Anticipating the Dealership of the Future

You’ve probably seen the movie trilogy Back to the Future (1985-1989-1991) starring Christopher Lloyd as Dr. Emmett Brown and Michael J. Fox as his young assistant, Marty McFly. There’s no point in telling you the story, but just like in the movie, if we had a time machine, we could influence the present through our actions from the past and change our future through our actions of the present.


If so, how easy it would be for us as managers and leaders to anticipate the changes to machinery, parts and service sales. But this time machine doesn’t exist; we can only see it in the movies as arranged by the movie’s director. Could we become movie directors by immediately putting in place structures, applications and transformations that will bring us success and guarantee our future as industry leaders?

The answer to these questions ties to the present, so let’s look at each dealership department and see what we can do now that will change our future forever.

Machine Sales Department: Changes in generations (salespeople and buyers) means that Baby Boomers are no longer the kings. The next generations are taking over and no longer buy as they did in past.

  • Have you adapted your ways to their reality, their way of making purchases, their digital way of gathering information and their way of communicating?

  • Have you put in place structures that go beyond their expectations with a modern, state-of-the-art website with real-time product searches that are updated every day? Does it have videos and movement to attract attention quickly as today’s buyers are used to from other websites?

  • Can their questions be answered directly online? If they don’t find the answers within seconds, they will look elsewhere.

That’s today’s reality. Now imagine tomorrow. Because today’s farmers and contractors are big businesses, they think more like a corporation. Communication to the owners is about return on investments.

The most important tool is your dealer management system (DMS) that collects information about your customers, builds a buyer profile and provides sales representatives information regarding almost every aspect of the sales or rental machines you hope to sell and support.

Service Sales Department: Their most important job is to follow the useful life of the machinery, whether it’s rented or purchased. The duty of the service department is to maintain the performance of the machinery to the maximum. Everything related to new technologies must be clearly explained to service customers in a real-time demonstration or a short presentation like TikTok or YouTube to capture the interest of new (young) farm machine users. Here again, we must be proactive and not reactive to situations that may arise during the useful life of the machinery. We must demonstrate all cutting-edge technologies to our customers to increase their loyalty to our dealership. This was true in the past, and it’s just as true in the future.

Parts Sales Department: Their future will be much more demanding because they must be able to:

  • Observe the inventory in real time at a dealership across many locations and several OEMs

  • Manage the online marketing and sales without direct customer contact

  • Manage an inventory with more depth and breadth

Employees: Because they are the most important part of your business, you’ll have to establish solid relationships to keep their loyalty to your organization. To achieve this, you’ll have to think in a totally different way than today.

First of all, hire employees based on their desire to learn, not on their knowledge. Make sure your candidates want to learn new things and have the desire to grow inside your organization. Establish standards of how to do that and train your employees to achieve your corporate goals.

Secondly, offer candidates their choice of schedule: day, evening, night, week, weekend, cut schedule and the number of work hours worked per week. This may surprise you, but by choosing working hours, they become responsible and accountable for their work and are part of the process. Naturally, the organization will have to adapt to new realities. There is more than one way to respond to our customers; can we respond differently to our employees?

Finally, set up an employee bonus and loyalty program at your dealership and ask them what they want. Give them an attainable scale of achievement vs. your corporate expectations. That way, their input is a part of the decision-making process of your organization.

In Back to the Future, Marty remained faithful to Doc Brown because he involved Marty in his universe and provided him with advice that looked to the past as well as to the future to adjust the present.

You are the time machine. Just don’t be afraid to do things differently!


As published in Farm Equipment Magazine

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