Pictured Above: Chad Inman (pictured on the right) congratulates a customer on their new purchase from Burnip’s Equipment.

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Chad Inman, known on Facebook as “Burnip’s Chad,” defines his own approach to inside rural equipment sales at Burnip’s Equipment. Burnip’s has 7 locations in Michigan and carries New Holland, AG Spray, Bush Hog, Ferris, Intimidator, Land Pride, Priefert, Spartan Mowers and other lines. The dealership serves production farmers as well as small acreage farmers, landscapers, homeowners, large property owners and construction contractors.

Inman joined the dealership in November of 2018 as a rural lifestyle consultant based in the Coopersville, Mich., location. Prior to that, he was store manager for Family Farm & Home, a family owned retail chain 63 stores in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Inman is one of several salespeople who have set up dealership/personal branding pages on Facebook as a selling strategy. His intro page on Facebook describes his goal: “I make rural living a little easier and a lot more fun for people in West Michigan.” 

Learn more about Inman’s approach in this Q&A with Rural Lifestyle Dealer.

Rural Lifestyle Dealer: Can you highlight what you do at Burnip’s?

Inman: My official title is rural lifestyle consultant and the largest piece of that is inside sales, but I also play a supporting role for the outside sales team. I’m their eyes and ears and feet-to-the-ground when they’re trying to get a deal done and need to know about the equipment on our lot. I’ve also developed a supporting role for the parts and service departments.

I also use my retail experience in social media marketing to help increase awareness of the dealership. 

RLD: Can you explain some of the main ways you use Facebook?

Inman: The main ways we use Facebook are by advertising equipment on Facebook Marketplace and by being part of local community group pages. When I comment on the community pages, I’m talking more about what’s going on at the dealership as opposed to a specific piece of equipment, to try to get people to visit the dealership.

For branding purposes, I set up a page called Burnip’s Chat after I first started and then I wanted to add a personal side to share funny posts and information related to farming. I decided to set up my personal page and I now have more than 240 friends.

I made a conscious decision to seek out residential and rural lifestyle contacts as opposed to agricultural contacts. For instance, I sought out real estate agents as a way to reach people who might need equipment for their new houses.

I worked with one real estate agent to develop a document they give to new property owners that shares information about the dealership, the equipment we carry as well as other items we sell, like power tools and farm toys.

We promote Burnip’s as a local, family-owned company that was started in 1977. The story of who we are is very compelling. Our world is changing, but many customers still want to buy from people they know. 

RLD: What experience did you bring over from the box store?

Inman: Besides the focus on retail and store branding, I also brought over the idea of social IQ or social capital as it relates to working with fellow employees. At the store, I managed employees as well as managed other managers. I had to learn how to navigate through different situations and build good relationships.

When I came to Burnip’s, I made the intentional decision to be a team player and to show that the misconceptions about salespeople being inconsiderate were not true. I wanted to show my co-workers that they could count on me if they needed something. This was part of the process of building social capital at the dealership.

For instance, I try to watch for retail items that are not selling as fast as we would like. When a snowstorm was forecast, I promoted on my Facebook page that we have ice melt as a way to move that product and to get people into the dealership.

I’ll also try to help work with customers that are standing in line, waiting for a parts person. I don’t try to answer technical questions, but see if they might need something that I can help them with.

And, as part of that give and take, my co-workers help me out if I’m busy with another customer or out of the office.

Here’s another great example. Recently, I was outside raking leaves on a Sunday when one of our younger service techs drove by and stopped to say hi. I told him I was getting ready to go over to a customer’s house because he was having trouble with equipment he bought from us.

The tech asked for the address and went over there and fixed the problem. That level of service differentiates us from the competition.

RLD: What other practices do you use throughout your work day?

Inman: I’m always working through my contact lists, whether it’s customers who have come into or called the dealership or leads from our website or Facebook. Burnip’s has an internet salesperson as well, who works online leads, but they can’t handle all the inquiries. He is always communicating with the rural lifestyle consultants at each store as well as the outside sales team.

RLD: What challenges do you see ahead?

Inman: As Burnip’s continues to grow, we’ll have to continue evaluating our market. How do we meet the changing needs of agriculture, which is our core business, as well as the changing needs of rural customers?

It’s also important the dealership continues to recognize the talents of individuals. Often, in the retail world, the formula for operating is more important than the employee, which is not good for the business or the person. So, we need to have processes for efficiency and accountability, but they also need to be flexible.