When it comes to marketing and sales, it is important to remember that these two concepts are not the same. Marketing is the science of creating a need for your product or service, whereas sales requires you to supply in the needs created by marketing.

Here are a few hard truths about sales and selling:
  • Farmers do not buy your products or services; they actually buy ‘you’ as someone who cares about them and their business.
  • When customers buy your products or services, they do so because it will help them make or save money, improve their business or manage their assets better.
  • Many salespeople are not trained to ask the right questions. Once you learn to ask better questions, your results will improve.
  • Not enough salespeople are customer focused.  
  • The secret to increasing your sales is firstly to increase your activity in the field and secondly to understand the 80/20 Pareto principle, which states that 80% of the effect results from 20% of the cause. It does not matter how many people say no; it only matters how many people say yes.

Benefit and value statements

Salespeople should focus on three specific development areas to become more successful. Some salespeople focus primarily on product characteristics and what they do (advantages), instead of focusing on the actual benefits for their prospects.

What a specific pesticide or fertiliser consists of is far less important than how it will increase yield per hectare, yet some salespeople still focus on the features. An overall change in one’s sales approach must take place to get salespeople to focus on developing and verbalising benefit and value statements.

To facilitate this change in approach, preparation and planning become much more important than talking about another feed supplement or pesticide.

Preparation and planning

You cannot expect to perform well and be in control of your sales when you don’t know your customers. You should at least know who they are and to which category they belong. When planning your customer visits, it is important to know your territory and where each customer is situated.

It is important to prepare for sales calls. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself in preparation:
  • Did you make an appointment?
  • What is your sales objective?
  • What do you know about your prospect and their business?
  • What might their challenges and problems be?
  • What questions are you going to ask them?
  • What solutions are you considering?
  • How will your solution benefit them?

It helps if you put the answers to all these questions in writing, as prospects will see that you have put in the effort to prepare for the meeting.

It is also a good idea to be organised. You should plan your weekly and monthly activities and schedule them at least twelve weeks ahead. You cannot afford to be disorganised and impulsive when it comes to sales, which is why it is wise to use an ABC analysis to categorise your existing customers according to region so that you can schedule your activities accordingly.

Category A is reserved for customers who account for most of your sales revenue and is usually the smallest category, with few high-value transactions. Customers in Category B have the potential to develop into Category A customers with a little encouragement, and Category C is where most of your customers can be categorised – a higher number of smaller transactions.

Always consider specific seasonal farming activities in your region as well as your marketing calendar, meetings and personal commitments. Also allocate time for administration, cold calling and visiting prospects.

Asking the right questions

Good salespeople know how to ask the right questions to discover prospects’ needs and wants. Placing your focus on the customer instead of your products will get you far.

Salespeople should master the following four types of questions to become more customer focused:
  • General questions help paint a picture of the customer’s situation, goals and farming practices.
  • Challenge questions get customers to tell you what challenges they are facing, which leads to implied needs being identified. It is best not to offer any solutions or products at this stage.
  • Consequence questions cover the consequences if the challenges are not overcome. These questions make the problem clearer and more urgent in the customer’s mind.
  • Solution questions are about the value or importance of a solution to the customer’s problems and what the benefits will be if a specific challenge is addressed. This highlights the clear needs and desires your product or service can meet.

Being prepared shows customers that you care and encourages them to tell you about their difficulties so that you can offer a solution. – Renier Esterhuizen, Agri Sales Academy Africa

For more information, contact Renier Esterhuizen at Agri Sales Academy Africa on 015 290 2891 or 083 271 1841 or email ansie@asaafrica.org.