The old adage “talk is cheap” doesn’t necessarily apply to precision farming business these days. In fact, a lack of conversation is costing dealerships potential revenue, at a time when it’s needed most.
Moderating a peer group meeting of precision dealers last month in Ontario, a shared struggle among members was a lack of technology salesmanship within their companies. One of the contributing factors is that in the midst of the precision farming boom, dealers emphasized hiring employees with engineering or technical skills to service products that were essentially selling themselves.
But in today’s market, the ability to service precision hardware is only as valuable as being able to sell it to the customer in the first place. Talented precision specialists are still in high demand, especially as technology only becomes more complex, but dealers are realizing the need to have true salespeople on staff as well.
As one peer group member says, “One of our problems is we’ve hired technicians to sell. They haven’t had to sell and now that they have to talk to customers, find out what they need and provide a solution, they’re not comfortable doing that.”
Another member noted that his company recently parted ways with one of their more talented precision specialists who had difficulty taking on more sales responsibilities.
“He could have been a great salesperson, but if farmers weren’t calling him, he didn’t know how to sell,” the dealer said. “You have to be able to initiate that conversation and that’s not always an easy thing to do.”
Dealers are always on the lookout for “born salespeople,” those people stocked with an arsenal of icebreakers and a knack for tactical small talk. This may be more the exception than the rule for many precision retailers, and sculpting in-house staff to be productive salespeople is an alternative.
Some dealerships have explored independent sales training or communication courses at colleges or universities to build the confidence of specialists when conversing with customers. Members of the precision peer group discussed utilizing resources such as Toastmasters International, a company that offers public speaking and communication resources, along with Dale Carnegie Training, a corporate development program.
“Now is the time when we need the sales part of a person to stand out,” says one member. “It’s not something that we’ve equipped them to do, and I’m not saying we can’t teach it, but natural ability often means a lot more than any training we can provide.”