Need Answers From Your Grower-Customers? Go to the Source

Need Answers From Your Grower-Customers? Go to the Source

My son, the aspiring meteorologist who studies at THE Ohio State University, is working his way through the gauntlet of courses that largely exist to weed out the wannabees from those serious about this course of study. One of the tallest peaks one must climb is Calculus 2, and from talking to many of you about his attempts to wrestle this course to the ground, he’s not alone.


We got the glorious call from him that he had passed, ensuring the holidays would not be obscured in a gray cloud of frustration. But the journey from despair to ecstasy provided a key lesson.

After his initial crash and burn last spring semester, I went to my third-grade best buddy, John Grima, now a wicked-smart math professor, for some advice.

After acknowledging that Calc 2 is indeed more of a sinister plot to break human will than it is a practical tool for life, he boiled it down to this: YOU HAVE TO STICK UNWAVERINGLY TO WHAT YOUR INSTRUCTOR TELLS YOU TO DO. DO NOT GO OFF THE RANCH FOR ADVICE.

This made sense in my son’s case because I know he consulted other students, outside advice, YouTube videos … pretty much everybody BUT the person he needed to deliver for. Nuances in the problem-solving process can lead you down a path just wrong enough to earn you a failing grade.

He spent the entire semester in the professor’s office, working with the professor’s study groups and taking only practice tests provided by the professor. Bingo, he turned the F into a B.

This came to mind as I was interviewing Jeff Wessels, who manages the precision program for Frenchman Valley Cooperative in Imperial, NE. He came into the organization with more than 30 years of retail experience and spent his first full year getting acclimated and working with the sales and agronomy team.

One thing he stressed with them about precision services struck me that I will paraphrase: You can’t prequalify a farmer’s interest in precision services based just on age or what technology they own or what they’ve done in the past. You have to open up the conversation with everyone, stress the potential benefits, and incorporate whatever they do well to introduce them to the services you offer.

It’s easy to say, but it can be hard to do. Here in our office, we sometimes find ourselves short-cutting business interactions based on what we think readers and customers want. We’ll talk endlessly about some idea, mistakenly believing that an answer will drop from the sky sometime during the discussion, until it dawns on us, “Why don’t we just ask them?”

Make sure to take some one-on-one time, when it’s appropriate, to talk about farmers’ longer-term plans for their farms. Take time to put away the order books and have real conversations about their farm operations with no prequalification or assumptions.

With so many threats in the market today, it’s the right time to take relationships to a higher level of service and trust. Learning what they truly want and providing customer-specific solutions is how we all can pass the test.

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