Farming is risky, and every decision – from the seed chosen to the equipment purchased – impacts an operation’s bottom line. Trusted farm advisors are experts who can guide decision-making and influence farmers’ thinking and actions. Staying engaged with your customers’ inner circle is a win-win situation. You’ll better understand the farm’s long-term goals and how decisions are made, and your farmers benefit by having an integrated network of advisors.
If you need help building relationships with your customers’ larger teams, start with these important influencers.
A farmer’s banker or lender is critical to farm success and often holds the key to operational growth and ag input financing. Without adequate funding, a farmer can’t invest in the operation or may have to rework budgets to make the numbers work. Engaging with your farmers’ lenders benefits everyone involved: you can help the banker understand why the farmer needs funding to meet agronomic goals, the banker helps you understand what’s possible financially, and the farmer has two allies working together to ensure goals are aligned.
A 2022 Agricultural Lenders Survey reported broad interest from borrowers in alternative ag financing, including reduced-till farming, precision technology and cover cropping practices. While most lenders have insights into the farm industry, they may not have the technical expertise to understand how these practices benefit a farm’s profitability. You can help the lender bridge the gap, which empowers them with more information to make smart lending decisions.
What engagement could look like: Set up an annual meeting with your farmer and their lender where you discuss the operation’s agronomic opportunities. You can offer a virtual farm visit using precision ag tools/performance maps and other digital data to help the lender visualize farm performance.
While the banker is a key influencer for day-to-day decision-making, a farmer’s financial advisor takes a broader look. Your customers engage their financial advisors to understand how to preserve wealth, make decisions to reduce their tax burden and manage on-farm labor. Financial advisors are also critical for a farm’s succession planning.
Your customers’ financial advisors can influence decisions in subtle ways, such as swaying the timing of critical purchases or advising on the ideal number of farm employees. It’s essential to understand your customers’ long-term financial picture as you make strategic decisions for your retail location. You can do that by building a close relationship with farmers’ key financial advisors. Key questions a good financial advisor can help answer include:
- Where are your customers today?
- Where do they want to be in the future?
- How can you both help them get there?
What engagement could look like: Many farmers want to keep their financial information private and may not be receptive to sharing farm financials with you. However, instead of sharing specific information, you could recommend periodic planning sessions that include financial advisors to map out big-picture operational strategies. These planning sessions are beneficial as farms turn over and new managers take the reins.
Equipment is a necessary part of a farmer’s job and can affect how they manage their operation. From the type of tillage done to when the seed is planted and harvested, equipment capabilities often dictate how decisions are made. And, as equipment technology continues to advance, farmers will benefit from a close collaboration between their equipment dealers and ag retailers.
Precision ag technology is built into equipment, but the ag retailer often writes the prescriptions that the equipment executes. For everything to run smoothly, the equipment dealer and ag retail business must understand each other’s role and support each other in successful execution. Some ag retailers have already taken the initiative to grow relationships with their local equipment dealers, like this innovative collaboration between GreenMark Equipment and Green Valley Agriculture Inc. in Michigan.
What engagement could look like: According to the 2023 Ag Equipment Industry Trends report, 53% of the ag equipment dealers surveyed said they plan to offer alternative financing options in 2023. This could open a door for collaboration to develop marketing offers and incentives for farmers who plan to purchase or upgrade equipment. For example, work with your local equipment dealer to offer a package discount for equipment upgrades and prescription services. Or you could team up with equipment dealers to provide farmers with a service package that includes pre-season equipment calibration and maintenance and planting prescriptions.
Managing a farm’s day-to-day activities is a team effort that often includes other family members and outside employees. While these supporting players may not be your direct contacts, they play a vital role in the operation’s success. For example, people applying chemicals or harvesting fields must have the information they need to do their jobs successfully.
As a trusted advisor, engaging the farm’s operational team ensures that technical gaps among the staff are addressed and that all team members are aligned. Learn who manages the farm’s work so you know who to address with specific information. For example, on larger operations where multiple sprayers are running, you want to ensure equipment operators understand chemical application instructions and best practices for applying those products. As you build relationships with the entire farm team, you’ll gain access to more information about how the farm works, which can help you make more profitable recommendations.
What engagement could look like: There are many ways to develop relationships with farm workers and family members. For example, for larger operations, you could provide an on-site field day where your agronomist provides farm staff scouting tips or hands-on training. Your retail location could also offer an appreciation day for farm employees and family members, where you can get to know your customers’ inner circle more intimately. Or, you could invest in digital tools, like GROWERS Connect™, to share important updates and information with everyone on your customers’ farm teams.
Your customers rely on experts like you to make decision-making simpler and more profitable. When that team of experts is integrated and collaborative, everyone benefits, and the farm is more successful.
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