The Truth About Farm Machinery Salesmen

Published on: 11:59AM Nov 22, 2008
Farm machinery salesmen at dealerships are often maligned. Farmers assume salesmen always win the psychological arm wrestling contest that goes into negotiating a fair price for machinery; my years as an interested observer to hundreds of machinery trades lends me to believe that those contests usually end up a draw. From what I've seen and heard over the years:

-Some dealerships consistently sell equipment for less. Some consistently sell for more. Higher priced dealerships generally have more overhead to cover, and that higher overhead may be an extensive service department, stronger parts inventory or a higher level of after-sales support. If all you want is the machine, go for the bottom dollar dealership. And that's all you'll get.

-Haggling a salesmen to his absolute lowest price may not be the best value. Salesmen have come to our shop and said as we were prepping a machine for delivery, "Don't fix any more than you absolutely have to because he didn't leave me any room," and the same salesman has come to the shop regarding a different sale and said, "Fix it right before it goes out, because he left me some room to help him." 

-Get everything on paper. Oral agreements often have two sides. Agreements written on the purchase order are literally in black and white. "As is" means as it sits on the sales lot, flat tires and all. "Field ready" could mean it 's prepped and adjusted to do a 1,000 acres, or it could mean it will stay in one piece long enough to make it to the gate leading to the field. If a machine needs new parts or repairs before you take it home, specify them on the purchase order to eliminate any opportunity for misunderstanding.

-Yes, your salesman is telling the truth: dealerships sometimes make no money on a sale. Sometimes it's better to take a loss than to pay the carrying charge of letting the machine sit on the sales lot. Sales departments at many dealerships aren't profitable. Until the recent bubble in commodity prices fueled a surge in equipment buying, many dealerships operated their sales departments at break-even, or barely showed a profit. Their goal was to move the equipment at-cost or less, if necessary, and find their profits selling parts and repairs for that equipment in the future.

-Here's an internal dealership secret: Frustrated mechanics have been known to approach salesmen at their dealership and tell them to sell a particular piece of equipment to a machinery scalper or to a private buyer far, far outside their dealership's territory, so that, "I never have to work on that lemon again."

Ultimately, I'm impressed by salesmen at farm equipment dealerships. They are by nature gregarious and often able to talk the bark off a tree. But at their heart they care about their customers and try to do their best to help negotiate deals that are fair to all parties. Fair means both sides give a little and get a little. Exactly how much a "little" is, is part of the craft of negotiating a deal.