“YOU” are the Brand to Your Farmers

I don’t want to discount all the work that goes into creating logos, mission statements and slogans because those are critical for overall brand recognition and advertising purposes.  Those elements definitely have their place in a business.  However, to your farmers, to your grain & livestock producers, to your Ag retailers & feed dealers, “You” are the brand.  When I say “You”, I am including you and the sales support team that gets the product ordered, manufactured, delivered and invoiced correctly. 

As Ag companies consolidate and get bigger, the brand certainly becomes important and the corporate activities can have a positive or negative effect that we may not be able to control.  However, all that is forgotten when a customer interacts with his “local” team from that company.  Imagine some of the good and bad situations below and how they affected the brand of the company. In these situations, the corporate branding message was set aside and for this customer, this became our brand – for better or worse.

  • In 90-degree heat, a new bag delivery driver told an elderly female horse feed customer to help unload the 2 tons of horse feed into her barn. When she walked away, he made the statement “Get back here you old bag and help unload” I have to put it in quotes as it was too unbelievable when I got the complaint call. End result: brand was mostly repaired with apologies and very intense driver training.
  • Do what you say you will: You make a promise to get back to a customer with a price or piece of information.  Do it and you build your brand.  Fail and it makes a withdrawal from the bank account of trust that the customer has with you.  If you can’t deliver on a promise, get on the phone and explain why you can’t and when you will.
  • In a previous blog, I mentioned an instance where a trucker realized the wrong feed had been ordered. This happened on many occasions as order entry communication can get a little challenging.  How or Why?  We had many new people come to work in the office and many just didn’t understand Ag customers or how to work the computer system.  On the other side, we had many customers that needed our office staff to know which feed they needed to order.  It was very common for a farmer to call and say “Send me 6 tons of my feed”.  It took some head knowledge to know who the customer was, which of his feeds he wanted and which bin it went in. Good communication from the office to the sales person and to the driver was critical if there were doubts.  For busy farmers, this part of your brand is way more important than a corporate brand.
  • The loading dock crews like to load customers with a forklift. It’s easier & faster and I would too if I had to do it.  However, some customers have vehicles that just don’t allow for that.  One of the loading dock crew was so upset over the need to hand load feed bags onto a customer vehicle that he started throwing the bags randomly into the truck, appeared very angry and in the process damaged a few bags.  Again, this became the new version of our brand until it was dealt with.
  • Production issues were creating 2-3 hour wait times for customers to get their trucks loaded. The issues were real and had to be dealt with.  Everyone involved was aware of the impact to the customer and to our business.  Being as open with customers as you can and sharing the updates as they become available will help when this happens.  In this instance, we lost some short term sales because the customers needed their feed.  However, by staying in front of them and letting them know what was going on, we were able to recover quickly from losing those sales.
  • I would have too many single examples where invoicing or computer systems went wrong and the customer wasn’t invoiced or credited correctly. This pain gets really sharp, really fast if it is not dealt with correctly.  It is one of the toughest brand issues to overcome.  Said another way, all the fun and games come to an end when you mess with someone’s money.  Now, there were weeks or months that went by without an issue.  Many times, customers will forget all that good time when you begin to make mistakes on their bill or their grain payments.  The brand building tip here is the same as others – get in front of the customer and get them fixed quickly.

You can look upon your brand as a bank account that a customer has with you.  It evolves over time with deposits and withdrawals.  Like it or not, intentional or not, over the course of an Ag sales career, you will make withdrawals.  Just keep making lots of deposits and try to reverse the withdrawals.  Build your brand one deposit at a time.

Don’t forget your support team.  I know the old saying that, “Nothing happens until something is sold”.  I used to say it often when internal rivalries sprang up towards the sales team.  Just keep in mind that, the products have to get made, with the right cost of raw material/ingredients, packaged correctly, delivered on time and several computer systems have to be in sync to get invoicing and payment completed.  Without connecting all those dots, sales will be fairly difficult.

To discuss sales training or presentations for your team, contact me directly at Greg@GregMartinelli.net

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


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