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

Monsanto sign
Crop InputsCould a Monsanto-Bayer Union Be 2 Weeks from Fruition?
August 24, 2016
Via STLToday.com (The St. Louis Post-Dispatch): Merger talks between Monsanto Co. and Bayer AG are advancing after a series of Read More
Seed/BiotechMycogen Seeds Research Station Celebrates 30th Anniversary
August 9, 2016
The Mycogen Seeds research station in Mount Vernon, IN, is celebrating 30 years of corn hybrid innovation. To mark the Read More
Peanut field
Crop InputsVerdesian Introduces New Inoculant For Peanuts
July 28, 2016
As planning begins for the next growing season, Verdesian Life Sciences adds Primo Power CL, a new liquid inoculant, to Read More
Soil Young Corn
Crop InputsSmithsonian: 5 Things to Know About New GMO Labeling Bill
July 27, 2016
On July 14, the House of Representatives passed a bill requiring large food companies to label products containing genetically modified Read More
Trending Articles
ASMARK 2016 Retailers Live! Tour - CPS
CropLife 100CPS Acquires Texas Retail Operation
August 23, 2016
Crop Production Services (CPS) has acquired the assets of Larry’s Chemical and Spray, Inc., for an undisclosed amount in an Read More
Key Cooperative Marcus Construction Steel Building
Retail FacilitiesMarcus Construction Builds High-Speed Agronomy Center For Key Cooperative
July 7, 2016
Key Cooperative in Grinnell, IA, wanted a state-of-the-art Agronomy Center to better serve its customers. Marcus Construction delivered exactly that. Read More
Heritage Cooperative
Retail FacilitiesKahler Automation Designs State-Of-The-Art Facility For Heritage Cooperative
July 4, 2016
Heritage Cooperative in Marysville, OH, needed an efficient liquid, dry and grain facility to serve the many needs of their Read More
The Andersons Waterloo
ManagementFirst Indiana Facility Certified Under 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program
June 27, 2016
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced that The Andersons, Inc.’s Waterloo, IN, facility has been added to its Read More
Food IT
Industry NewsCalifornia Event Will Mix Ag And Tech Professionals To Explore IT Solutions
June 20, 2016
Silicon Valley is hot on agriculture, and an upcoming event in California will bring together the food and tech industries Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Eric SfiligojWhat’s Next For Monsanto?
May 31, 2016
For the folks at Monsanto’s headquarters in St. Louis, MO, it has been an eventful few weeks. Back on May Read More
Latest News
2016 ShowStopper | Case IH Patriot 4440 Sprayer
Equipment5 Show-stopping Products On Display At 2016 MAGIE
August 26, 2016
For 10 years now, visitors to the yearly Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) show have been tasked with voting for Read More
Crop InputsDuPont Pioneer: Corn Belt P and K Levels Lagging
August 24, 2016
A new DuPont Pioneer study conducted across 12 Corn Belt states demonstrates that growers may be leaving profit potential in Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsCould a Monsanto-Bayer Union Be 2 Weeks from Fruition?
August 24, 2016
Via STLToday.com (The St. Louis Post-Dispatch): Merger talks between Monsanto Co. and Bayer AG are advancing after a series of Read More
EquipmentCase IH Debuts Nutri-Tiller 955 Strip-Till Applicator
August 24, 2016
With strip-till continuing to expand across new acres, Case IH designed the new Nutri-Tiller 955 strip-till applicator to help producers Read More
EquipmentCase Launches Aim Command FLEX, 25th Anniversary Patrio…
August 24, 2016
Case IH announces new AIM Command FLEX advanced spray technology for greater application accuracy, as well as special 25th Anniversary Read More
ASMARK 2016 Retailers Live! Tour - CPS
CropLife 100CPS Acquires Texas Retail Operation
August 23, 2016
Crop Production Services (CPS) has acquired the assets of Larry’s Chemical and Spray, Inc., for an undisclosed amount in an Read More
PrecisionAg Video Conference
Precision AgVideo: PrecisionAg Vision Conference
August 22, 2016
A Strategic Conference Focused on the Future of Farm Digitization and Precision Agriculture Visit precisionagvision.com and register today! Read More
Young Corn Plants
Industry NewsOABA Welcomes Nicole Wallace As Communication & Adm…
August 22, 2016
The Ohio AgriBusiness Association has hired Nicole Wallace as its communication and administrative coordinator. Wallace will help provide comprehensive communication Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsChemChina, Syngenta Receive Clearance From CFIUS
August 22, 2016
China National Chemical Corp. (ChemChina) and Syngenta have announced that the companies have received clearance on their proposed transaction from the Read More
ManagementAg Industry Shows and Rumors
August 18, 2016
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about the upcoming trade show schedule, crop protection merger updates, and content for Read More
MAGIE 2015
EquipmentMAGIE Takes The Pulse Of The Ag Retail Industry
August 18, 2016
Every year, one of the major highlights of my career as an ag journalist is attending the Midwest AG Industries Read More
MAGIE 2015 Overview
EquipmentPride In Professionalism On Display At MAGIE
August 18, 2016
The Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association (IFCA) is proud to partner with CropLife IRON and continue the tradition of bringing Read More
SprayersJenner Ag To Debut 25th Anniversary Edition Case IH Pat…
August 18, 2016
Visitors at the 2016 Midwest Ag Industries Exhibition (MAGIE) in Bloomington, IL, will have a unique photo opportunity, as Jenner Read More
Crop InputsEU Glyphosate Controversy Heating Up Yet Again
August 17, 2016
The battle over glyphosate rages on in Europe, creating a lot of question marks over whether the herbicide will continue Read More
Industry NewsNew Partnership Provides Improved Representation At Ohi…
August 16, 2016
The Ohio AgriBusiness Association (OABA) has retained Belinda Jones of Capitol Consulting Group, Inc. (CCG) for government relations work in Read More
Tissue testing
FertilizerMosaic: 6 Tips For Better Crop Nutrition In Corn
August 16, 2016
Late in the crop season is a good time to assess visual nutrient deficiencies and ensure early- and mid-season deficiencies Read More
WebinarsWebinar Schedule
August 14, 2016
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More
Dow DuPont
Crop InputsDowDuPont Update: EU Takes Closer Look at Merger
August 12, 2016
Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co. face months of haggling with European Union antitrust regulators who opened an in-depth probe Read More