Celebrating 40 years in business, agricultural machinery dealer RW Crawford has come a long way since Bob Crawford started buying and selling used farm machinery in October 1980.

After being appointed the Massey Ferguson franchise for Essex in 2001, Challenger joined the line up in 2003 with the area expanding to Kent and East Sussex in 2010. As the company went from strength to strength, Crawfords took on Fendt, for Essex and Kent, in 2010, and by 2014 fellow AGCO franchise Valtra was also on board.

To better serve its vastly growing customer base, in 2013 the Essex-based dealer opened a new branch in Charing, Kent, which was further extended just two years later to keep up with demand. In 2018, the head office team moved to purpose-built premises in Writtle, Essex and in 2019 another new depot in Billingshurst, West Sussex was opened.

Today, alongside the AGCO range, the super dealership, which is now headed up by Bob’s son Wes Crawford, is also able to offer a host of premium brands including Amazone, Can-Am, HM Trailers, Isuzu, Krone, Manitou, Spearhead and Väderstad.

Sitting in the Billingshurst branch’s impressive conference room, overlooking the Sussex countryside, branch sales manager James Robson explains that the secret to success lies in the service-driven company ethos.

“Farming is not just a way of life for our customers; the entire team live and breathe British agriculture,” said James Robson, who previously looked after sales across East Sussex and Kent. “We understand that this is not a 9 to 5 sector and it is our flexible work ethic which allows us to always put customers first. Service was always something which Bob paid particular attention to when he started the company 40 years ago. There are now over 85 people working across the three branches and we all pride ourselves on the level of after-sales customer care.”

Having taken on the Sussex area in January 2019, with the new fully functioning sales showroom, parts, service and workshop facilities officially opening in Billingshurst on 5 June, Crawfords is able to offer its range of premium brands and unbeatable service throughout the South East.


“10 years ago sales reps would take the product to the customer, but today farmers already know what they want and their buying decisions are largely based on which dealer is going to be able to provide the best after sales and back up support,” said James. “We don’t have any budget ranges, it is all premium equipment and our customers know that they are not only getting the very best tractors or machinery, but we will do everything we can to keep them farming.”

While the geographical area might be vast, extending from North Essex, down to Dover and across to the M3, Crawfords is able to share resources across all branches to ensure that parts, support vehicles and skilled technicians are always exactly where the customers need them to be.

“By covering a larger area, we have the ability to be more responsive to customers’ needs,” said James. “Currently there are 26 technicians working across the group allowing us to provide service and attend emergency breakdown call outs throughout the territory. We are always looking for talented technicians and if the right person came along we would find a suitable role for them.”

Understanding the pressures and challenges farmers face, in the event of a serious breakdown, the dealership has a fleet of product support tractors, which can be provided to customers with warranty and service packages.

“We also have five product support specialists who are on-hand to answer any in-field questions,” said James. “Modern day tractors are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and as well as fixing any functional issues, the product support specialists will often go out and do pre-season refresher courses with operators.”

Training is not only useful for those who may have had a new tractor or implement delivered out of season, it also helps drivers to optimise operations to ensure they are getting the most out of their equipment.

As growth continues, the premium brand dealership is now looking for a suitable location in Hampshire to establish a sales, service and parts support centre.

“You have to put the horse before the cart, and now we have settled into the new Billingshurst site we are looking for ways to better support customers located further west,” said James. “The sales, service and parts support centre, which will work in conjunction with Billingshurst, will be home to Hampshire sales representatives and technicians meaning we can continue to maintain the outstanding level of service that we currently provide in the East Hampshire area.”

Enhanced product portfolio

With a rapidly developing area and a strong reputation for looking after its customers, Crawfords has been appointed the coveted franchise for Manitou’s extensive range of materials handling equipment and access platforms across all three locations.

“We are incredibly fortunate to be added to Manitou’s network of dealers,” said James. “They manufacture the best telehandlers on the market and the range certainly complements and reinforces Crawfords’ existing line up of top sector brands. It has really enhanced our portfolio of products.”

Having attended extensive sales and service training courses at Manitou during December 2019 and with spare parts and stock delivered, the team at Crawfords was ready to support customers from January 2020.

“The range of options from Manitou is so diverse, we have something for every sector,” said James. “Materials handlers are often the most used machines on the farm and the new agricultural range features telehandlers with everything from 2 tonne lift capacity and 4 metre reach, to 4 tonne lift and 10 metre reach. We can also provide skid steer loaders, forklift trucks, pallet movers, stackers and reach trucks, scissor lifts and platforms; there really isn’t anything we can’t do.”

Whether looking for a telehandler, tractor, trailer or tedder, for those who feel overwhelmed by the diverse range of premium makes, models and specifications to choose from, Crawfords’ sales team is able to advise customers on what they actually need for their agricultural enterprises.

“It is about getting under the skin of the day-to-day farming operations as well as the long-term business plans to find a brand and model which will be ‘future-proofed’,” said James. “There is little point ordering a certain specification or horsepower tractor if the customer is planning to invest in an implement which needs additional features. We also take residual value into consideration to make sure that the customer is going to be able to get a good return when they come to trade it in. There is a science to understanding where the market is heading and looking to the long term.”

Once the perfect machine has been selected, the dealership is also able to help farmers and growers fix the costs of ownership with comprehensive warranty and servicing packages.

“The costs of production are forever edging closer and closer to market values across all sectors of agriculture,” said James. “Fixing overheads, such as the purchase, service and warrantee of the tractor is one of the best budgeting tools a farmer can use to make the cost of ownership both manageable and predictable. Most tractors are covered for five years or 6,000 hours but the Fendt range can be increased to eight years or 8,000 hours.”

With extensive warranty, those looking to upgrade their tractors after four years can also benefit from potentially higher trade in values, while those looking for used machines can benefit from a year’s warranty.

“We have a very up-to-date website and with our second-hand tractors, we often know the full history of the machines which gives customers extra peace of mind,” said James.

Photos: ©Martin Apps, Countrywide Photographic