Among the more unique editorial stops I’ve made in recent months was a visit to Sinclair Tractor — an 11-store John Deere dealership across eastern Iowa — to sit down with Ethan Smidt, an agronomic consultant and member of Sinclair’s agronomic service division, Yield Force.
While learning the scope of their services and long-term goals, Smidt revealed that he was the only member of the 3-person team not to be born and raised in the area. Moving to the area in 2015 to live on his wife’s family farm and having a bachelor’s degree in agronomy, he joined the dealership soon after to help support their growing agronomic footprint.
An ongoing challenge for each Yield Force member is conveying the value of agronomic packages (such as variable-rate prescriptions and soil nitrate sampling) compared to the dealership’s traditional equipment-specific services. Factor in Smidt’s unfamiliarity with prospective customers in the area, and he was required to overcome an even steeper hill.
“Agronomy and a Deere dealership is not all that common, so half the battle is just getting in front of customers and explaining to them exactly what it is that we’re doing,” Smidt says. “Not knowing anyone in the area when I first arrived, it made it a lot harder to knock on a stranger’s door compared to other teammates who were a familiar face. But with each passing year, I’m getting closer to that level.”
Despite his early obstacles, Smidt has since acclimated to the area and plays an integral role in the team securing nearly 60 customers subscribed to the dealership’s agronomic service packages by the end of 2017 — compared to just 3 in their inaugural season 10 years ago.
While every dealership would like the advantage of local familiarity for all precision sales and service employees, there’s only so much local talent to go around. More often than not, dealerships will need to pursue newcomers to the region, and as Smidt exemplifies, success stories exist for employees thriving through the transition.
What success stories do you have on hires from outside your area, and what advice would you give to retain salespeople or technicians acclimating to a new community? Drop me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org