Selling in a Crisis

“How do I sell during a national or industry wide crisis?”

3 Steps and 5 Articles to Help You Sell During Tough Times

Deere went on strike

Roundup production facility closed due to hurricane

No price quotes on spring fertilizer during the prime selling time

No inventory of Ag equipment due to trade wars and port delays

Lack of employees due to the pandemic

These are the latest headlines in every major agribusiness news source.

They can be overwhelming when trying to sell.  Imagine how overwhelming they are for your customer!

The biggest challenge facing agribusiness salespeople right now is the supply chain.  Getting product made, packaged, delivered, and administered on a consistent basis.  In some cases, consistency isn’t even needed.  They just need anything to get their customer through.

I went back over the last six years of blog articles, podcasts, presentations, and ideas I have on selling during a crisis.  It’s amazing how often this has happened in different areas of agribusiness.  Working in the animal and crop producing industry is an international outdoor sport.  Crisis happens every year, in some form or fashion.

So, I compiled all of the best thoughts and articles from those various events.  I hope they help you and your team.

3 Steps to Implement Right Now

Step #1:  Don’t hide…. don’t avoid contact

    • Answer your phone. There is a natural tendency to avoid pain.  When that phone rings and your good customers want answers, it can be painful just answering the phone.  You know the conversation is not going to be positive.  Keep in mind the message below…
    • They need you now more than ever before

Podcast version:  

Step #2:  Be proactive

    • –    Go on the offense and actually call, text, email or better yet, show up at the farm.  Let customers know that you are there and willing to help anyway you can.
    • –  Go to the source or the point of the problem.  See it first hand for yourself.  This is for the salesperson who offices from home and doesn’t spend much time at the production facility or warehouse.  If trucking is an issue, go sit with your dispatcher/trucking manager.  See the issue with your own eyes and ask a lot of questions.

Step #3:  Deal with what you have…not with what shoulda, coulda, or woulda been.

    • When NASA has an emergency in space, you don’t see them spending time on what should have happened. They immediately start dealing with the reality.  They lay out all their resources.  They involve everyone on the team.  They list out their courses of action.  After deciding on a plan, they move on it.

 5 Helpful Articles and their Podcast version

  1. Selling through Difficulty

Podcast version:

 “When everything is falling apart, nothing is going right and you want to quit, that’s the job. 

I reworded the quote to, “If it was easy, they would call it order entry.” That is why salespeople are hired; to navigate these difficulties and bring together a better business relationship for everyone.

  1. My Third Worst Day of Selling Feed

Get in front of customers and communicate – This experience was as difficult for customers as it was for us. They wanted to buy from us but it just got too difficult and unpredictable.  Sales people, sales managers and plant managers all got in front of customers and were present as much as possible.

  1. My Second Worst Day of Selling Feed

Capabilities meeting.  One thing that really helped us was to bring the sales, admin and production teams together to discuss actual capabilities.  We had conflicting stories on the capabilities of the new mill.  Things were different.  Tons per hour, minimum run sizes, twice as many loading docks, faster micros system were some of the new factors in the capabilities of the new mill.  We held a couple of these meetings over the next 90 days and it helped.

  1. Crucial Conversations in Agribusiness

Podcast version

In their book on Crucial Conversations, the authors tell us the three stories’ people tell:

    • The Victim Story: “I am just an innocent victim of the situation.”
    • The Villain Story: In this story, we heap blame on others.
    • The Helpless Story: Similar in nature to the Victim story, except this one has an additional twist of helplessness.

Steps to handle the conversations:

    • Separate Fact from Fiction
    • Admit your own role in the problem – be humble, own up to it.
    • Tell a different story
    • Use questions to get dialogue moving
    • Mirroring & paraphrasing
    • Non-Verbal versus Verbal
    • Timing & Location
  1. Selling Stress: 4 ways to manage your stress when selling

Podcast version

    • Recognize it
    • Talk about it
    • Prepare
    • Be Proactive

If you or your team would like more help on selling in a crisis, please reach out.  It never hurts to discuss an opportunity.

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