Just as commodity prices change, so does the relationship between a farmer and their trusted advisors. An ag retailer can understand this constant shift best of all. The best way to anticipate your growers’ needs and build flexibility into operational plans is to do your groundwork before any analysis starts. First, find out everything you can about their current operation so you can create multiple, yet practical, options.
Once you set up the groundwork, you can work with the farmer to explore what data is available, which will help you answer any questions unique to their situation and operation. When they know you have a solid understanding of their entire process, they will have more confidence in your ability to help them make the best decisions in the future. Now, to achieve that level of trust, there are a few things you could be doing for your growers right now, like helping with farm plans, product priority recommendations, and establishing a data exchange.
As we approach the planting season, a good farm plan is essential to a farmer’s success. You can aid your grower in creating their program with the end goal of helping them make a profit on their farming operation. But how can that be done? Great question! Data, data, and more data. Data will help you formulate the picture of the farmer’s field(s). The field’s potential becomes clearer through precision soil collection and sampling, field mapping, and variable rate data.
In soil sampling, for example, data not only provides insights into past performance; it also ensures that you proactively catch potential red flags. Red flags could include imbalances in nutrients, soil pH, organic matter, and more. If red flags do appear, that’s when you as the ag retailer can step in and make some quality recommendations that will eliminate them.
It’s all about collaboration. Collaboration isn’t having a meeting over something to sell. You’re not collaborating just because you had a conversation and delivered a PDF. You have to provide value. You’ve got to say, “I know you’re an expert in farming. I’m going to listen to you, and I’m also going to make my own observations, analyze the information, and come up with a plan that advances your operation.
You’re leading with value because you’re getting on the same page with your grower while being honest and demonstrating you’re not just trying to meet a quota. Additionally, the more involved your farmer is in the planning process, the better the chance your product or service meets their needs. As you work through your farmer’s plan, use each interaction as an opportunity to detect patterns in customer feedback and refine your products and services.
Farmers want results. They want to see that the products you’ve recommended to them produce results and get them to their yield goal. When you diagnose problems on your customer’s farm, don’t just focus on selling the product. Recommend a total solution to that problem. Take into account the entire farm, showing the farmer you understand their whole operation and specific needs. They need to trust you have their best interests in mind.
You will also boost your farmer’s confidence by knowing all aspects of your company’s products. They should see you’re knowledgeable and able to collaborate on the best plan for their specific needs. Be prepared to offer different products for various issues at several price points. When they succeed and are profitable, you will be too.
A farmer may look to their ag retailer to understand whether switching from liquid to dry fertilizer would be cost-effective. If current soil data or historical farm data is available, this comparison can be made easier with a “what-if” evaluation. What is a what-if analysis?
It’s a best practice that allows ag retailers to change input data to see how various decisions, from seed and fertilizer choices to yield goals, will affect the bottom line. What-if analyses help evaluate risk and determine how these individual factors will affect the farmer’s operation. Run the numbers to see how much dry product will be required to meet desired fertility levels. Account for multiple passes during the application of phosphorus and potassium products, or plan to use a blend to meet fertility needs in one application.
Now that you’ve looked over and helped tweak your grower’s farm plan, made quality product recommendations, and collaborated on product priorities, there’s only one thing left… give them the data you’ve just created. Whether you transfer your data manually via USB or the cloud, digital and physical farms should be treated the same.
Often, an ag retailer offers similar products at comparable prices, so you have to work hard to win and keep every single customer. When low commodity prices and extremely tight margins are an issue on every farm, your ability to add value is key. Build strong relationships to keep your farmers loyal to your business.
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