The automotive market is known for its innovation and, often, what happens in the car business will trickle down to the ag equipment business because of the many similarities between the two.
It’s certainly not true in all cases, but there are 3 things that our industry may be missing that car dealers have nailed and we might use to grow our sales. The best part is the cost of putting these measures in place will be negligible.
1. Approaching Customers
First, we should analyze how we approach our customers. Those of us with a farm background expect ag customers to let us know when they’re ready for a salesperson. They may be out on the lot underneath a baler or combine for three hours looking at every aspect of its engineering, and when they’re ready to talk, they know to come inside the store.
However, the rural lifestyle market is different and weekend farmers may not know this process. Their frame of reference for shopping comes from the car business. In the automotive process, there are usually salespeople on the lot at all times, waiting to talk to customers when they roll down a window or get out of the car. This annoys some customers, but successful dealerships do this, so one would assume it works. But the flip side could be a lot worse. Imagine a customer was on the lot, nobody pursued them, they assumed their business wasn’t valued and drove on.
This happens at rural lifestyle dealerships more than we know. You expect the customer to come to the showroom when they’re finished looking on the lot and they expect you to meet them out there. I challenge you to keep a designated salesperson on or in view of the lot during the busy season — at least during peak hours — and see if I’m right. It could likely increase your business.
2. Offering Leases
Second, we should be offering leases in the sales process. Equipment dealers may not be sold on leasing, as most of us think it makes more economic sense to own equipment.
In the automotive world, however, roughly one-third of all cars sold are leased and that number is growing. So, if that percentage of the rural lifestyle customer base has no issue with leasing, we’re missing an opportunity. When they buy a compact tractor, we move them into a contract, they pay until they own it, put 100 hours a year on it and we never see them again.
If we offered them a non-recourse lease, they’d be back at the end of it, either to pay it off or, better yet, to lease a new one the next size larger, with more features or with a cab. In the end, we might have their low-hour leased tractor back on the lot to sell to a used shopper and we’d get another sale.
There isn’t an overabundance of late model used compact tractors available now, like there wouldn’t be a large supply of late model used cars, but automotive dealers have embraced leasing as the way to build up consistent product for the used buyer. When we embrace leasing, we start building supplies of good used tractors to sell later. A first step is to set up a sales meeting with a company who would like your lease business and is willing to train your staff.
3. Improve Appearances
Finally, take a look at the appearance of your facility. I haven’t been in a car dealership lately that had an engine sitting outside the building, but those types of things are pretty common in equipment dealerships.
Car dealerships are well lit with a lot of windows. They feature light interior colors and clean restrooms and, generally, their shops are immaculate. Our industry will never have shops as clean as car dealerships due to the equipment that we work on, but it’s a goal to strive for. Cleaning up the facility, updating the lighting system, painting the floors and walls light colors, and just plain getting rid of the clutter doesn’t cost much, but it can do wonders for your image. Even the most immaculate of facilities need some remarketing occasionally.
Keeping an eye out for customers on the lot, offering lease options and updating your facility are 3 low-stress ways to help your business grow.