Did you grow up on a farm?
Did your dad hate certain salespeople that called on him?
Did he hate all salespeople that called on him?
Do you hear your dad’s voice in the back of your head as you turn down the driveway to cold call on a prospect?
After nearly thirty years of attending and facilitating training programs for Ag salespeople, I still get very excited when I find something new to bring into my sales approach and training workshops. Over the last several weeks, I added a small set of questions and a discussion on the answers to those questions that many if not most Ag salespeople struggle with. This struggle specifically affects their ability to Prospect, Cold Call and Conquer the fear of calling on farmers.
During one of my workshops a couple of weeks ago I was listening to a small group break out session. Curt and Alex, two agronomy salespeople were discussing the difficulty of prospecting and how hard it was mentally to actually turn the steering wheel onto the farm to make a cold call. Both had grown up on the family dairy farm and both had a dad that, let’s just say, didn’t like salespeople. Curt went on to explain that he didn’t mind meeting new prospects by cold calling on farmers but that every time he did, he could hear his dad’s comments in the back of his head from all the years as a kid growing up. When I asked Curt what exactly were his Dad’s comments, he explained that his dad didn’t really like most salespeople and he despised certain ones. Of course, I had to ask why his Dad despised certain salespeople. He responded, “You name it and my dad hated them for it: too pushy, called on him too often, stayed too long, arrived at a bad time, wouldn’t listen when he told the guy he wasn’t interested, pushed products he didn’t need, was clueless about how a dairy actually operated, etc.!”
Digging into this a little deeper, I asked Curt if his dad expressed this displeasure towards the salesperson. In other words, was it obvious to the salesperson that his dad didn’t like him or her? Both Alex and Curt responded quickly with a resounding, “No”! Alex explained, “Dad never really showed how much he didn’t like someone that stopped out. But, oh boy, once he was gone, dad opened up about how much he didn’t like the guy.” This one little component of the discussion makes it very difficult for the salesperson to figure out whether or not this is happening to them when they make cold calls.
After getting permission from Curt to discuss this with the whole group in the workshop, I asked the audience, “How many of you grew up on a family farm?” About 75% of the room raised their hands. I then asked, “For those of you that raised your hand, how many of you had a dad or uncle that ran the farm and hated salespeople?” Unbelievably, I got a unanimous round of head nodding, knowing chuckles and hands going up – before I even finished the question!
At that point, I knew I had to add this to the training program. I had not even considered this as a problem. Adding this discussion to my workshop from that point forward, I find it to be one of the more important components of overcoming the fear of calling on farmers. Again, I start by asking those two questions: Did you grow up on a farm and did your dad hate certain salespeople that called on him? I then ask how much this affects them when calling on prospects and cold calling.
Like a Dr. Phil episode, we have to unpack this and “deal” with it before going forward with training on prospecting. They are fearful of being, “That guy” or “That salesperson”.
Below are some of the key areas we focus on to overcome that fear. More importantly, these areas keep you from actually becoming, in your dad’s words, “That damn sales guy from XYZ company”:
- Better Pre-Call Planning.
- Work off appointments as much as possible.
- Network more to warm call instead of cold call.
- Be respectful of what your prospect’s schedule is like that day, even if they gave you an appointment.
- You have to respect the obvious seasonality of your customer’s business/farm. Even if there’s only a week left of your promotion and you feel the need to call on every one of your prospects before it ends.
- Ask more questions, do less presenting, ask more closing style questions and anticipate more objections to become better at diagnosing how you can help.
- If you feel you have become “That salesperson”, I would confront the brutal truth and ask a question like, “You know, my Dad had salespeople call on him all the time and some he just couldn’t tolerate. (a moment of silence here often will get the prospect to open up. If not continue), “I sure hope I haven’t become that kind of salesperson to you.” Take it from there depending on their answer.
One last thought on this subject. Did you ever consider that maybe, just maybe, your dad was a grouch? Now, I know there are some salespeople that were worthy of your dad’s wrath. I also think there is not a producer or agribusiness owner out there who wakes up in the morning and thinks, “I can’t wait for all those salespeople to call on me today.”
However, you need to get this right in your mind before you head out on farm calls. Producers, agribusiness owners, our customers need us every day to do our jobs as good salespeople. Why? Because they need tractors, agronomy products, feed, fencing, buildings, ag loans, grain origination services, marketing advice, precision ag equipment/services, diesel/propane (especially this year) and the list keeps going. They need our advice, our support, and our connections to be successful in their jobs. They need us to be better at our role as talented and knowledgeable salespeople every single day – even if they don’t say it or act like it.
Have no fear or concern if your prospects aren’t excited and welcoming you with open arms when you drive onto the farm. They will be after they get to know you. My thought is always, “They really need and want to do business with me, but they just don’t realize it yet.”
Feel free to use that thought process to squelch dad’s voice in the back of your mind as you turn the steering wheel today!
For more information on Ag sales training, coaching or business development, contact Greg Martinelli at Ag Sales Professionals, LLC at (608) 751-6971. Email is Greg@GregMartinelli.net Web site is www.GregMartinelli.net