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/BiotechSyngenta Delivers Two New Winter Wheat Varieties To Eastern Corn Belt
August 6, 2014
Adding to its portfolio of AgriPro brand wheat varieties, Syngenta introduces SY 007 and SY 474 soft red winter wheat varieties. Read More
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
Top 100 Articles
Milan Kucerak, president/CEO, West Central
CropLife 100West Central Cooperative And Its New President Are A Match Made In Deviation
June 29, 2015
To appreciate just how unique West Central Cooperative is in the world of ag retail, an observer need only consider Read More
Winter Wheat
CropLife 100South Dakota Co-op Member Owners Vote No On Unification
June 26, 2015
The Boards of Directors for North Central Farmers Elevator (NCFE) and Wheat Growers (WG) have announced that member-owners have voted Read More
CropLife 100The Andersons Acquires South Dakota Plant Nutrient Manufacturer Kay-Flo
May 20, 2015
The Andersons, Inc., ranked No. 22 on the CropLife 100, has purchased Kay Flo Industries of North Sioux City, SD. “This Read More
CropLife 100AgGateway’s Barcoding Initiative Progressing Nicely
May 8, 2015
According to legend (or Wikipedia), the first step towards modern bar codes came back in 1948, when Bernard Silver, a Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Grain Shuttle Loading Facility
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
Latest News
Agworld Apple Watch Farm Management
EquipmentAussie Data Management Software Company Making Its Mark…
July 4, 2015
Zach Sheely, vice president of sales and operations, says that several large, well-known U.S. cooperatives (Stanislaus Farm Supply, Wilco-Winfield and Read More
Topcon AGI-4 on MF Planter
EquipmentAutosteer: Compatibility, Accuracy Remain Top Of Mind
July 3, 2015
The world of automatic steering solutions in agriculture has evolved rapidly in the last few years. From after-market add-ons that Read More
ManagementUnited Suppliers/Land ‘O Lakes Merger & Crop Update
July 2, 2015
CropLife’s Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about the reasons behind the United Suppliers/Land ‘O Lakes merger and USDA’s recent Read More
Industry NewsBioSafe Adds To Sales Force
July 2, 2015
BioSafe Systems has announced the hire of two new members for its service team. David Britt recently joined the team Read More
Chesapeake Bay
ManagementChesapeake Bay Clean-Up Gets Renewed Attention
July 2, 2015
The Chesapeake Bay has been called one of the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world. It’s also one of Read More
Measuring Bulk Tanks
ManagementBulk Pesticide Compliance: Top 10 Areas Of Improvement …
July 1, 2015
  In honor of the 33-year run of David Letterman’s Late Show, the American Agronomic Stewardship Alliance (AASA) is happy Read More
Industry NewsArysta North America Hires Midwest Sales Manager
July 1, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced the hiring of Brian Battles as the Senior Technical Sales Manager for the Midwest Read More
Farmer on tablet
Eric SfiligojThe Never-Ending Battle Against Modern Agriculture
July 1, 2015
In the world of comic books, the character of Superman often refers to the fight to save the world as Read More
Retail FacilitiesBuilding Up Ag Retail
July 1, 2015
In the oftentimes unpredictable world we live in, it’s nice to know some things can be reliably countered on to Read More
Retail FacilitiesMaple River Grain And Agronomy Phases In Site Developme…
July 1, 2015
Marcus Construction helped Maple River Grain and Agronomy in Casselton, ND, with the design-build of its dry fertilizer, liquid chemical/seed Read More
Retail FacilitiesA&B Welding Builds A New Liquid Terminal Hub For Br…
July 1, 2015
To build its new hub facility, Briggs Crop Nutrients enlisted the help of A&B Welding. The result, an efficient facility Read More
Edon Farmers Co-op
Retail FacilitiesNew Marcus Facility At Edon Farmers Co-op Provides More…
July 1, 2015
Edon Farmers Co-Op in Edon, OH, needed a new facility to consolidate outdated locations. Marcus Construction was able to design Read More
Retail FacilitiesKinder Morgan Expands Its Storage With A New Dome Barre…
July 1, 2015
Kinder Morgan wanted additional covered storage at its Dakota Bulk Terminal on the Mississippi River in St. Paul, MN. With Read More
Retail FacilitiesHeartland Tank Protects Fertilizer From Extreme Cold At…
July 1, 2015
The Arthur Companies in Harvey, ND, enlisted the help of Heartland Tank Companies to develop a new liquid fertilizer facility Read More
The McGregor Co. fertilizer loadout
Retail FacilitiesThe McGregor Co. Partners With Kahler Automation To Cre…
June 30, 2015
Kahler Automation helped The McGregor Co. expand its Clarkston, WA, operation with unstaffed loadout technology that enables customers to pick Read More
Dry and Liquid Plant
Retail FacilitiesKahler Automation Helps CHS Dakota Ag Cooperative Build…
June 30, 2015
CHS Dakota Ag Cooperative in Mooreton, ND, wanted a liquid/dry blender system that could meet the needs of its customers Read More
Crop InputsLand O’Lakes, United Suppliers To Merge Crop Inpu…
June 29, 2015
Land O’Lakes, Inc. and United Suppliers, Inc. of Ames, IA, today announced their intent to merge their crop inputs businesses. Read More
FungicidesHelena To Distribute Unique Summit Agro Fungicide
June 29, 2015
RANMAN 400 SC fungicide, the only fungicide with a FRAC group 21 designation, is now part of the innovative Summit Read More