Give customers a reason to believe in you by offering plausible solutions to real problems
By Mike Karst, Senior Partner
There’s a reason why it’s easier to sell pain relievers than vitamins.
As humans, we’re inclined to direct our energy toward fixing our most acute problem—whether that’s a dull headache, a bleeding thumb, or signs of a nitrogen deficiency in an area of your cornfield. For a farmer, it may be all of the above.
Farmers, like anyone else, are compelled to fix what’s broken; and they turn to experts who can help them navigate their biggest challenges.
You may have the right programs and products to solve their problems; but yours aren’t the only ones on the market. You need to prove you have the best solution available, and highlighting the differences that will benefit them in your product/program vs. others shows them you know what you’re talking about and understand their pain. This goes a long way in building confidence and convincing prospects that they can believe in you.
Whether you’re at the retail or manufacturer level, you need to give your farmer-customers reason to believe that partnering with you or buying your product will resolve specific challenges they’re facing on their farm—those limiting factors that prevent them from reaching their true profit potential.
In the last issue we talked about the importance of gaining endorsement from trusted advisors. These advisors can also fill the role of objectively evaluating to match the solution to the need, and approach it holistically vs. one symptom at a time.
In order to get your customers to believe in you so they don’t leave you, you have to answer this question in every growers’ mind: Is it reasonable to believe this can actually solve my problems? Below are the keys to getting that done.
Sell the Solution, Not the Product
To earn customers’ trust, as agriculture industry professionals we need to be a cure for growers’ greatest pains and persistently ensure that the solutions match the needs.
Most products and services are not one-size-fits-all. Just like an antibiotic is not going to cure your cold virus, selling a high-population seed program to a farmer in an area that struggles with drainage and fertility is just going to create more issues. Even if you offer him free product or services as a bonus for planting your seed, you’ll have a lot of displeased farmers, to put it nicely, if your program makes their biggest threat to yields even worse.
We’ve had the privilege of working with many companies who have this figured out. Advanced Agrilytics in Huntington, IN, has built a crop consulting business around addressing growers’ most limiting factors by providing comprehensive and highly customized consulting services to growers.
“The ability of every product to influence every acre doesn’t happen uniformly. Not every acre experiences the same stress. How do we understand that and how do we impact the management of decisions in terms of the variations we see in attributes like tillage, compaction, and fertility,” says Kess Berg, CEO of Advanced Agrilytics. “Truly addressing those most limiting factors is what our mainstay is.”
“Farming is an assembly line of biological systems that all happen outside. Some variables we cannot control, and some we can—our challenge is to make our best effort to influence what we do have control over,” Berg says.
Approach Solutions and Relationships Holistically
Solving multiple customer needs increases the value you bring to your relationship with your growers.
Another benefit in this holistic approach is being able to monitor the impact one input has on all the others, because they do directly affect each other. For example, how do seed selection and variable rate fertilizer and fungicide application all interact? These affect each other immensely but that may not be apparent when you’re dealing with separate buying times and different sales people.
This broad-reaching approach is central to the mission of the crop consulting and agronomy testing team at Servi-Tech in Dodge City, KS. Servi-Tech covers a broad territory from the Rocky Mountains to Central Iowa and south into Texas.
“We’re here to capture the hearts of customers,” says Greg Ruehle, President and CEO of Servi-Tech. And they do that by serving a comprehensive range of growers’ needs, helping them keep an eye on the bigger picture, and tracking their progress year-over-year.
“We strive hard to be more than a one-trick pony, always working to create multiple opportunities to interact with growers. Soil sampling, fertilizer recommendations, advice on seed selection, crop scouting—we’re here to support the grower through all of this so he can say, ‘Be part of my insurance policy. Help me optimize my operation,’” Ruehle says.
“This is what a grower needs most of all: Show me what anomalies you find, and what maladies you can fix, and how that is going to make me more profitable,” Ruehle says.
Ruehle says every farm requires a different set of solutions. Case in point, one of Servi-Tech’s senior lab agronomists recently plotted average rainfall across their footprint, and found there is more difference in rainfall between the front range of the Rockies in Colorado and the Mississippi River in Iowa than there is from the Rockies to the west coast, or the Mississippi River to the East Coast.
“There’s a tremendous amount of variation, and that just proves services have to be tailored to the environment if they’re going to have a chance to be successful,” he says.
If what you’re offering is solutions-focused and you are able and willing to customize it to their specific needs, then farmers are going to be more willing to believe in you.
Help Growers Get More from Technology
“Growers have a big appetite for technology. They’re more hungry for data than any other generation that has preceded them. They want it and they rely on it, and if it’s been authenticated to them they’ll trust it,” Ruehle says.
New technologies—both agronomic and data analytics types—have created an ag industry that looks far different from what it did 10 years ago. Growers are on board, but sifting through the multitude of options available is complicated and time consuming. That’s a primary reason why they need expert consultants in their lives more than any other time in the history of production agriculture.
“The processing power today is incredible, and the granularity of data is so much better than in the past—but as an industry, we don’t use it well. We have so much opportunity to do better with the data we already have captured,” Berg says.
Because what good is information if you don’t use it to focus the shots you’re taking? Accessing the benefits of the cutting-edge technology available today starts with assimilating the data to create knowledge, then using that insight to provide customized solutions to each and every customer. If we can convert data into knowledge that shows what’s likely to improve their production system, we can bet the end result will be more savings and greater profit.
“When we sit down with a new grower, and he asks, ‘what can I expect as a return?’ My response to the grower is, ‘How can I know when I haven’t been on your farm?’ We never guarantee a yield increase, but we do guarantee an increase in knowledge,” Berg says.
Berg also adds, “But we’ve never had difficulty seeing improvement.”
At the end of the day, farmers want help solving problems, and they are willing to pay for results. They will make investments, even if there’s more risk involved, if they have reasons to believe it will satisfy critical limiting factors on their farm—whether those are financial, environmental, or operational in nature.
And, if you can show the specific differences that will benefit them by applying your solutions vs. others, it gives them reason to believe you know what you’re talking about and understand their pain.
Join us for our next article in the series when we profile retailers that are giving their customers reasons to believe.
If you’d like to talk through developing your Reason to Believe, contact Mike Karst at firstname.lastname@example.org or 901.753.0470.