Margin Minders

Employee training

Maintaining profitable margins requires more than just good recordkeeping and aggressive selling. In today’s tight markets, finding innovative ways to deliver more value to your customers can keep even your most challenging market segments profitable.

In this article, some of the marketing experts from Agriliance offer their advice on how to mind, and maybe boost, your company’s sales margins.

1. Don’t just sell seed; promote the package. Biotech traits in the major crops are now available from nearly every seed company, so more emphasis is being put on identifying advantages in yield and genetics that are part of a solid seed package, says Peter Peerbolte, director of seed traits and seed treatments. “When the next generation of biotech traits arrives, such as drought tolerance and greater nitrogen efficiency, there will be competition to offer those traits exclusively for a year or two, but overall competition in seed will continue to center around who can provide the best package of products and information,” says Peerbolte.

2. Sell the value of seed treat­ments. Seed treatments offer dealers a way to create new revenues while offering producers early-season seed and seedling disease and insect protection. The key to generating revenues with a seed treater is to be dedicated to selling the value of seed treatments, says Nathan Wright, business manager for seed treatments and grain protectants. “The dealership may have purchased the seed treater for use primarily on soybean or cotton seed, but they should also be looking for other crops to use it with, such as fungicides on wheat,” says Wright. “The more units you treat, the quicker the payback.”

3. Mix in more products. An­other way to boost margins on seed treatments is to add other products to the treatment mix, he says. “Is there benefit in adding a seed-applied insecticide, fungicide, or inoculant into the mix? Is there value you can market to the producer? Often the answer is yes,” says Wright.

Other seed enhancement products, such as micronutrients, can be delivered via the seed coating to boost early season plant growth. “Agriliance’s new Advanced Coating Zn is a good example,” says Wright. “Field tests on corn the past two seasons have demonstrated a noticeable response to the addition of Zn, with faster emergence and better stands.”

With spray adjuvants, you need to sell on value, not price, says Bob Herzfeld, adjuvants business manager. “Farmers are certainly price conscious, but they will pay for something that works, so show them how these products will make their herbicides or insecticides more effective,” says Herzfeld. “A good example is how a water conditioner such as Alli­ance will help their glyphosate work better, especially on tough weeds and in dry conditions, or if they have hard water.”

Deposition agents offer great value in making insecticide and fungicide applications more effective, he notes. “InterLock, for example, actually increases droplet speed by as much as 40%, which delivers it down below the crop canopy for much better control, and keeps up to 20% more active ingredient in your field,” says Herzfeld.

4. Don’t miss opportunities in stored grain. Grain protectants are another product area that hold a lot of promise for boosting profitability this coming season, says Wright. “With the expected increase in corn acres, and more of it going into on-farm storage, there is a real opportunity to sell the benefits of grain protectants,” he says. “Actellic, for example, can protect against key pests in corn up to 18 months, and there are no shipping restrictions after use. And a typical 4- to 8-cent-per-bushel cost to the producer seems like a fairly affordable form of grain storage insurance.”

5. Charge enough for applying product. Field applications services are often under-valued, usually because the dealer doesn’t have an accurate sense of the costs, says Jeff Speckman, equipment marketing specialist. “You should be using the custom application segment of the business as a revenue stream and not subsidizing it with product margins,” says Speckman.

6. Take advantage of new technologies. Larger sprayer equipment with auto-boom technology may be worth the investment if you have enough acres to cover, says Speckman. “The new technologies solve many of the challenges of running a wider boom, and help reduce operator stress,” he says.In fertilizer applicators, the latest upgrades in spinner technology provide great accuracy for a smaller investment and less maintenance cost than air-powered applicators, he notes. “They’re not a replacement for air technology but give you a lower-cost way to apply dry fertilizers on more acres, just as accurately,” says Speckman.

7. Spread fertilizer buying risk. With major supply changes occurring in the fertilizer markets over the last two years, dealers and growers need to take a longer view of their purchases, says Bruce Vernon, director of crop nutrient marketing and risk management services. “They need to consider buying product at least eight months out to ensure adequate supplies, but that can leave them vulnerable to price volatility,” says Vernon. “That’s why they need a risk management plan.”

To meet this growing dealer need, Agriliance has developed the Risk Management Service for Crop Nutrients, which provide dealers with market analysis and position-track software, access to a secure Web site that provides constantly updated global market intelligence, and customized consulting with a dedicated risk management advisor.

8. Train your people. Good service is key to retaining customers and winning new ones, but providing a high level of service requires well-trained people. “The level of technical knowledge that employees need to have today is very high, and regular training is essential,” says Jim Tiedke, agronomy production manager. “We try to meet that need by offering many types of training, including classroom, in-field, and online formats.”

9. Know your sales productivi­ty. Tracking the cost-to-return ratios of your sales force, individually and as a group, can help you to make the best use of each person, says Tiedke. “It’s not just about accountability but about finding ways to help your sales force do the best that they can.”

10. Market your expertise. If you’re not making money on the services you offer, maybe you need to focus more on selling your expertise, and adjusting your rates to account for it, Tiedke says. “Agriliance provides great technical training for agronomists, applicators, and salespeople. If your dealership takes advantage of that, then you can use it to differentiate your services from those of the competition” he says. “When you talk about service, it’s all about the people and their level of knowledge and training, so emphasize that.”

Leave a Reply

Management Stories

Young Corn Plants
ManagementTimac Agro USA Acquires Michigan Ag Retailer
January 20, 2017
Timac Agro USA, an agriculture supply company specializing in high-efficiency plant and animal nutrition products, has acquired St. Louis,MI-based A&E Ag, Read More
Sonny Perdue
LegislationTrump Formally Picks Perdue As Agriculture Secretary
January 19, 2017
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump officially announced Sonny Perdue as his choice for secretary of agriculture on Thursday, selecting a former Read More
ManagementPresident Trump, Wisconsin Review, and a Dow-DuPont Update
January 18, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj reflect on a new administration, a recent winter show, and crop protection company mergers. Read More
Werner Baumann, Bayer AG, and Hugh Grant, Monsanto
Industry NewsReport: Monsanto, Bayer CEOs Among Latest to Make Trump Tower Pilgrimage
January 18, 2017
The chief executive officers of German chemical giant Bayer AG and U.S. seed behemoth Monsanto, Werner Baumann and Hugh Grant, Read More
Trending Articles
AgriSync
Matt Hopkins17 Agriculture Apps That Will Help You Farm Smarter In 2017
December 9, 2016
Ag professionals are working smarter, not harder, than ever before. Smart farming technologies have enabled them to reduce costs, maximize Read More
R4023 Sprayer, John Deere
CropLife 100Ag Retail Equipment Report: The Green Party Continues
December 7, 2016
In the annual race for sales in the ag retail equipment marketplace, the color schemes for participants are a little Read More
Mike Stern
Precision AgClimate Corp. CEO Talks Retailer Support For Digital Ag
December 1, 2016
CropLife Magazine’s sister publication, AgriBusiness Global, recently sat down with Mike Stern, CEO of The Climate Corp., following the Monsanto subsidiary’s Read More
Precision AgTrimble Debuts End-to-End FMIS Platform
November 28, 2016
October’s inaugural PrecisionAg Vision Conference left this author with many thoughts and things to ponder in the coming months. Probably Read More
CHS Primeland
CropLife 100The 2016 CropLife 100 Report: Reviewing The Many Bulls And Bears Impacting This Year’s Marketplace
November 28, 2016
For virtually all of 2016, the nation was wholly focused on the big Presidential election. Some folks aligned themselves with Read More
Monsanto sign
Crop InputsMissouri Governor Meets With Bayer CEO To Discuss Monsanto Merger
November 21, 2016
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon visited Bayer AG global headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany, on November 18 to discuss the proposed Bayer-Monsanto Read More
Latest News
Young Corn Plants
ManagementTimac Agro USA Acquires Michigan Ag Retailer
January 20, 2017
Timac Agro USA, an agriculture supply company specializing in high-efficiency plant and animal nutrition products, has acquired St. Louis,MI-based A&E Ag, Read More
Soybean field
Crop InputsNufarm Teams Up With John Deere Financial
January 19, 2017
Nufarm and John Deere Financial have teamed up to help farmers grow a better tomorrow. This program helps make purchases Read More
Sonny Perdue
LegislationTrump Formally Picks Perdue As Agriculture Secretary
January 19, 2017
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump officially announced Sonny Perdue as his choice for secretary of agriculture on Thursday, selecting a former Read More
ManagementPresident Trump, Wisconsin Review, and a Dow-DuPont Upd…
January 18, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj reflect on a new administration, a recent winter show, and crop protection company mergers. Read More
Industry NewsBayer, MS Technologies Get China Approval For Balance G…
January 18, 2017
MS Technologies and Bayer have received import approval from China for Balance GT soybeans. The new Balance GT Soybean Performance Read More
Werner Baumann, Bayer AG, and Hugh Grant, Monsanto
Industry NewsReport: Monsanto, Bayer CEOs Among Latest to Make Trump…
January 18, 2017
The chief executive officers of German chemical giant Bayer AG and U.S. seed behemoth Monsanto, Werner Baumann and Hugh Grant, Read More
Giant Ragweed
HerbicidesStudy: Focusing On Weed Seedbank Can Help Manage Herbic…
January 18, 2017
Researchers writing in the latest issue of the journal Weed Science provide important insights on the control of herbicide-resistant giant Read More
Management3 Financial Trends To Watch In Agriculture
January 17, 2017
I recently had the opportunity to attend a meeting of credit managers for Midwest ag supply and input companies, in part Read More
Andersons Retail Store
CropLife 100The Andersons To Close All Retail Stores; Shutdown Does…
January 16, 2017
In a stunning announcement to the Toledo area, The Andersons Inc. said on Sunday that it would close its two Read More
Trimble TMX-2050 In-Cab Display
Eric SfiligojPrecision To Lead Agriculture In 2017?
January 16, 2017
Another new year is upon us! And I’m certain I speak for many in the agricultural world when I say Read More
Corn
Eric SfiligojThe Mood From Madison? In A Holding Pattern
January 16, 2017
Last week, I had the chance to attend the annual Wisconsin AgriBusiness Classic show in Madison, WI. It’s been a Read More
Syngenta Sign
Crop InputsAccenture Helps Syngenta Transform Its Global Logistics
January 13, 2017
Syngenta, a leading agriculture company, has collaborated with Accenture to design and implement a new digital logistics operating model across Read More
Fall Creek Seth Harden The Nature Conservancy
StewardshipLocal Farmers’ Watershed Initiative: Continuous Improve…
January 13, 2017
The goal in the Big Pine Watershed Project is to more intentionally do what local farmers and responsible ag retailers Read More
HerbicidesEPA Expands Enlist Duo Herbicide Registration To 34 Sta…
January 13, 2017
The U.S. EPA has expanded the geography for application of Enlist Duo herbicide from 15 to 34 states. This means Read More
Olson Ag Enterprise
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Acquires Nebraska Seed Retailer
January 13, 2017
Wilbur-Ellis’ Agribusiness, a recognized leader in precision agriculture technology and the distribution and marketing of plant protection, seed and nutritional Read More
ManagementDeere-Precision Planting Update and the Ag Secretary Wa…
January 12, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj provide the latest on the court date for John Deere/Precision Planting and the quest Read More
Monsanto sign
Seed/BiotechMonsanto, NRGene Form Agreement For Big Data Genomic An…
January 12, 2017
Monsanto Co. and NRGene have announced that the companies have reached a non-exclusive, multi-year global licensing agreement on NRGene’s genome-analysis Read More
AGCO Custom applicator
SprayersAGCO, Asmark Institute To Offer Training For Beginning …
January 11, 2017
AGCO Corp. and the Asmark Institute are collaborating to offer a new training program dedicated to educating and developing custom Read More