Seed World

Independent Seed Companies’ Top Strengths are People and Customer Service

Relationships matter. People buy from people, particularly when it comes to emotional decisions such as buying seed. Seeds’ genetic potential has the biggest impact of any farming input, and growers tend to focus on agronomic relationships to maximize this potential.

Independent seed companies that base their success on relationships know this. Deep knowledge of field-by-field intricacies along with decision-making insights of the farm are critical to independent seed companies’ success. When growers spend ~4-12% of their crop budget on seeds (depending on crop), you can appreciate that this is the first decision of the season. Focusing on matching the right seed, maturity and seed treatment with the field potential is critical to optimizing farming results. Think about the simple breeders’ equation below and how many variables are involved, such as field characteristics, irrigation, planting rate, fertility, application timeliness, pests and beneficials, etc.

Yield (farm) = f (genetic potential + environment + agronomic decisions)

Independent seed companies, whether in licensing genetics/traits or investing in their own long-term breeding program, are made up of employees who should focus on the “customer experience.” A brand is nothing more than a customer experience. Customers will ask: Did a brand’s offering meet my needs and expectations? Was I treated fairly? Were they there when I needed help? Is the customer experience consistent year-over-year?

This is how today’s growers view the many choices they have when it comes to making farming decisions. Today’s farmers are having to adjust to the realization that farming does require business-like thinking instead of just agronomic choices. Succession planning, three- to five-year objectives, operating loan management and cash flows are now superseding loyalty to one outlet, trying out the latest greatest innovations or maintaining the status quo.

To be successful, independent seed company leaders must focus on the right culture and marketing strategy to fashion an employee mix that leads to consistent customer experiences.  

Ask the following questions:

Do customers view your brand as a solution provider? Is there trust? Will they tell you the truth even if there is a better solution? Is service an asset or liability? Can you deliver when the customer needs it? When issues happen in the field or Mother Nature strikes, are there risk management options? Can you pass the red face test when your people have to say no, which does happen? Do customers see your employees throughout the year and not just during booking and collection season? Can your employees set a planter or adjust a sprayer? Most importantly, do your employees always ask at the end of a grower visit: “Did I meet your expectations?”

Farming is a 24/7 way of life so helping alleviate the stress of all the variables farmers face is sometimes worth more than a simple discount. A salesperson’s most important job is to find out the grower’s unmet needs and expectations. After that, it’s pretty easy. Feedback is also very important to continue to do a better job.

Selling seed with myriad innovations to skeptical growers is a tough task. Pricing, discounts and terms aren’t the only value associated with selling seed. Value propositions must fit growers’ unmet needs and expectations!