Seed World

It’s Not the Marketplace — It’s Your Own Salespeople

Ninety percent of all agriculture salespeople aren’t succeeding in today’s marketplace. I guess that’s no secret. This is my 44th year in the business and I’ve watched it all happen. Any company managers who have seen their customer bases shrink, sales territories stagnate, and profits decline, know what I’m talking about.

What most of them don’t realize, however, is those downward trends aren’t caused by the changing marketplace but, instead, by their own sales reps who don’t have the skills necessary to sell to today’s farmers. Field sellers have not been staying ahead of all the changes taking place in this marketplace — they’ve fallen behind. How many sellers in your company get sales increases every year, regardless of the economy, market prices, competitor programs, or product performance? Less than one percent, I’ll bet.

The bright side is that any field seller can “kill it” in this marketplace if they have the specialized skills needed to lead 21st century farmers. The old techniques no longer work. Ag sellers must learn how to take back control and lead farmers where they don’t know they need to go. That is the secret to success.

Everyone keeps talking about the great opportunities in this marketplace. But for many companies this is not a time of opportunity — it’s a time of trouble. The way things are going right now, your customers are working to put you out of business and don’t even realize they’re doing it. That’s why company managers need to wake up and fix their selling force. When they stop fooling themselves into thinking that somehow out-of-date, untrained distribution systems are going to heal themselves and become effective selling machines, real progress will begin to take place.

At that point, leaders will stop spending so much time creating marketing strategies and sales programs for salesforces that aren’t capable of utilizing them and, instead, get their sellers into specialized training on how to sell to farmers. If a rep doesn’t know what to say when a farmer brings up price, markets, competitors, or wants to put off ordering, the sale is either lost or the customer gets his way. They need social skills training and lots of it.

How much longer will you stand by and watch one, two, or three years of lost margins turn into a long-term trend? That’s the fastest way I know to predict your future and, unless you fix your sales force, it’s not a bright one.