The Debate Over Demos

March 12, 2010 10:28 AM

Can I Trust My Shop?

(Perspective from Frank Lee, an author and sales trainer who specializes in the ag equipment industry)


During a meeting the sales manager said demos were the department's biggest expense and the dealership should get greater value from them. The salespeople agreed.

Previously, I met with a group of farmers who said demos played a major part in their buying decisions, particularly when changing color. Their single biggest annoyance was salespeople who brought out faulty equipment that had to be fixed. This wasted their time and didn't instill confidence.

I brought up this issue in discussion with the salespeople, and then the sales manager asked if this had happened to them. It had—many times. He urged the salespeople to check the machine before it went to the customer. He even urged them to carry cloths and Armor All in their pickups so they could clean the machine on the farm. He suggested that salespeople meet the delivery truck on the farm half an hour before the scheduled demo time to do last-minute checkups. All these were very good suggestions.

I asked, "Since the people in the service department are responsible for getting the machine ready for demo, should they be held accountable for its condition?"

The salespeople readily agreed. However, the sales manager pointed out that in the real world, the technician does not really care if the machine is not completely "demo ready." One salesperson said: "If I spent time checking the machine with the technician, I would get the reputation of being too fussy and the technicians would avoid working with me."

However, everyone in service should understand why the dealer does demos. Here are some helpful guidelines:

Salespeople should specify what the machine is supposed to do on each demo.      
Dealers should develop a demo process with a list of items to be checked and approved before the machine leaves.
Hold the shop accountable for the condition of the demo unit and the salesperson accountable for double-checking.
Hold everyone in the dealership accountable to deliver perfection—that's what the customer expects.


One salesperson said, "I watch the machine leaving the dealership on the truck and I hope everything is right with it."

That's crazy! Hope is for amateurs. Every salesperson wants to trust his or her shop to deliver machines the way the dealership promises. Salespeople want to brag up their shop without feeling they are being insincere.

All departments need to realize they are part of the same team. Salespeople should take the lead on this, but the time has come to stop making excuses, to stop blaming others and to take action.

This is not a situation that will be fixed overnight. However, unless a dealership takes steps to address these challenges, they may never go away.


Sam from the Shop Responds

(After Lee's column was published in Implement & Tractor magazine, a reader who works in a dealership's shop responds…)


Frank Lee asked in his most recent "Sales Tips" column if dealership salesmen can "trust their shop" to provide quality used machines for on-farm demonstrations. As a dealership technician with nearly 20 years of shop and field experience, I ask in response: "Can I trust the sales department to allow me to provide customers with a machine that will give a good on-farm demonstration?"

Here are some real-world experiences from fall's harvest:

At the peak of fall harvest, a customer known to be hard on equipment turned in a late model combine he had rented to finish wheat harvest. Before it went on a field demonstration, I was told to "give it a quick check," match it to a worn, used grain platform and have it "field ready" in two hours. I listed numerous misalignments and broken parts but was told, "Just make it so it will cut wheat; don't spend any more time or money than necessary." Later I learned the prospective buyer was told, "Yeah, it's a good one, Sam checked it out himself."

Returning from a service call, I was told to stop and help a salesman demonstrate a combine. The salesman met me on the end rows and said, "Ride with him for a couple rounds and teach him how to run it. I'm not sure what all the buttons do." I didn't tell the salesman that the customer complained while I was riding with him, "That's one reason I don't like buying from your dealership—the salesmen don't know how to run the machines they sell. It makes me nervous to buy a machine that's so complicated it takes a mechanic to run it."

After harvest was over, a loyal customer confronted me about a used combine he had bought pre-season. "I spent close to $3,000 on repairs for that machine during harvest," he said. "I know you were the mechanic who got it ready—the salesman told me Sam worked on it and that it was field ready. Why would you let it leave the shop with so many things wrong with it?" What the customer didn't know was that I turned in a $10,000 list of repairs to make that combine field ready, but the salesman only allowed me to fix half the problems.

I understand that service and sales departments judiciously guard their margins. In this economy, sales margins are obviously tighter than service departments'. It's tough for salesmen to authorize significant repairs when they know they are cutting their own commission with every dollar of work they approve.

So back to Frank's question: Can sales departments trust service departments? It depends.

If the service department has permission to fix things correctly so machines can perform optimally, salesmen can trust technicians to provide machines for good field demonstrations. If salesmen know how to arrange financing and how to actually run the machines they sell, customers will have confidence in the company and machines. If sales departments have customers help decide what to fix on used machines before delivery, and factor costs into the final agreement, technicians won't have to hide when customers storm into the shop.

A salesman by nature is a "people person." Don't forget to treat your shop technicians as well as you treat your customers.

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