Maintaining a Personable Approach to Customers

with John Bob Farm Equipment

MEET JOHN BOB FARM EQUIPMENT

In 1980, after spending several years in farm-equipment sales, John McShannock decided to strike out on his own. “My colleague Bob Penner and I just determined that when it came to selling farm equipment, we could do better,” McShannock says. “So we set out to create a business that would excel in equipment quality and customer service.”

1. Keep a quality inventory

According to John McShannock, cofounder and owner of John Bob Farm Equipment, a personable approach is built on a solid foundation of product offerings. His company is a New Holland dealer—a top North American manufacturer of farm equipment—and features combines, tractors, balers, and swathers ideally suited for the medium- to large-size farming operations common in the local prairie region of Saskatchewan.

“For a typical 4,000- to 10,000-acre farm, our customers will choose one or two of our combines, which are consistently reliable when it comes to harvesting wheat, barley, or flax crops,” McShannock says. “Meanwhile, our New Holland balers are well known for their dependability in baling hay for cattle feed. Because farmers are very familiar with New Holland’s reputation for superior equipment, they are pleased with our product inventory when they walk through our doors.”

2. Centre sales around the customer

“We depend a great deal on repeat sales,” McShannock says. “For this reason, we strive to establish a strong working relationship with our customers.”

At the heart of this relationship is the willingness—and talent—of John Bob Farm Equipment’s sales staff to genuinely listen and understand customer needs. “The worst thing possible is to pressure someone, especially a loyal customer, to buy something they don’t want or need,” McShannock says.

For this reason, John Bob Farm Equipment’s sales personnel begin by carefully assessing which products best meet a customer’s goals. “If a farmer has a large operation, then we may recommend a stronger, 615-horsepower combine for harvesting wheat and other field crops,” McShannock says.

Cost is also a factor. With a typical combine costing upwards of $300,000, staff members must engender a degree of trust and mutual respect with the customer in order to make a sale. “These are big-ticket items, after all,” McShannock says. “The farmer needs to have confidence that the equipment recommendation being made is the right one for them.”

3. Keep maintenance and service exceptional

The essence of John Bob Farm Equipment’s high rate of repeat business can be found in what takes place after the sale. “We’re known for consistently providing strong service and maintenance on the equipment that we sell,” McShannock says.

John Bob Farm Equipment keeps three of its seven employed mechanics on duty to tend the field repairs during the key harvest season. These road mechanics are all equipped with a four-by-four Ford F-450 crew-cab service truck, complete with full-service body and a crane. During this time, the mechanics are available for both in-store work and maintenance jobs at customers’ sites. “They’re on the road to farms a lot,” McShannock says. “In season, during harvest time, it isn’t uncommon for each of them to clock up to 70–80 hours of overtime during a two-week period.”

Furthermore, if a repair can’t be fixed, either on the store premises or at the farm, John Bob Farm Equipment is quick to offer substitute equipment. “Time is critical for farmers; their work is seasonal and, as a result, there is a limited window of opportunity to get things done,” McShannock says. “If we can help them avoid downtime by giving them access to equipment, then we’re more than willing to do so.”

4. Make it simple

Whether working on sales or service, John Bob Farm Equipment is readily accessible thanks to its family-run business operation. “Our company is run by myself, my son, and my son-in-law—that’s it,” McShannock says. “So when a customer has a question or concern, they don’t have to face multiple levels of management; they can quickly deal with the guy who writes the checks, so to speak.”

McShannock knows this is what works. “We’re confident that this approach will allow us to continue providing the best service and products possible for years to come,” he says.