7 Ways to Sell on Purpose

The subtle view that makes a world of difference

If you answer yes to any of the below questions, then this article is specifically written for you.  Also, if you are a sales manager and you answer yes for any of your salespeople, then this article is definitely written for you.

  • You wait for prospects or customers to call you or come into your store/dealership/agribusiness?
  • You can’t clearly identify your ideal customer?  By identify, I mean characteristics like acreage, buying habits, business goals, etc.
  • You make excuses for not having time to prospect.  The main excuse is, “I’m too busy taking care of current customers”.
  • Your results have stalled or decreased and you have no reason for the decrease or you blame tough times in farming or the interest rates or anything other than getting out there and selling.

The biggest reason you aren’t selling on purpose

  • You aren’t hustling and aren’t hungry like you once were. I should know as I fell into this problem frequently after about my 5th year in sales.  

I have been working with sales teams over the last seven years from all parts of the agribusiness world: agronomy products, farm equipment, animal production product lines, Ag lending, Ag service providers, Ag software.  In all of those teams, I see one common reason that salespeople struggle.  Lack of hustle due to either a lack of purpose or lack of know-how.

The typical pattern for a salesperson is to start out with either a few or no customers at all.  They have to hustle in the beginning to learn the technical side of their products and make a lot of sales calls to establish themselves. 

With hard work, they establish a territory that supports a salesperson.  With good intentions, our successful salesperson has a desire to take really good care of the customers they have.  To the point of over-serving them.  This high level of customer service slowly builds to the point where they lack time to look for new customers.

You might be thinking this is not a bad thing.  You might even be thinking that this is what it takes in Ag to keep customers.  Me too.  However, time marches on and our salesperson’s customers go through natural attrition.  They retire, switch to a competitor, quit using the products we sell, etc.  Slowly over time, our customer base begins to erode.  And at some point, our previously successful salesperson has gone from success to a slump to a full-on downward slide.

The solution is obvious but not very attractive.  Hustle!  Just like you did 5, 10, or 15 years ago when you built your territory.  Hustling means selling on purpose. 

Here are 7 ways you can sell on purpose

  1. Get it right inside your head first: 

The first step is to rise above your own ego.  I get it.  You worked hard, hustled in the beginning, got disrespected for being new, but thrived anyway.  You built your customer base and didn’t have to take on some of those smaller or less attractive customers. However, with your territory in a nose dive, it’s time to check the ego, roll up your sleeves, and do what you know how to do.

2. Establish a top prospect list

Step two is to establish a top 10 or 20 list.  These are the most likely prospects you can think of selling.  In training workshops, I tell the group to use this method to establish this list: “If your life depended on it, who will you sell in the next 30-60 days.”  This always sounds a bit ominous.  So, I rephrase it to, “If you sell this list, you get a million dollars in commission.  Who would you put on that list?”.  This list is your new focus.  These are the hottest of hot prospects. 

3. Track your progress routinely on how you are moving those accounts towards becoming a customer.

It’s not enough to just establish the list.  Now you need to track your progress.  Remember, you feel these could be sold in the next 30-60 days.  That is really soon.  That means each day you should be reviewing that list for the next step in their journey to becoming a customer.

If you really want to be more effective in this step, tell someone about your list.  I’d suggest your sales manager.  Let them know what you are doing and have a weekly conversation about your progress. 

4. ABP = Always Be Prospecting

If you live in a small community as many in agribusiness do, it’s easy to make connections.  This does not mean you should be doing a sales presentation at the Little League game or handing out business cards at church.  It means keep connecting and meeting people wherever you are.  Those connections can turn into customer and prospect connections.  This leads to my next recommendation – network.

5. Network

Everywhere and anywhere.  Almost as important as a solid list of top prospects, a well-thought-out networking plan is critical.  I can’t emphasize how important it is to be a part of your industry by being at industry events and being a member of its associations.  This is where you can meet customers and prospects outside of the buy-sell relationship.  This is where you build trust in your connection to the industry and the local Ag community.

6. Cold call

Yes, that’s right, good old fashion selling 101.  Make cold calls.  You might be thinking that cold calling is not productive as you get very few sales from it.  You may also think that cold calling interrupts your prospect’s busy day and you don’t want to “bother” people.  You may want prospects to want you on their farm. 

Here are a couple of thoughts to get your mind in the right place on this subject.  First, the purpose of a cold call is to simply introduce yourself and get an appointment.  If you get more than that, great.  But don’t expect more.  This one thought will take the burden off of trying to meet, greet, ask questions and then do a sales presentation all on an impromptu cold call.  Remember, you are a viable vendor to customers like this prospect.  You simply want them to know who you are and how to reach you.  Get the next appointment and get off the farm.  On the next call, you can dig in and get further along the selling process. 

The next concept you really need to take to heart.  No person in the world ever wakes up and says, “Gee, I hope another salesperson stops by today while I’m busy working.”  None.  Not your customers.  Not your prospects.  Not even you want to be interrupted.  However, we do need salespeople to call on us to stay current and know our options.  I always think to myself, “This prospect wants to do business with me.  They just don’t know it yet!”  That ego-boosting thought gives me the courage to drive onto the farm or into the agribusiness.

7. Go back

  • To previous customers who no longer buy from you
  • To prospects who once were interested but went cold
  • To those prospects you once ignored or simply let slip through the cracks

This will be difficult in many cases as it may test your ability to keep your ego in check.  Maybe a previous customer got angry with you or threw you off their farm for some reason.  Maybe a prospect failed to show up to a meeting with you and ghosted you.  Whatever the reason, you have to look past it.  That’s in the past.  People change.  Times get tough for everyone including those that aren’t easy to call on. 

The mind shift from selling by accident to selling on purpose is a subtle shift in your approach.  But it makes all the difference in your results!

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