Sowing Seed Sales

Top seed retailers we talked with don’t beat around the bush. They use terms like “24/7″ and “12-months-a-year” to describe the level of commitment needed for success. But what does that look like on the ground in a dealer’s business?

Devoting Resources

Scot Sparks, seed division manager, says one thing that Hintzsche Fertilizer did right more than 10 years ago was hire one person full-time to be in charge of seed. “Someone with a seed background, who understands the business and gets up every morning thinking, ‘Okay, how are we going to grow the seed business?’” he describes.

You’re fighting for time, he admits. “Getting our sales people to take on another line of products to sell that has different timing — or in some cases the same time frame … it’s more work for them. It’s not like they weren’t already fully employed and busy.”

Retailers can combine business and training at meetings. That’s what happens at Frontier FS, says Bob Williams, crops marketing manager. The company’s 22 crop salesmen meet for a full day once a month, with dates set a year in advance. One quarter of the time is spent on company issues, while 75% focuses on “marketing, training, and just seed corn,” says Williams.

Frontier FS leadership doesn’t balk at the time needed to build the seed business. Williams said they made this resource commitment when the first RoundUp Ready bean came out. “They recognized the industry was evolving to where to generate the same income per acre, we’d have to have the seed business too, beyond fertilizer and chemical inputs,” he says.

Another reason Frontier FS makes seed such a focus: Seed buying is an emotional decision for growers, explains Williams. “With fertilizer and chemicals, it’s not the same kind of emotion — as long as you get a dead weed out there, they really don’t care what the herbicide is. But seed is a living plant that they run through the yield monitor. If a farmer makes a bad decision, he’s got to look at it all year. And at the coffee shop, he’s got to hear about the neighbor’s 200-bushel corn, while he’s getting 150.”

While Frontier FS did not need more personnel for seed, the firm did need a few more buildings. The company has constructed two 60- x 80-foot seed warehouses, at a price tag of $80,000 each — and has plans to build two more. Williams adds that one nice thing about seed products is that both staff and trucks already on hand can be utilized before the spring rush.

Hintzsche was able to utilize both warehouse space and personnel already in place as the company entered the seed business.

Limiting Lines

Mark Risley, marketing director with Wyffels Hybrids, says that retailers carry a limited number of brands. “What kind of company do you want to be?” he asks. He believes dealers should not just be vendors, but partners. “Focus on 6 to 10 hybrids which do well in an area and recommend a package to customers.”

Hintzsche has three primary suppliers (Monsanto, Wyffels, and LG Hybrids). “We’ve dealt with five or six different companies, but either their support of our customers has not been adequate, or their performance and quality, or just their lack of getting things done businesswise — like not being up-to-date — have eliminated them from the pool,” says Sparks.

At Frontier FS, seed lines include the FS brand (from GROWMARK), NK, and Monsanto. “We have a great relationship with our seed partners,” says Williams. Indeed, those good vibes mean a lot at crunch times. “If a variety is short when you go to order and you’ve got a good relationship, they’ll find the seed for you. We sold just shy of 54,000 bags of seed this year, and there were only about 90 bags of corn we couldn’t get — it might not always be the grade size, but we get the variety we want,” he describes.

Risley advises retailers to be thinking a year ahead, anticipating what varieties growers will need and want next year. “You can’t ask them enough questions,” he says.

Risley and the dealers CropLife® talked with emphasized the need to trial varieties in local conditions. The key, believes Dave Jacobson, owner of Jacobson Seed, is regional performance. “The traits are great, but they’re being offered by many companies,” he says.

Customer Care

“I see all my customers every year, whether they’ve bought with me last season or not,” says Jacobson. Hence, of all the ways to improve seed business, one-on-one customer care came to the fore.
“We have the varieties to match up to growers’ management practices and soil types but so does everyone else,” says Williams. “Our advantage is that we’re on the farm all the time. There’s that trust that we could probably best match the varieties up with their farm.” At presstime, Frontier FS’ sales force was walking growers’ fields, digging roots, looking for rootworm events, and checking to see what hybrids were working on farms.

Retailers are in a unique position to service customers — in many cases better than local independent seed reps. The ag industry has created a host of business tracking systems to help retailers monitor a grower’s field and buying histories. Information already on hand from fertility and chemical recommendations is precious and fits perfectly into helping growers choose hybrids or varieties.

“Varieties and placement are getting to be a bigger deal, than with the tie-in with chemicals,” says Sparks. “It means trying to keep hybrids out of places we know are just a disaster waiting to happen.” Growers really need a retailer’s expertise.

The biggest challenge in seed sales today is maintaining those grower relationships, says Risley. “Care for customers, don’t just service them. Hire representatives with the same vision and passion. Go beyond their expectations.”

Leave a Reply

Seed/Biotech Stories

Seed/BiotechWater Optimized Seed Flowing Freely
April 1, 2014
As the demand for ag to diminish its water use while maintaining high yields and crop quality increases, three companies are leading the movement to grow more with less water. Read More
Seed/BiotechBayer Applies For Seed Treatment That Protects Against Sudden Death Syndrome
February 26, 2014
If approved, ILeVO seed treatment would be the first product to provide breakthrough protection for soybean seedlings from the soil borne pathogen Fusarium virguliforme, the fungus that causes SDS. Read More
Seed/BiotechSeed Still Central
November 1, 2013
Advancing genetics continue to make seed the crop variable that calls the shots for the season. Read More
Seed/BiotechBayer CropScience, Northstar Agri Industries Launch New Canola Hybrid
October 16, 2013
Northstar Agri Industries and Bayer CropScience have announced the addition of the InVigor L252 hybrid to the Northstar Star Growers High Oil Contract. Read More

Trending Articles

Green Valley Ag facility
Retail FacilitiesGreen Valley Ag Adopts A.J. Sackett’s Precision Fertilizer Blending® Technology At New Facility
July 8, 2014
Sackett's Precision Fertilizer Blending® Technology is making huge strides around the world. Green Valley Ag adopts the technology at its new facility to support its advancing agronomic needs. Read More
Retail FacilitiesWaconia Manufacturing Builds Facility Designed For Speed, Efficiency
July 7, 2014
To make its new hub facility more efficient, Cooperative Elevator enlisted the aid of Waconia Manufacturing. Read More
EquipmentSummer Show Preview 2014: Superior Sprayers Take The Field
July 3, 2014
In this final installment of our coverage of the major categories of Big IRON that retailers can expect to test-drive at this summer’s events, here is a look at 19 sprayers. Read More
Scouting a soybean patch at Green Valley Ag.
EmployeesCropLife Compensation Survey: Battling Talent Drain
July 2, 2014
Retailers too often lose employees to companies outside of agriculture, while recruiting efforts are most often limited to competitors and other ag-focused organizations. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Introduces SureStart II Herbicide
June 16, 2014
The enhanced formulation has improved viscosity and increased stability under heat and controls more than 60 high-anxiety grasses and broadleaf weeds found in corn fields. Read More
HerbicidesBASF Investing $270 Million To Expand U.S. Herbicide Production
June 11, 2014
BASF has invested more than $270 million to expand herbicide production capacities in the U.S., including more than 20 new products to be launched over next two years. Read More

Latest News

StewardshipMonsanto Joins Panel Of Innovators To Advance Research …
July 30, 2014
Monsanto Co. and The Climate Corp., its division, recently joined a roundtable of experts at the White House to share ideas and research approaches to help the world’s farmers manage and adapt to the impact of climate change on the global food supply. Read More
Crop InputsSoybean Checkoff Produces Big ROI
July 30, 2014
Under the soy checkoff program, all U.S. soybean farmers contribute a small percentage of their gross soybean sales for research and marketing projects that maximize their profit potential. Read More
CropLife 100Learfield Sports, CHS Agree To Football-Centric, Colleg…
July 30, 2014
CHS Inc. will embark on a highly integrated collegiate sports sponsorship platform with 24 Division I universities in 19 states designed to reach the farmer-owned cooperative's rural owners and customers. Read More
LegislationUSDA Implements Key Farm Bill Crop Insurance Provision
July 30, 2014
The new Supplemental Coverage Option, available through the federal crop insurance program and set to begin with the 2015 crop year, is designed to help protect producers from yield and market volatility. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Forms New Organizational Structure For Its…
July 30, 2014
The new structure will provide more responsive internal support and will allow regional vice presidents and area managers to spend more time with customers, on talent development and on operational excellence across branches. Read More
Palmer pigweed in cotton
HerbicidesNew Training Modules On Herbicide Resistance Now Availa…
July 30, 2014
The Weed Science Society of America has announced the availability of three new education modules on herbicide resistance in weeds. Read More
HerbicidesWillowood To Market Glufosinate
July 28, 2014
Willowood USA recently announced that Federal EPA has approved its technical registration for glufosinate. Read More
InsecticidesHow To Scout For Corn Earworms In Corn
July 28, 2014
In her weekly report, University of Missouri Agronomy Specialist Jill Scheidt discusses what to look for when scouting for corn earworm. Read More
Crop InputsDuPont Pioneer, Weyerhaeuser Enter Technology License A…
July 28, 2014
The agreement brings together agricultural and forestry know-how to sustainably improve crop productivity for corn growers around the world. Read More
EquipmentAGCO Launches Global iPad App
July 28, 2014
The free AGCO Global iPad App can be downloaded from the Apple iTunes Store and features the full family of RoGator self-propelled sprayers and TerraGator high-floatation spreaders. Read More
Eric SfiligojYuma Centennial Ag Supply Earns 2014 National Environme…
July 28, 2014
Colorado-based ag retailer receives top trophy in 24th annual DuPont Crop Protection/CropLife ceremony. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Forms Alliance With Wildlife Managment, Seed O…
July 25, 2014
The strategic alliance will provide Tecomate with key wildlife products, processing facilities, distribution centers and sales through Pinnacle’s ever-growing retail network. Read More
ManagementFranken Presses White House On RFS Support
July 25, 2014
Al Franken and a group of Senate democrats recently met with senior White House official John Podesta to urge the administration to change its position on an EPA proposal. Read More
ManagementASA, FarmLink To Launch ‘Operation Benchmark̵…
July 25, 2014
The American Soybean Association (ASA) and FarmLink are teaming up to help farmers close the $11 billion gap between what they harvested in 2013 and what they could harvest annually. Read More
StewardshipNorthey: Farmers Commit $1.4 Million to Try New Water Q…
July 25, 2014
The practices that are eligible for funding include cover crops, no-till or strip till and using a nitrification inhibitor when applying fall fertilizer. Read More
Precision AgFarmers Learn How Changing World Will Impact Iowa
July 24, 2014
Technology and understanding global consumer demand for Iowa farm products brought hundreds of farmers and agribusiness leaders to Ames recently for the annual Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Economic Summit. Read More
HerbicidesPurdue: Late Season Weeds May Require Manual Removal
July 24, 2014
Hand-rouging and pulling late season weeds by hand may be the best way to remove them, more so than using a herbicide, a Purdue Extension weed scientist says. Read More
Soybean Field
InsecticidesTransform WG, Closer SC Insecticides Receive R&D 10…
July 23, 2014
Dow AgroSciences has received the award from R&D Magazine for Transform WG insecticide and Closer SC insecticide with Isoclast active. Read More