Yesterday, we featured part one of our two-part interview with Joel Wineland of West Central Equipment, where we learned a bit about Joel’s background, his job responsibilities, West Central’s locations, and their customers. Today, we will continue on with our interview with Joel, taking a deeper dive into life at a John Deere dealership during peak planting season, enjoy!
Q: At your location, do you recognize certain pieces of equipment that are hot sellers during planting season?
A: “Planters and drills are very good for us. Our planters don’t usually come in until right before season which makes them hot commodities all the way through the spring, followed by drills. What really can create an issue is when the large planters come in, it takes quite a while to get them set up. We’re seeing more sophisticated equipment being put onto these planters for better yields and there’s a lot of time involved in getting them in, and getting them out.
We don’t do a lot of business in row crop tractors. We sell some 8 series and 7 series, which are used for manure hauling year-round, but planters are definitely our biggest sellers in the spring.”
Q: We see Deere customers and the ag industry in generally seem to be big on AMS products. How prevalent are Ag Management Solutions in the area and at your dealership?
A: “Five years ago I would’ve thought “AMS” was just an abbreviation for something that we didn’t really ever need. I couldn’t foresee us needing things like AutoTrac and RowCommand, but in the last five years, we went from six-row planters, to 12 rows, to 16 rows, to 24 rows, to 31 rows, and it’s become all about getting the crop in.
So, we started to really take AMS seriously when we saw the demand. About seven months ago, we hired a full-time AMS manager to sell, to keep customers up to date with updates, selling packages, etc. I think to be on the leading edge and to be competitive in our business as a multi-store dealer, I think you have to have a full-time AMS manager. I think there’s going to be a day where we are going to need two as this thing keeps growing and with our geography, I’m not sure one person can take care of all our customers at the level we want across locations.
We just sold our first auto-steer for a windrower. Would I ever expect to do that even back two years ago? No. AMS is certainly growing and it’s growing faster than I ever expected it to grow. When we started selling AMS, we weren’t sure if it would drive any income, we looked at it as an added value, but we’re seeing it positively impact our bottom line.”
Q: Do you see certain customer trends during planting season? What questions or issues are they coming to you with at this time of year?
A: “The largest need we see is to keep connected and available to our customers after-hours. We’ve gone to extended hours, we always have someone available on call from our various departments. As a result, we don’t really close during the spring and the fall, we’re actually available for parts and service. That’s something that has really added value to our business as far as building relationships with customers. It doesn’t matter if it’s eight at night or the morning.
We feel pretty good about how we stay available to our customers through these extended hours and we can see that it’s been needed for quite a while.”
Q: Tying in to what was just discussed, is there anything that stands out to you as an out of the ordinary situation or story that comes to mind?
A: “The largest customer that we have farms about 10,000 acres, running three combines. A couple of years ago, the transmission on one of their combines went down, our tech was out there checking it out at about 5 p.m. He called me and said he knows we have a used combine on the lot that has transmission that would fit this combine even though they were different models. He said he was going to come back and tear the transmission out of the combine on the lot and put it into our customer’s combine that night to keep them running.
It was late in the season and the forecast was calling for some unfavorable weather conditions. Long-story short, he came back here, we had another guy stay here and help him take the transmission out, they both ran out that same evening and put that transmission into their combine and they were up and running the next morning by 8 a.m. That makes selling to that farm a lot easier now since we are selling them a lot of equipment. They do not forget what we did and they tell everybody about it. That served as the best form of advertising we could have for our after-hour service and keeping the customer going. On a rainy day we went out and replaced their transmission and brought ours back for the combine on the lot.”
Q: Do you run any specific events, promotional or informative, at the dealership focused around planting season? Does the dealership get involved with the community at all during planting season?
A: “In all locations we are pretty involved with the community. We do a lot of community promotions for them, including a lot of clinics now. We used to do John Deere Days, which ended up being a customer appreciation day and we didn’t mind that, but we weren’t hitting the people we wanted to hit.
So, we started doing a lot of clinics (planter clinics, forage harvester clinics) and we get a really good turnout for these. We offer a pretty nice sit-down meal and we get about 85 people on average. For corn planting clinics, we asked five of our best customers how they would want us to work the clinics and if they should be on a yearly or bi-yearly basis. They helped us lay out the guideline on what clinics to do and how often to do them, and that’s worked out real well. The people that have historically come to these clinics, we see every year now, plus they bring their neighbors. Clinics are the best things we’ve found and we find good farmers at these clinics.”
If you’re in the area of any West Central Equipment locations, be sure to stop by, as they will be more than happy to assist with any of your needs. A special thanks to Joel Wineland, for taking the time to shed some behind-the-scenes light on the John Deere dealership business during the planting season! If you have any comments about this post, feel free to connect with us on Facebook or Google+! Also, be sure to keep an eye out for additional John Deere Dealer Spotlight posts in the upcoming weeks!