Dealers are often so busy being dealers they miss out on what they can gain by thinking like customers. This goes beyond viewing your dealership through your customers’ eyes, but looking at equipment as if it’s your first time buying things like a zero-turn mower or a chain saw. Adding that viewpoint can help you make more sales — and help you decide whether it’s time to add or change manufacturers.

One way to do that is by attending GIE+Expo (the Green Industry & Equipment Expo), which is set for October 22-24, 2014, in Louisville, Ky. The event features 750 exhibits of manufacturers and suppliers of lawn and garden, landscape maintenance, outdoor leisure, outdoor power and hardscape products as well as a 19-acre outdoor demonstration area.

The show provides an opportunity to compare and contrast models from both a customer’s perspective as well as a dealer’s perspective. The environment is different than a farm show, since it’s targeted to landscapers, large property owners and light construction contractors. There’s also a special Dealer Day set aside for educational sessions, supplier meetings, product introductions, and networking just for dealers on Oct. 22, a day before the show officially opens.

Making time for trade shows can be hassle for your dealership, not to mention added expense. However, competition is coming at you from everywhere — big box stores to other dealerships to “garage” repair shops. Manufacturers are trying to help by introducing new products or ongoing redesigns. The result is a cluttered and competitive marketplace. Without tools, data and strategies, your dealership will be lost in that clutter.

GIE+Expo offers you that opportunity to gather information and develop a plan. However, simply walking the show floor is not enough. You need to turn it into an intelligence-gathering mission. Before you leave your dealership, check your numbers. See where sales are compared to your 2014 projections. Compare what you’re seeing in your dealership vs. what other dealers forecast for 2014. Develop a spreadsheet of the kinds of information you need to gather about new equipment, such as cost, size and unique features.

When you’re at the show, pay attention to first impressions. If an exhibit captures your attention, see if you can borrow some of the marketing ideas. Keep an open mind and don’t ignore the product reps and their sales pitches. There might be some bits of information that you can add to your own sales techniques. Gather data, whether it’s from manufacturer marketing collateral or images and videos you capture on your smart phone. And, listen to the conversations that dealers, landscapers and others are having with manufacturers and each other.

When you return home, set aside time to evaluate what you’ve gathered. Maybe the news will be good and you’ll discover that you’ve made the right decisions regarding your product lines and your sales and marketing techniques. If you find the opposite is true, don’t brush it aside. Develop a plan to change something, add something — or stop doing something.

The Expo in October may seem far away and you may think you’re too busy now to think about it. That may be true, but don’t let the opportunity slip away this year. And, if this just isn’t the year for you to attend, you can still keep up through social media and news posts. Or, check with another dealer from the brands you carry and see if they are attending. Maybe they’ll be willing to share insights.

If you do make the trip to Louisville, let us know. We’re interested in hearing those first impressions about new products and which ones could bring sales success in 2015.