Solution Selling For Agriculture

Strategically-minded agronomy managers are looking for an improved sales process result

ing in better customer experience, loyalty, and profits. Do these challenges ring true for you?

•  Achieve meaningful differentiation from other retailers that creates a competitive advantage.

•  Achieve more accountability for results from sales.

•  Become more process driven vs. “working hard” to improve operations, management, and sales.

Several years ago, I was introduced to Solution Selling and learned selling could be a quality process with predictable outcomes like manufacturing. My selling performance improved as I learned this innovative approach to solving customer problems vs. selling products. In these columns, I’ll introduce Solution Selling for Agriculture, the customized-for-ag version of the

world class sales performance system used by Microsoft and Dell Computer. We’ll focus on key objectives of Solution Selling, and discuss how to implement this proven process in your retail business.

•  Understand how customers buy, to align your selling activities.

•  Distinguish between latent and active opportunities.

•  Learn effective pre-call planning.

•  Create interest/increase credibility with customers/prospects.

•  Get growers to share high priority “pain” in their operation.

•  Enlist consultative dialogue that differentiates your business.

•  Qualify and disqualify opportunities based on objective criteria.

•  Gain more control over sales cycles.

•  Improve your win odds through effective closing techniques.

•  Avoid no-decision with prospective buyers.

Solution Selling for Agriculture is the “Connect” portion of a business model I call Analyze, Plan, Connect, Review. Before diving into Solution Selling, I want to overview the components of the model. Next month, we’ll focus on “Create,” the first step in the Solution Selling process, and cover the “Develop,” “Prove,” “Close,” and “Implement” steps in subsequent columns. I’ll end next summer by detailing Analyze and Planning as these fit well at that time of year.

Analyze: Where Am I Today?

If you don’t know where you are going any road will take you there. Ag retailers typically need to focus more on analysis.

•  Conduct a strategic assessment of how well you are aligned with customers. The Retailer Performance Monitor described last month will provide ideas in this area, and create a baseline for efforts to become more aligned with customer needs.

•  It’s essential to measure your Share of Business with key customers. I recommend doing this on a category basis (Chemical, Fertilizer, Seed, Services) at the company and territory level, and for all key customers.

•  Create a high-level diagnosis of the problems facing each of your key customers and potential prospects. In the Create and Develop steps of Solution Selling, we’ll detail getting customers and prospects to reveal business problems that deepen your relationship and widen your opportunities.

•  Identify and quantify specific opportunities at your company level and for each key customer that drives your business. Do the same for prospects.

Following the analysis, plan how you will move your business forward. Planning without the analysis of where you are produces unpredictable results.

•  Forecast/set goals for a sales territory/customer.

•  Do pre-call planning.

•  Identify potential pain and how it affects areas of a grower’s business.

•  Use job aids to build pre-call plans,  and strategies.

Connect

Sales people want to achieve their goals. The problem is they’re not sure how to get there. That’s what Connecting in Solution Selling is all about: following a pathway that’s proven in other industries. Solution Selling has three essential goals:

•  Stimulate interest in your offering with prospects and growers who represent growth opportunities.

•  Diagnose the customer’s business problems and create a vision of a solution.

•  Use job aids to manage, coach, and produce high performance sales results.

At the end of each Solution Selling cycle with a customer, we recommend conducting a review with your key customers (and prospects too). This review should focus on how well the plan developed during the Close and Implement steps of Solution Selling has solved the customer’s business problems. It will provide you and your customer with an opportunity to confirm needs, and identify gaps in performance that — if not addressed — may lead to reduced share of business.

The diagram at left shows this process is wide and deep.

Philosophy: Solution Selling helps you understand customer needs and buying behavior. Better alignment with customers’ and prospects’ needs improves sales performance.

Map: A series of defined and measurable steps leading to a predictable beneficial result.

Job Aids: These are ag-specific templates, guidelines, and prompters that facilitate the right action, the right way at the right time.

Management System: Solution Sell­ing can help managers transform the business from an internal operations focus to an external customer focus.

Implementation: Achieve a sustainable High Performance sales culture focused on customer needs.

Solution Selling for Agriculture drives predictable, customer-focused selling that accomplishes critical results.

•  Increased share of business with high-potential customers.

•  Improved customer retention from better alignment of retailer “solutions” to customer problems.

•  Improved forecasting accuracy and pipeline management of opportunities.

•  Effective territory management.

•  Improved ability to develop and implement targeted selling campaigns.

Leave a Reply

Management Stories
ManagementMACA 2014: The State Of The Agricultural Industry, And Then Some
October 9, 2014
The trade association’s annual gathering featured speakers from across agriculture and beyond. Read More
StewardshipA Multi-Layered Approach To Water Quality
October 6, 2014
Illinois event highlights research and technology designed to better monitor and improve water quality — and the benefits of cooperative, coordinated effort. Read More
StewardshipMichigan Agriculture Leaders On Toledo Water Ban: We Want To Be Part Of The Conversation
August 8, 2014
Leaders of Michigan agricultural organizations said Thursday that the government should not have a “knee-jerk reaction” based on last weekend’s water ban in Toledo due to fertilizer run-off in Lake Erie. Read More
ManagementRussia Bans U.S. And EU Ag Product Imports In Ukraine Sanctions Battle
August 7, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin has banned the import of agricultural goods from countries that have imposed sanctions on Russia. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
CropLife 100Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
March 3, 2015
Two CropLife 100 retailers — South Dakota Wheat Growers (ranked No. 11) and North Central Farmers Elevator (No. 19) — have entered into a Letter of Intent to unify the two companies into a newly named cooperative. Read More
Growmark Group
CropLife 100GROWMARK In 2015: Back, To The Future
March 2, 2015
The nation’s third largest ag retail organization is simultaneously moving forward while remembering its past. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location In Indiana
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More
Carl Casale of CHS
CropLife 100Cooperative CHS Returns $518 Million To Owners
February 23, 2015
The 2015 cash return to owners is based on CHS net income of $1.1 billion, the company's second highest on record. Read More
Latest News
FungicidesSyngenta Suing Willowood Over Azoxystrobin Fungicide
March 27, 2015
Syngenta announced today that it has sued agrochemical maker Willowood, LLC., for patent and copyright infringement, as well as unfair Read More
ManagementRetail Week: The Future Of Mycogen Seeds; The 4Rs At Na…
March 27, 2015
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Matt Hopkins discuss recent trips, including a look at the future of Mycogen Seeds at Dow Read More
Eric SfiligojMonsanto Hears The WHO
March 27, 2015
Another challenge to the safety of glyphosate, and the responses from supporters and opponents, calls to mind a classic Dr. Seuss story. Read More
Industry NewsMonty’s Plant Food Expands Sales Team
March 27, 2015
Monty’s Plant Food Company, a leader in natural soil enhancement and  plant fertility products, has hired Andrew Bullock as a Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Louisiana Plant Poised For 2015 Production
March 26, 2015
As the 2015 planting season gets underway, growers across the country will need crop protection products to combat pests and Read More
Lake Erie Nutrient Stewardship
LegislationOhio Lawmakers Finalize Phosphorus Restrictions
March 25, 2015
State lawmakers on Wednesday finalized new rules designed to curb toxic algal blooms on Lake Erie, calling the regulations a major step forward in addressing the problem. Read More
Spreaders17 Fertilizer Spreaders For 2015
March 25, 2015
Manufacturers shoot for versatility and accuracy in this year's crop of fertilizer spreaders. Read More
Industry NewsMonty’s Hires Mid-South Product Consultant
March 25, 2015
Monty's Plant Food Co. has hired Matt Woodring as a Product Consultant for portions of Central Kentucky and Tennessee.    Read More
StewardshipMapShots Integrates With DriftWatch
March 23, 2015
Growers and agricultural providers using AgStudio FARM and AgStudio PRO can now view vital information about specialty crops and apiaries through a recent integration with the DriftWatch Specialty Crop Site Registry from FieldWatch, Inc. Read More
Crop InputsWorld Health Organization Report Contradicts Scientific…
March 23, 2015
A new report from the World Health Organization has classified glyphosate with a “2A” rating as a probable carcinogen, a Read More
Eric SfiligojSeed Treatment Stays Necessary
March 20, 2015
Grower-customers looking to scale back spending in 2015 won’t consider seed treatment, say experts. Read More
HerbicidesMARCH MADNESS: Industry Rallies Around Glyphosate Safet…
March 20, 2015
A newly published report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies the herbicide glyphosate as a "2A-rated possible carcinogen" and the ag industry responds by circling the wagons. Read More
ManagementRetail Week: Precision survey, a technology acquisition…
March 20, 2015
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sflilgoj discuss recent travel, the upcoming precision adoption survey, and an unusual sighting at a Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Crop InputsBioSafe Launching TerraGrow Soil Inoculant
March 20, 2015
TerraGrow is a blend of beneficial bacterial and fungal spores and nutrients carefully designed to promote healthier soil and crops. Read More
Winter Wheat
AdjuvantsMax Systems Debuts New Adjuvant NanoRevolution 2.0
March 18, 2015
Added to a tank mix of glyphosate at the conservative rate of two to four ounces per acre, NanoRevolution 2.0 has proven effective in killing resistant weed species that had already had up to two applications of the leading glyphosate product. Read More
Photo credit: United Soybean Board/the Soybean Checkoff
Seed/BiotechAgnition Launches Microbial Catalyst Seed Treatment
March 18, 2015
Agnition it has launched Commence for Soybeans, a microbial catalyst seed treatment for soybeans that stimulates microbial activity for healthier soil and a superior growth environment. Read More
4R Certified, Nutrient Stewardship Council,
StewardshipTyler Grain & Fertilizer Now 4R Certified
March 18, 2015
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced Tyler Grain & Fertilizer Co. in Smithville, OH, has been added to Read More