Farmers and ag retailers have a long history of symbiotic relationships. One really cannot exist without the other; the grower needs the retailer to provide them with seed, fertilizer, and sound advice for maximizing yield, while the ag retailer needs the grower client to keep their business afloat!
However, NEEDING one another isn’t enough to ensure a full client list for ag retailers. As an ag retailer, you must build and maintain great relationships with all your grower clients. A solid working relationship is the best way to guarantee that your farmers keep coming back to you – and here’s how to make it happen.
Listen & Understand Your Customers Needs
Ag retailers spend a lot of their time talking. You talk with distributors to get high-quality input for your clients. You work with growers to help them plan their farms for the season. Even after the harvest ends, you spend time talking with buyers to discover trends and determine the best moves your client can take next year.
All this talking is both warranted and valuable. Ag retailers study just about every aspect of the industry to gain an expert-level understanding. Therefore they are the authorities on the best methods farmers can use to boost their productivity and profit. But here’s the thing: no one will listen to all that talking unless they believe in the value of your words – and they won’t see that value if you don’t first stop to listen.
When you first meet a new client, take some time to learn everything you can about their specific needs. What kind of crops do they grow? What does their typical yield look like? What types of equipment and agribusiness are they using? And (perhaps most importantly) what changes do they hope to see with your guidance and support?
You can learn this information by looking at harvest data or simply walking around the farm. Still, the best way to gather the info AND develop mutual trust and appreciation between you and your clients is by sitting down and talking face to face.
Find Your Farmers Advantage
Ag retailers want farmers to see the value in both their product and their advice. Similarly, farmers want ag retailers to see value in their land and their crops. The best way to do this is to figure out your farmer’s advantage – the one thing they have that all other growers don’t.
There are a few ways to figure out your grower’s unique advantage. In fact, you’ll gain a lot of that information simply by following our first step above – talking to your farmer about their needs. This will help you understand the unique selling points they currently use for their crops, as well as the methods they’d like to try.
Additionally, ag retailers should use their unique knowledge of the local area, the farmer’s land, and agricultural trends to determine where their clients can succeed. Study the market to understand which crops are highest in demand (and, therefore, will catch a higher price). If you take the time to figure out these things for your grower, they will inevitably see the true value in your advice.
Communicate on the Farm
Many businesses and contractors have embraced online meetings in the digital age (and especially after 2020). Now, we have video conference calls and email correspondence – and sometimes, we don’t even meet our clients in person!
Listen: this digital-only method doesn’t work in the agriculture business. If you want to be a successful ag retailer, you need to communicate with the clients digitally and on the farm. Visiting the land will give you valuable insights for farm planning, watering, fertilizing, and more. What’s more, we all know that there’s nothing better than a face-to-face conversation for establishing and building a beautiful relationship. Get out to that farm and shake your grower’s hand!
Use Data to Offer Real Solutions
We’ve talked a lot so far about helping your growers see the value in your work as an ag retailer. This can be a real challenge for some – especially if you have a very analytical client. Ag retailers can discuss the benefits of different farm planning methods, sing the praises of a new brand of fertilizer, or talk about agriculture trends until they’re blue in the face… but for some growers, it won’t make them budge an inch.
If you wind up with one or two (or a bunch) of these clients, don’t worry. We’ve got the secret ingredient that will help them understand precisely how your advice will help them succeed: cold, hard, data.
The data from your soil tests will prove to farmers that your new fertilizer will nourish their soil in just the right way. Sales data in your local area will show farmers which crops are rising in demand and which are becoming less popular. Farm planning simulation data will help you demonstrate precisely how your new methods can change your grower’s land for the better! All this data can help your clients see the impact your services can have, and the information it provides can point to real, actionable solutions.
At the end of the day, you and your grower will begin building a relationship built on professional needs. But, if you take the time to listen, learn, and show your client that you care – about the industry, about their needs, and about them – you will be able to grow your relationship into one based on respect, trust, and mutual success!
So, whether you have one grower client or a full roster, remember to take the time to put their specific operations front and center. Learn about their needs, understand their land, and have the data to back up your advice – if you do, you can’t lose.