photos have been uploaded, says Whittington. The website has had 8,700 visits and 65,000 page views, including many visitors who are actively engaged on the site.
“They’re looking at photos, commenting and engaging with the associations involved about what they’re trying to do. It’s natural when they are ready to purchase a trailer to think, ‘well, let me deal with those guys because they’re good guys, they’ve done the site, helped with the association and are part of the sledding community.’
“It’s the same idea as the earlier “Stuck in the Muck” website featuring farm equipment,” says Whittington (for more on that contest, see www.farm-equipment.com). “There was a direct correlation with the beginning of that contest and an increase in sales, year after year. It’s been outstanding — through the roof.”
A Purchase as an ‘Afterthought’
“I’ve never thought of us as a trailer dealer,” says Rick Lindley, owner of Lindley Tractor and Power Mall in Cordell, Okla. “We sell farm equipment, outdoor power equipment and some construction equipment. We sell a lot of new trailers because of all the other equipment we sell. But these sales are more of a necessity because of what we do than to us being a trailer dealer, specifically. For most customers, the decision to purchase a trailer is mostly driven by the fact that the customer has purchased other equipment and now needs a trailer to haul it.
“Some customers want gooseneck trailers and others want bumper pull units — it’s pretty straightforward. Getting the right trailer for the weight involved with the farm equipment is pretty obvious most of the time because you have weight capacities on the axles. You need to figure out how much the trailer weighs and how much the equipment is going to weigh.”
Lindley has sold trailers along with agricultural equipment for the last 20 years. “Prior to that we didn’t sell as many little tractors,” adds Lindley. “As our compact tractor line started taking our business over, selling trailers became more of a factor. We needed to sell trailers so the customer could haul the equipment. In the past, most farmers didn’t haul their equipment. We hauled it in and out with big trucks.”
Fairfield Tractor in Columbia, S.C., sells only a few trailers per year. The dealership is located within the city limits. They actually don’t stock any trailers, according to Bobby Riley, sales associate. The trailers they sell go primarily to someone who purchases a tractor in town and then needs to transport it to do work in the country.
“The most important things to remember on a trailer are the weight capacity, being sure that they’re getting a trailer that can carry the equipment they have and make sure they’re getting a trailer that’s capable of being towed behind their vehicle,” explains Riley. “This is all based on the size and weight of your equipment being hauled and what vehicle you have to pull the trailer with.”
Small Talk to Big Deals
Equipment dealers who carry trailers often offer a wide range of product from snowmobile and ATV trailers to trailers for combines and livestock.
The first thing you need to do when you have a customer come to your lot is to go out and meet and greet them, says Troy Parrish, owner of Parrish Horse Co. which sells horses, gear and trailers in Wagoner, Okla. “We call it ‘meet and greet.’ You need to build up a relationship with them. Don’t go talking about your trailers right off the bat. Ask them about their kids, if they’re in sports. When the family pulls in, the kids are their number one deal.”
Parrish says when a potential customer pulls into his business, he meets them, introduces himself and gets their names immediately. “Your next step is to listen to what they’re wanting because if you don’t know what they want, you can’t help them.”
Parrish says his two hottest trailer styles are bumper-pull trailers and a gooseneck stock trailer for hauling horses and cattle.
“The biggest thing I’ve found about selling trailers it to have a good relationship with your trailer manufacturer. I don’t work for them; I buy their product. But if your supplier can’t work with you and work around your schedule and help you in any way you need help, you don’t have anything to begin with.”
Parrish clearly works for himself. He buys the trailers and pays for them when they arrive. “But if you don’t have a good manufacturer and product, you aren’t going to have much to work with,” he says.
“Beyond that, the most important thing to selling trailers, as far as I’m concerned, is trying to help the customer, which in turn helps them do their job.”