Silos in Agribusiness

As a salesperson, you can tear down the walls that separate!

 

As a sales trainer, consultant and coach, I start the process with a deep dive into current sales team strengths/weaknesses and the reinforcement or changes needed.  This discussion typically goes on with the general manager or VP of Sales.  In almost every case, there will come a point where he or she will say, “We are so siloed in this business”.

Asking for a deeper explanation, they will tell me how the sales, accounting, production and research departments do not work well with each other.  They are all in their own silos.  The silos might also be between product lines.  Paraphrasing the general manager, “Greg, we are on farms with our agronomy team, but they never think to bring out their feed or fuel sales teammate. We need to tear down the silos.”

When I meet with the different members of the team, I hear:

The Sales Team says: “We need more products, lower prices and less paperwork.”

The Accounting Team says: “We need to reduce credit risk, reduce money in use and increase our past due penalties.”

The Production Team says: “We need fewer products in order to become more cost efficient and longer lead times on orders to reduce inefficiencies.”

The General Manager says: “I agree, we need to do all of that.  Play nice, get along or as a last resort, I will have to make decisions.”

Often when visiting the “main” office, I would watch as people treated the cubicle walls as physical barriers to working together.  I would jokingly quote President Reagan at the Berlin Wall when he challenged Mr. Gorbachev to tear down the wall.  I do understand that we need our own space to hang personal pictures, wall calendars and important notes.   I also understand the cubicles reduce distractions and noise when trying to work or talk on the phone.  However, the down side of these walls is reduced communication.

The reduced communication creates silos and walls.  I write this blog somewhat hypocritically.  I have to admit that over the years, I was as much a part of building silos as I was at tearing them down.  It is human nature to be somewhat self-interested and protect your turf.  While all of us have our own limitations in this area, we need to keep pursuing a path of collaboration and network with our teammates.  The market is tough enough without infighting to slow you down.

So, why am I preaching this message on a sales blog?  This sounds like something I should tell general managers or VP’s.  However, as a sales person, you hold a unique role in the company.  In many cases, you are the only contact with the customer.  While a manager can require internal departments to network and collaborate, you are the link to bringing the company to the customer.  And the customer to the company.  It is your choice to either be the sole source of contact with your company or unleash the power of your whole team.  In my experience, the times when we brought the power of our whole company to a customer were not only the most financially beneficial, but were the most rewarding.  Why?  Because I knew it was going to be very difficult for a competitor to do what we were doing.

Why is it so important to tear down the silos?  Because it is hard to do, which means your competition probably will not. You need every competitive advantage you can gain in today’s market.  Bring the full force of your company to your customer to gain this advantage.  Here’s how!

  1. Physically show up:

Pick a good time or make an appointment to meet with the internal people on your team.  Certainly, meet the manager of the department.  More importantly, go meet with the people that process the paperwork, the people that make your products or that do the background support work for the service you offer.  Let them know how important their job is to you and to the customer.  You are telling them their “WHY”.  As Simon Sinek tells us, Start with Why.  You will be surprised at how many of your teammates do not understand how important their job is.  Besides, it always helps to hear it again and to hear it from someone besides their supervisor or CEO.

When the production team tells you they have a problem with one of your products or customers, ask to physically go see the problem in action.  When I actually saw what it took to shovel bloodmeal out of a boot pit in 90-degree heat and humidity, I definitely enforced a 25-ton limit on the future truckloads I bought.

If you are intruding on their space and time by just showing up, you will know it.  Excuse yourself and ask to come back at a better time.  Then do come back at that time.  Trust me, it will mean a lot to them.

Do not show up only when you need something.  This visit is to help network and tear down silos.  It is not to get your paperwork processed faster or spread your agenda on them.

Ask:  Where are the bottlenecks in your role and how can I help?  Every job has bottlenecks or choke points that slow down productivity.  This does not mean you are going to fix it.  The main purpose is to understand.

 

  1. Give them a personal invite to visit you:

Once you are done meeting them on their turf, invite them to come ride along with you.  This experience can be invaluable to this person.  In 24 years of hosting ride-alongs, I can tell you there was a 100% success rate on increasing the understanding of the business.  Every single time, the person riding along came away with a deeper understanding of their role in the business.

Some guidelines on making this a better experience.  Do not assume your internal teammate knows how to be a part of a ride-along.  It is your role to make it as easy and informative for them as possible.

  • Let them know what to wear. Ag sales is an outdoor sport.  It is no fun being on a farm in Dockers and penny loafers while everyone else is in insulated pants and boots.
  • Give them a general overview of your territory and who they will be visiting. Help them understand your world.
  • Prior to driving onto the farm
    • Let them know the purpose of the call
    • Give them a quick rundown on the customer: size of their operation, products they buy from you, etc.  Also let them know topics you might want them to discuss with the customer or topics you want to avoid.
  • Realize, they might be nervous about being in this environment. This is not the time to “haze the rookie” or let them get an earful from the customer.  Make it easy for them to ask questions and learn.  Give them some feedback after a sales call on how they handled themselves.

 

In closing, we all have our role within a business.  It might be sales, administration or production.  It might be agronomy, feed or fuel.  We are all driven to be the best at it.  That is great but not enough.  I am suggesting you take a small step today toward creating something your competition most likely will not.  Be the catalyst in your organization that takes a different look at how your company works together.  Be the first to reach across sales teams or departments and begin chipping away at the walls and silos within your company.

 

Further Discussions:

The Triathlon of Agribusiness.  An analogy of the three components that make up most agribusinesses: operations, sales and administration.

The Journey to the Perfect Pellet  Leveraging all departments in order to overcome your industries greatest challenges.

 

Webinar

 Want to learn one of the most valuable tools in the sales skill arsenal?  Join me Tuesday, July 18th for a deeper dive and insights into how we can use High Value Questions to learn more, sell better and build trust faster!

Click on the link below!

 

Asking High Value Questions on Your Next Farm Call

 

·        Do you struggle to “Sell on Value”?

·        Do your customers hit you with Price Resistance?

·        Learn to overcome these situations through Better Questions that get Better   Answers!

·        Become skilled at High Value Questions!  They change the whole customer relationship!

·        This one skill can change the entire way you sell!

 

If you cannot make the live webinar, you will receive a link to the recording so you can watch it on your own time.

Join me for an hour full of great ideas you can put to use immediately to improve your selling skills!

We’ll cover:

·       Why this part of the sales process so important?

·       How to Connect & Sell Faster

·       How it develops trust and confidence

·       Earn the right to ask High Value Questions!

·       Learn the power of one question!

·       What do police, attorneys and doctors have in common?  They all know how to harness the power of asking questions.  We’ll cover their basic tactics during this webinar

 

Price: $29.99    Register Here

Space is limited.  Register today.  Recording provided in case you can’t attend on the 18th

.

Make your next meeting memorable by bringing in a speaker who’s been there. 

Contact me to find out how Greg@GregMartinelli.net


For more Ag Sales Training, Ag Sales Coaching and Leading Ag Sales Teams,  go to

http://www.GregMartinelli.net/

Subscribe to the Podcast
Receive My Free Weekly Blog

Related Blog Posts

Answer your Phone

And the importance of hyper-availability Differentiating yourself in a commoditized world: In sales training workshops, there is a time when we share what is working

Read More »