Congratulations to A&M Green Power Group for being selected as the 2013 Dealership of the Year. This is the 7th consecutive year that Rural Lifestyle Dealer has recognized a dealer who accomplishes it all — posts impressive revenues, represents their brands well, delivers outstanding customer experiences, develops a loyal employee team, and makes a difference in their communities.

It was a pleasure meeting the A&M team. They demonstrated leadership in so many ways and their ability to think ahead was particularly impressive.

This forward thinking approach raises this question: What will your dealership look like in 10 years? Here are some trends that may influence how your team interacts with its rural lifestyle customers.

Combining Online, Personal Shopping

Dealers tell us again and again that many customers do research on the Internet before they visit the dealership. Why not extend this shopping preference into the dealership and expand on the current “build my tractor” online functionality? Think about the kiosks in home improvement stores where customers can match paint colors to furniture or design a room. Rural lifestylers could do the same for equipment and match acreage size, ground conditions, property tasks and more to custom build their tractors.

This exercise doesn’t have to eliminate salespeople from the purchase process. Instead, it gives customers a sense of control and gives salespeople a way to move from “wants” to purchases. They take over at the fun part, letting the customer move from their pretend tractor to sitting in the real seat.

Train to Buy

Dealers do a good job at demonstrating equipment to customers and letting them test drive. Turning that demo into a training session may provide more sales opportunities. Perhaps the dealerships of tomorrow will give mini-courses on operation and maintenance? They’ll enhance the personal session with videos shown in a comfortable training room and post how-tos and frequently-asked questions that can be downloaded onto a mobile phone. This will mean more time with customers ahead of the sale and that’s a good thing. It reinforces the fact they are making the right decision by buying from you.

Socialize to Sell

Dealerships will find other ways to keep customers in their stores longer. What about a small area away from the sales floor where customers can get refreshments? Then, when customers say they need time to think, they don’t have to leave your dealership. They can take some time to talk with family members, look over the information you’ve provided and then come back to you to continue the discussion.

Go Mobile

A statistic from Cisco says that by 2017, mobile traffic will be 13 times what it is today. That means now is the time to investigate a mobile version of your website or even a mobile application. Here’s what Bob Dieterle, a rural lifestyler and marketer from Durham, N.C., says: “All I am asking for is when I tap my John Deere owner’s app icon I am asked ‘What do you want to do today?’ After I put in ‘oil change,’ the app gives me a part number for the filter I need; the ability to purchase it online; or to use the GPS to find a dealer close by … ”

We can’t predict the future, but it’s always closer than we think.