In The Beginning
It was a decision that streamlined its business by integrating customer data management and inventory management into a single, efficient system:IronHQ. Sometimes when your company buys another company, you get more than you bargained for. But in a good way. That was the case with Plains Ag Group, a North Dakota-based company that owns and operates 10 equipment dealerships in North Dakota and Montana.The company began with its own equipment dealership in Williston, North Dakota, and over time bought and merged with other dealerships, incorporating them into the parent company. It was the purchase of a dealership in Mandan, North Dakota, that sparked a major decision by Plains Ag Group. The decision ended up streamlining its business by integrating customer data management and inventory management into a single, efficient system.
The Plains Ag Group Family
- Border Region Border Plains Equipment dealerships in Stanley and Williston, North Dakota, and Glasgow, Montana
- West Region West Plains Inc. dealerships in Beach, Bowman, Dickinson, and Hettinger, North Dakota
- Northern Region Northern Plains Equipment dealerships in Mandan, Minot, and Garrison, North Dakota
The Old Ways
Scott Grundstad is Director of Sales for Plains Ag Group, which has a sales team of 23 among its 250 employees. The company’s dealerships are focused on sales and servicing of Case IH equipment, although some of its stores are dual-branded with New Holland equipment. While the company does provide precision ag services, it is the equipment sale and repair that is its bread and butter. Before buying the dealership in Mandan, Grundstad says, the Plains Ag Group dealerships generally handled their inventory and customer data information using spreadsheets. Those documents emailed around to salespeople several times a day, to keep everyone informed about the latest sales and equipment availability. It was a cumbersome way of managing the information, and sometimes data did slip through the cracks – particularly if data had to be shared between dealerships or regions – but it was a system they were used to.
Then Plains Ag Group bought the Mandan dealership, and Grundstad started looking closely at the way that store was managing its data. The Mandan dealership, which had been in business more than 30 years, was a longtime Iron Solutions customer using IronHQ. IronHQ is Iron Solutions’ dealership management system. It has robust salesforce automation capabilities that include customer and equipment relationship management, real-time inventory management, and marketing automation. The productivity and projectability enhancing system, increases visibility by tracking sales activity and inventory status, and capturing critical customer data. Grundstad says that as he looked over IronHQ, he was intrigued.
The Good, The Better, The Useful
“It was just the type of unified system that we needed, something that everyone could use,” he says. “The store in Mandan had used it a long time, and they liked it. We started looking into it and decided it was the best system for us.”
Plains Ag Group did look into alternative solutions, but saw that they didn’t have all the features of IronHQ. “Some of the other companies offered inventory management capability, but they didn’t have customer data management. Others were just the opposite. We might have been able to work around some of those shortcomings with the others, but IronHQ could directly interface with DIS, our dealer business system.” That capability clinched it for Grundstad, because Plains Ag Group could continue to the business system it was so familiar with. “We can make changes and log inventory into the business system, and it integrates with IronHQ. That was a tipping point for us to choose IronHQ,” Grundstad adds. One key advantage of using IronHQ was that Plains Ag Group was able to prevent duplicate quotes, a problem between its various stores and regions.
Going The Distance
“Our dealerships aren’t all that close together, but by North Dakota standards they are. We couldn’t help but wind up with overlapping areas, and that sometimes led to the same customer getting quotes from different stores, so we were competing with ourselves,” Grundstad explains. With IronHQ, he says, it’s simple to see if a customer has gotten a quote, with the ease of comprehensively tracking customers, logging sales visits, and providing a common database for all locations. “That really is one of the biggest benefits, that it makes sure everyone does things the same way. It’s sort of a data center for keeping track of customers and equipment that we hadn’t had before,” Grundstad says. The only downside, Grundstad notes, is that because IronHQ is a more sophisticated system, some salespeople who weren’t as computer savvy had a hard time with it. The training that Iron Solutions provided was very good, he says, but there were some salespeople who moved on rather than make the change.
His current sales staff, though, likes the system and takes advantage of its capabilities. While the system can be accessed remotely, the Plains Ag Group people don’t often take advantage of that because of poor wireless service in most of the places the salespeople go. So they collect information in the field, then log the customer’s data, generate sales opportunities, and monitor equipment activity.
The bottom line
Grundstad says, is that with IronHQ, Plains Ag Group “can now do better deals.” “Honestly, our margin percentages have increased because of the ability to plug in all the related costs at the time of purchase. It makes sure we don’t miss that important data. The tight ag economy has hurt our margins, but it would definitely be worse if we didn’t have IronHQ.”
IronHQ is a cloud-based customer relationship and enterprise planning platform, powered by NetSuite®, offering an enterprise-wide view of customer activity, equipment, future prospects, and your sales pipeline. It gives ag dealers the key customer and equipment data they need to improve the sales process, identify trends and ensure appropriately stocked and visible inventory.
- Manage your sales team and pipeline with ease
- Increase productivity, profitability and visibility
- Track your multi-location inventory