Agriculture data shouldn't replace on the ground, one-on-one conversations with farmers. In fact, this kind of data can help improve your conversations and get farmers talking about their needs.
But nothing derails a potential sale like letting slip a bit of info a farmer thinks you shouldn’t be aware of. Even though there’s certainly nothing wrong with gathering as much information as you can before heading out on the sale - most farmers expect you’ll do that - you must be mindful to not present information awkwardly or in a way that’s going to turn farmers off.
Making a targeted presentation based on data you’ve collected requires you to walk a very fine line between informed and creepy.
Similar to how the phrase “used car salesman” probably evokes a very specific, possibly negative image to you personally, you want to ensure that your sales tactics don’t come off in such a way that farmers have a bitter taste in their mouths when they think back on your conversation.
Your sales presentation needs to be as natural as possible if you want to make meaningful connections. Just because you’ve extensively researched farmers before visiting with them doesn’t mean you need to present information in an awkward format and try to cover every point of data you’ve ascertained.
When you’re chatting with a friend or coworker, you don’t bring in unnecessary information you know about them, like their birthdate or middle name. Sure, you might know these things, but in daily conversation they’re simply irrelevant.
Ideally, you want your conversations with farmers to flow like natural conversations you’d have with those in your office or around the table at a family gathering. Natural conversations with no pressure to opt in or push a sale tend to bring down barriers that farmers put up when they’re conversing with salespeople they know are ultimately going to try to sell a product.
This isn’t to say that you simply chat about the weather, but this does mean you may need to revise your approach if you have a particularly strong presentation. Part of establishing relationships with farmers means that you’ll gain a deeper connection with farmers that you’re working with - even though it may require some sacrificed time and slower sales to help build those connections.
Unless you’ve got a product with an incredibly short buying cycle or are offering something particularly inexpensive and/or disposable, investing this time up front will have greater payoff in the long term. In fact, most sales professionals recommend lead nurturing and relationship building over making a hard, fast pitch that demands a response on day one.
Bottom line: If you’ve got the time to organically nurture relationships, take it.
Don’t Show Your Cards
Just because you have insider information doesn’t mean you have to show it off. Few lines can sour a budding client relationship like: “I found some information on your farm through a list I purchased!”
Don’t be that person.
When you have access to privileged data, you have the responsibility to use it in an ethical and considerate way.
Sure, you have the data to help you make more sales. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, many farmers even expect that companies will research them before trying to sell them.
Inconsiderate sales practices undermine the value of the hard work you’ve already done to collect and analyze your data. You need to play your cards wisely, revealing bits of information as they become relevant, or simply storing them away in the event you need them.
Data analysis is important before you ever set foot in the field. You can build farmer profiles based on the data you’ve collected to have a more complete picture of the individuals who you’ll be working with.
When you read a book, the more information you can glean about a main character, the better a mental image you have of that character: their appearance, likes and dislikes, aspirations and so forth. Most readers are put off by authors who dump a bunch of superfluous details in the first chapter or two. Sure, you can get a picture of the character, but other essential elements of the story, like setting and plot, get buried under a glut of information.
Apply this concept to your farmers before you ever set foot on their property. Use your data to understand your farmer’s business practices, preferences, technological understanding and more.
When you have a more complete picture of the individuals you hope to do business with, you don’t need to be a faucet of information, spouting data throughout a conversation. Instead, you can be an informed agent who acts more like a friend than a solicitor.
Trust is an essential component of developing strong working relationships with farmers in your territory. Think about an expensive product that you’ve purchased recently. Did you prefer the salesperson you felt you could trust and who you felt would consider your best interest, rather than her bottom line? Or did you prefer the salesperson who seemed pushy and willing to say whatever it took to make the sale - on his terms?
For most people, that’s a pretty easy answer: we want to work with salespeople who we feel are honest and are going to consider our interests, even if that means selling a mid-level product that carries a much smaller commission than some of the more expensive items.
In marketing and sales, selling higher end products requires a long period of nurturing relationships and building trust. This is where data analysis comes in. Showing farmers that they can trust you and that you understand their wants and needs means that you’re going to build stronger relationships over the long run.
Even if you’re not selling large pieces of expensive machinery, trust is important if you want to encourage repeat business. You can rather easily nab one sale with an inexpensive product without having to invest much into relationships and trust building. But when it comes to making a repeat purchase, will the farmer come back to you or get in line with a competitor who’s using the same tactics you did last time?
Repeat business is much less expensive and time consuming to generate over the life of your business. The amount of revenue a client can generate throughout the duration of your working relationship is called the customer lifetime value. The more your clients trust you and return to your brand, the higher this number is for each client. But customer retention isn’t a static process.
Building trust and relationships with your clients ensures that your business is the one they’ll return to year after year when they’re looking for production inputs. Then when your farmers have new needs or you launch a new product line, you’ll have a solid connection to reach them - and they will be less likely to consider your competitors for a comparable product.
Discern Farmers’ Problems Before Offering Solutions
You want to solve problems. The products and services that you sell are custom-tailored to some problem that farmers face on their land or in their farm management practices.
Sometimes, your farmers are entirely unaware of their needs or that your product or service offers a solution that’ll improve their day to day operations. However, sales tactics that start with solutions before exploring real and tangible problems your farmers face are likely to result in failure.
Part of developing relationships and building trust is active listening. This means taking time to physically sit down with a farmer and discuss the challenges that they experience in running their farm or managing their land.
Maybe you have a solution that’s an immediate fit. Or maybe your solutions are better included as part of a one- to five-year plan your farmer has only begun to develop.
While you may be able to capture a percentage of the market with a solutions-first sales strategy, you’ll make far less meaningful connections. You’ll also lose a large portion of your market that has future needs for your products but doesn’t plan to buy today.
All of this plays back into taking time to nurture individual relationships with the farmers in your territory. As you make more connections and have more organic conversations, you’ll begin to connect dots that no other sales strategy could offer.
Additionally, you may uncover territory-wide challenges that allow you to explore more ways to serve farmers in your region or connect with related growers.
Time spent investing in relationships is never wasted. You can use your data analysis to create comprehensive profiles of the farmers in your territory, and then take that information to make meaningful first connections.
Even when you think you’ve got an obvious solution for your farmers, take time to get to know them. Have conversations about the struggles they face and let your solutions naturally flow into the conversation, at the right time and place.
Eventually, you’ll establish incredibly strong relationships throughout your territory. You’ll make more sales year over year, and you’ll become an invaluable component in the local fabric of your territory.
None of these benefits can be achieved through solutions-first or high pressure sales tactics. Nor can they be achieved when you simply don’t know anything about your farmers.
Well-curated data analysis and solid relationships work in tandem to allow you to develop a sales strategy that will propel your business to the next level.