Dealers extend their profits as customers extend their mowers’ capabilities
By Mark Hall
Think back to the last time you bought a new vehicle. After exhausting all negotiation skills, you finally reached the price you wanted and sealed the deal with a handshake. Next thing you know, the salesperson showed you several accessories that were impossible to resist. For only a few hundred dollars, you could get the clear-coat package. And for just a couple hundred dollars more, you could have some sharp-looking chrome upgrades installed. A couple thousand dollars later, you drove away with some fancy add-ons, and the dealer cashed in from the high profit margins of the accessories.
It’s a sales tactic that we see used everywhere. From car dealerships to convenience stores, we are constantly persuaded to purchase last-minute add-ons. Yet why do many outdoor power equipment dealerships end the sale of a zero-turn mower so abruptly? Not only do they miss out on extra revenue from the sale of attachments, but they also hinder the customers from making the most of their new machine.
As more customers look to maximize every investment, however, many dealers are starting to realize the sales potential of zero-turn mower attachments, a product category that has gone largely unnoticed until recently. These dealers aren’t just offering attachments as a catalog item, but they actually display them in the showroom, exposing a whole new dimension of capabilities right before the customers’ eyes. And unlike the fancy chrome add-ons at the car dealership or candy bars at the convenience store checkout, attachments actually make a huge difference in a customer’s productivity and can provide a real return on investment. It’s a great way for everyone to make “mower” money.
Doing more with less
For many lawn and turf professionals, the zero-turn mower is their primary weapon…their workhorse…their bread and butter. But for a machine that costs thousands of dollars, it should be able to do more than just mow.
Consider skid steers, for instance. These machines have greatly evolved over the years, going from simple loaders to multitasking machines, and, of course, they’ve gotten more expensive throughout this progression. However, customers have been able to justify the high price of a skid steer because of the multiple tasks they can accomplish with the available attachments — basically, they can do more with less. On the other side of things, dealers also benefit greatly because a large portion of their sales often comes from attachments. The situation becomes a win-win scenario for both customers and dealers.
But skid steers are only the tip of the iceberg. Utility vehicles (UTVs) and compact excavators are other examples of machines that are now used for more than their original purposes, but the list doesn’t end there. Even cell phones are offered with data packages and applications that allow them to not only place a call, but also make businesses more efficient. So what’s taking so long for the mower market to catch up?
As most dealers realize, zero-turn mower attachments have been available for some time, but both the infrastructure and quality of products were lacking. There wasn’t a sales push or strong dealer support to satisfy customer needs. Also, attachments were typically offered through catalog orders only, so customers weren’t drawn to attractive showroom displays. Virtually the only places where these items could be seen in person were farm and fleet stores, which generally carried a poor selection of low-quality products.
However, manufacturer support and distributor infrastructure have improved tremendously. No longer are the days when dealers were given only a catalog of the product line. Now, more manufacturers are providing increased dealer support and offering zero-turn mower attachment lines through distributor networks, making products available for the showroom and allowing for increased service capabilities.
With the increased support from manufacturers, dealers are now empowered to become a one-stop shop for all lawn and turf care needs. In turn, customers appreciate seeing the products on the showroom floor and have less reason to shop elsewhere for additional purchases. And when the attachments require service, they can go directly to the dealer, rather than trying to figure out where to go for help for their catalog products. All factors considered, the new distribution trend increases the level of service customers receive and keeps them loyal to their dealers.
You say you want a revolution
While the infrastructure has improved, so have the attachments themselves. Finally, more products are meeting the professional quality that lawn and turf professionals demand, and unlike attachments that were offered in the past, the newest ones cater better to mowers. They are specially engineered to accommodate mower designs, providing the best fit possible and exceeding expectations for performance.
In a way, the zero-turn mower attachment industry has not just seen an evolution, but a revolution, as the number of available attachments has grown greatly, including seed and fertilizer spreaders, sprayers and leaf pushers. Some attachments are even multipurpose, such as broom attachments that can be transformed into dethatchers in only a matter of minutes.
Not only has the number of attachments on the market grown, but the technology behind the equipment has also increased, and more thought has been put into the design of attachments to better accommodate mowers. For example, some attachments feature innovative mounting systems, which allow them to easily fit on almost any zero-turn mower on the market. Furthermore, some powered attachments are fully electric, allowing equipment like spreaders and sprayers to run completely off the mower’s battery.
Additionally, many steps are being taken to eliminate turf damage. To do so, some manufacturers have developed specialized tines for their dethatching attachments, helping to prevent turf gouging, whether the mower is driving forward, backing up, or conducting a zero-radius turn. Also, articulating hitches are available to accommodate the ground contour better than traditional rigid designs. This hitch style allows an attachment to pivot as the ground height changes from one end of the unit to the other. Therefore, if a dethatcher is used with an articulating hitch, for example, the tines won’t tear into higher ground at one end of the attachment while floating over lower ground at the other end. Instead, the result will be an even dethatching operation.
The benefits of such equipment are obvious for customers. Finally, a zero-turn mower can achieve higher productivity and, not to mention, a better return on investment. Lawn professionals can begin offering more services without purchasing other expensive engine-powered machines.
While the types of attachments that are available for zero-turn mowers are also offered for other vehicles, such as UTVs, there are definite advantages to equipping them on mowers instead of other machines. Obviously, an operator can stay more productive using one piece of equipment rather than having to switch machines to accomplish different tasks. Also, lawn care professionals may now only need to haul one piece of equipment to a jobsite, saving on transportation costs. And since fewer pieces of equipment are used, the operator has less routine maintenance to perform.
Some dealers are seeing increased sales of zero-turn mower attachments by displaying them on their showroom floors. (Photo courtesy: TurfEx) Low-risk takers
Of course, the benefits to dealers are numerous as well. Some may be hesitant to add to their inventory when catalog orders require no commitment, but many dealers have been finding more success by stocking the equipment and displaying it in their showrooms. Customers are more apt to purchase equipment they can actually see, and after spending thousands of dollars on a new mower, they are highly likely to buy add-ons with less consideration for the price of attachments since the cost appears relatively insignificant when tacked onto the original investment.
While more inventory does require an investment in money and space from the dealer, the risk-reward is much better than most other equipment that stores carry. Obviously, attachments cost only a fraction of the price of a zero-turn mower, but they also typically carry attractive profit margins. Even more, attachments don’t require a heavy sales push to clear the inventory by the end of a model year, thereby further reducing the risk of stocking them. As new models of mowers are released, the previous year’s unsold mowers quickly lose their value. On the other hand, attachments don’t become outdated as frequently, and as new ones are introduced, the older units maintain a high value.
Beyond leading to new profit channels, attachments can also lead to other sales within a dealership. For example, since some zero-turn mower attachments feature a universal mount for attaching to many types of mowers, a dealer may acquire new customers from other dealerships that carry competing brands of mowers, but do not stock attachments. In this case, the dealer can sell attachments to the new customers and may be able to develop a relationship with them, so when those customers eventually decide to purchase a new mower, they may switch brands.
Or, maybe a customer is one step away from purchasing a new zero-turn mower, but is balking at the amount of the investment. By showing that customer attachments that can extend the mower’s capabilities, however, a dealer may finally be able to help the customer justify the cost of the new mower.
No matter what the scenario may be, many dealers have been achieving newfound success by selling zero-turn mower attachments from inventory, instead of ordering as needed from catalogs or sending customers elsewhere. Just like the extended warranty you bought with your new television or the order of fries you got with lunch, you can employ the same upselling strategy to equip customers with attachments for their mowers…only this will be an add-on they can’t afford to refuse.