Jack Zemlicka, Contributing Writer
Most people might expect neighbors to exchange a cup of sugar or a quart of milk.
Brandon Harris, equipment salesman for Ohio Valley Ag, Owensboro, Ky., says that building a trusting relationship with farmers is crucial to being able to sell precision farming equipment.
Brandon Harris, equipment salesman for Ohio Valley Ag, Owensboro, Ky., has been known to share his knowledge of precision farming with neighbors in need as a way to cultivate lasting business relationships.
Two years ago, the Bowling Green resident helped a neighboring farmer correct a problem with his Envizio Pro guidance system that caused the sprayer booms to lose their charge. The culprit ended up being a manual setting that needed changing to sustain the boom flow, which Harris gladly corrected free of charge, despite the farmer being only a parts customer of Ohio Valley Ag.
The neighborly advice offered by Harris proved a springboard for a prosperous business relationship with the farmer, who has since purchased an AccuBoom sprayer system and is considering SmarTrax automatic steering for his sprayer system.
The additions are worth several thousand dollars of business for Harris but, he says, the sales would not have occurred if the farmer had not trusted the salesman’s initial advice.
“Most people, when they buy a sprayer, are going to go back to the dealer with questions,” Harris said. “But he had more confidence in our dealership because of our precision knowledge.”
His approach of offering on-the-spot technological advice has worked well, Harris said, as his knowledge of precision farming technology has resulted in increased sales. Most of which he sells are Apache sprayers. He uses the knowledge to build buyer confidence and attract clients.
So how does he leverage those informal conversations into equipment sales?
|"The worst thing you can do is sell something and they call back with a simple question and you don’t know how to answer it …"|
“When calling on a farmer, whether it’s a cold call or scheduled appointment, even when it’s about equipment and sprayer options, it’s always going to come back to their guidance system,” Harris said, “and if you know about it, then you can talk about it and you can sell it.”
When talking with veteran farmers, who are still making purchasing decisions and for whom the technology behind precision farming is foreign, Harris said he keeps it simple.
“A sales rep’s job is to translate that into a pro and not a con,” Harris said, “because the intimidation factor can move folks away from precision in the first place.”
Harris doesn’t just go after the sale, he looks at the big picture.
“If I pull up on a guy’s farm or fertilizer dealership and I see a piece of precision equipment they didn’t buy from me, I will answer questions about it because I’m already there,” Harris said, “and if I show them a thing or two, chances are next time they need to purchase something they are going to call me back because they can get answers.”
That service commitment continues after a sale, he said. Whenever an Apache sprayer is delivered to a customer, Harris does a start-up presentation with the farmer to build the buyer’s confidence that the seller knows his product and how it works.
“I get a ton of phone calls after I’ve been there from farmers saying, ‘Hey, I forgot what button you push there’,” he said. “The worst thing you can do is sell something and they call back with a simple question and you don’t know how to answer it.”
But Harris acknowledged that he doesn’t have all the answers, especially when it comes to precision farming product lines not sold by Ohio Valley Ag.
|"If you spend a little time with somebody and share a little knowledge, you are going to gain their confidence and eventually gain their business ..."|
When confronted with brands like Outback Guidance and John Deere, Harris said there is little he can do to gain a competitive edge with potential customers.
“It kind of shuts the door in your face a little if they are running precision, but not the brand you sell,” he said. “It’s tough to mix and match precision from one brand to another.”
Harris also said it is important to realize the limitations of his expertise so as not to jeopardize relationships with potential or existing clients.
Recently, a farmer called Harris after his Viper Pro guidance system suddenly returned to the default settings. Harris referred the call to Ohio Valley Ag’s service manager, who was well versed in the technology and had the farmer back spreading fertilizer within 20 minutes.
“If you spend a little time with somebody and share a little knowledge,” Harris said, “you are going to gain their confidence and eventually gain their business.”