Craig M Dick

My slanted perspective on agricultural marketing

Category: Sales

Ideal Sale Rep


No matter what you do in life, selling is an important skill. Want a better table at restaurant or an upgrade on a rental car. How about making a return without a receipt or maybe you need to get your new marketing strategy approved by management, well you better know how to sell.

 

Incorporate these top traits of an ideal sales rep into your day to day to start improving your performance.

 

Think abundantly – Not everyone gets to be your customer, not everyone needs your service find the ones that would love to work with you and afford to pay your price.

Dress for success – Appearance matters, your customer’s will judge how successful you can make them by your appearance, dress a level above your customer.

Make appointments – Your time is limited, so is your customer’s, make appointments.

Be on time – Show your customer you respect them and you can be trusted by honoring the first thing you said you would do.

Keep meetings short but effective – You are there to help them be successful, not to spend time with them.

Know your Customer – You customer’s business is your business, anything that could affect your customers business you should know about.

Know your Market – Who buys your products and why, everyone is not your customer.

Know your product – You are the expert, know every detail of your product.

Know your competition – How does your product compare in all aspects.

Be intentionally helpful – Your job is to make your customer successful, in some cases you should recommend they use the competition, if it truly is better for them.

Ask lots of questions – How do you know what is best for your customer without really knowing what they need.

Take good notes – How else can you make sure you are serving your customer if you don’t write down what you discussed.

Put action items on your calendar – As soon as you are done with your meeting, set action item due dates in your calendar.

Don’t wait, make things happen, do it anyway – Get your action items done as soon as possible, not for your customer, not for your boss, for you.

 

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The Customer Is Always An Asshole

 

This classic clip from Mall Rats, is all to prevalent. Today it seems businesses view their customers as problems, not the key to their success (It might be why retail stores are struggling). If you need to convince customer to work with you or you have “asshole” customers, it’s your fault. You have set the wrong expectations and you need to scrap your marketing plan and start over from scratch.

Your business exists to meet the needs of your customer. Do you know what problem you are trying to solve for your  customer? It’s not to sell them stuff. More importantly do you know who your customer is? Here’s a hint, it’s not everyone. It’s a specific type of person with specific problem.

You need to clearly define who and what that is, then spend all your time doing everything you can to recruit that customer. Your marketing should be so clear that customers self-select themselves to your door, begging to work with you and paying the sticker price.

It starts with doing an “ideal customer” exercise. In detail list out what the perfect customer would look like. This will give you clarity in creating a position statement. Once you have a clear position statement all of your marketing efforts should align with that.

Now when customers can clearly understand what you do, they will self-select in or out of your sales pipeline. You will be greeted by people excited to work with you, not looking for extras or discounts. When your ideal customer comes to you, you must be entirely focused on solving their problems.

The saying “you get what you give” applies here. If you want all their business, you must give them your all first.

Finding the right customer is how to keep asshole customers away. Solely focusing on your ideal customers success is the path to your success.

 

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Its not what you ask, its how you ask it

Its not what you ask, its how you ask it

What drives adoption of a new practice?

Most answer with the following:

  • Cost savings
  • Increase in revenue
  • Improved efficiency

These are outcomes of a new practice, they are not the cause.  What would cause the adoption of a new practice? How do you persuade a farmer to make a change?

In Robert Cialdini’s first book Influence, he lays out the 6 principles of persuasion:

  • Reciprocation
  • Social proof
  • Consistency
  • Liking
  • Authority
  • Scarcity

You’re a savvy marketer (you must be if you’re reading this) so you know the power of these principles. Sometimes, though, even the best messaging and implementation of these persuasion principles leads to mixed results.

Now after 30 years of studying social psychology, Cialdini’s new book Pre-Suasion  shows that the moment leading up to an important message is more important than the message itself. The highest sales achievers spent more time crafting what they do and say in the moments before the request than the actual request. In essence they work to make a customer receptive to their message.

Many marketers spend hours creating the perfect sales message. However what happens right before the message has a bigger impact. Would you consider that a scary movie would impact the receptiveness of a message?

Imagine the classic farm inputs commercial of a farmer standing in a field, saying “Brawndo sets me apart from the average farmer”. According to Cialdini’s research, if your customer was watching a scary movie when they saw this commercial, they would be unlikely to adopt your solution. This is because the “set yourself apart” message is in conflict with the fear induced need to seek safety. The scary movie primed the grower to seek comfort in a crowd. The messaging that would have worked in this case would have been, Like most successful farmers I use Brawndo“.

Would you believe that the background image on your website could be sabotaging your sales? That those cheesy “Success” motivational posters actually do lead to increased sales? Or that the things that really shape our decisions are often below our conscious radar.

In Pre-Suasion, Cialdini slays sacred sales cows with an army of research. Proof that pulling up your sales boots and kicking in doors will only get you tuned out. Instead, slip on kid gloves, choose your words, your timing and the context of your pitch. Prepare your customer for the message. Then watch your close rate climb.

The first step to being more influential is reading both these books.

 

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Venn Marketing

No I am not talking about Zen, the Buddhist act of mediation. Though a little more reflection and considered thoughts on a subject would help a lot of marketers out.

I am talking about Venn, or specially, Venn diagrams. A Venn diagram is a diagram that shows all possible logical relations between a finite collection of different sets. Typically overlapping shapes, usually circles, are used.

venn marketing

Venn Marketing is then only talking about the logical relations between what you do and what your customer cares about. Everything else is a distraction.

Your customer is self-absorbed with their own set of problems.  They don’t want to, need to or deserve to know everything you know.

Until you have built trust, found out what their problems are, only talk about what you can do to solve those problems. If you can’t help them, tell them. Then refer them to someone who can.

Too many rookie marketing and sales people verbally vomit the whole load all over a prospect at the first meeting. DO NOT DO THIS.

Working with a client is just like meeting a new friend. Take it slow, find commonality, decide if you like each other, find out what they care about. Only talk about that.

Once you have proven you have their best interest in mind, they will ask you what else you can do for them. They will solicit you to know how else you can improve their business. It so much easier to sell somebody when they are compelled to know more about you.

 

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Stop knee-jerking after targets

What is your purpose as a business?knee-jerking after targets like you are a professional stank-leg dancer

To make money? No, that is an outcome. An important one for sure. You won’t be in business long without profit.

But that is not why your business exists.

You started your business to solve a problem, to fill a need. In solving that problem, you made money.

At some point, the money got better, you focused more on the money then solving the problem. Caring more about hitting the next financial target than helping your customers.

Now you knee-jerk after targets like a professional “Stanky-leg” dancer, chasing after the money. Which is always elusive since you are trying to solve a problem that you can’t remember.

This money chasing, knee-jerking mentality is borne from a fear of loss. This fear is keeping you from a relationship with your customer. It’s only through a trusting relationship with the customer that they believe you can solve their problem and happily give you their money.

Without this trust, your business success (or lack of) is based on a purely transactional basis. The customer isn’t sure if you are the right solution, you just happen to show up at the right time. Have a price that isn’t too risky if your solution doesn’t work. The problem is, someone will always be faster or cheaper, or both. So you scurry around trying to be “Mister Right Now” while doing the financial “Stanky-Leg” to close the deal and hit your numbers.

Why is this easier than building trust and working to compel customers to work with you?

To get back on track, remember what your purpose was and work with that in mind. Work to develop a relationship of trust with your customer. Be very clear with your customers about why you are in business and what problems you help with.

If it is a big enough problem to solve and you are clear enough on how to solve it, the money will flow.

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Trust is Reciprocal

I have talked about the importance for developing trust. From Jeff Beals’ 5 steps  to Margie Warrell’s 3 core domains of Trust .

Trust

In one of those article I mentioned that trust is reciprocal. What I mean by that is, you have to trust others first for them to trust you.

Or another way of looking at it is, if you don’t trust me, I won’t trust you.

We have all met at least one person that says “I never trust anyone”. Maybe they are risk averse or maybe they have been really burned trusting the wrong person. People are selfish, they don’t care about your reasons, what they think is, “this person really just wants the best deal for themselves and wouldn’t think twice about taking advantage of me”.

So If you don’t trust me, I defiantly wont trust you. Since there is no trust, everything we both say will be misinterpreted. Once that starts, then everything we both say is guarded to reduce what is used against us. Every word is hedged to make sure we don’t get caught. We can’t be open.  With lots of unclear communication, we don’t really know what each other wants. And that’s what we each end up with, something we don’t really want.

By trusting someone from the start, you are saying, I approve of you, I like you. People love approval, to know they are ok, to know they are understood, to be liked. When people know you like them, they like you in return. This reciprocal approval is the foundation for all successful relationships. You cannot build trust without a relationship. You cannot do good deals without trust.

Robert Chen shares the benefits of trust:

  • More influential
  • Clients share more valuable information
  • You avoid big problems, people will share problems earlier
  • You are more effective at solving problems with good information
  • More effective in negotiations.

I have found these to be spot on. In that article, Robert also gives 101 practical ways to build trust these which I highly recommend. I see some on the list I need to work on.

But Craig, it’s risky to trust others. I might get burned!

Yes you might.  And if the first impression you give someone is, “I don’t trust people”, then they won’t trust you and you have just increased the likelihood that you will get burned.

Trust is so hard to establish, why wouldn’t you start there? Why hold people at arm’s length? Why make things harder on yourself? Why make it harder to do business, to reach your goals?

Trust is essential for social and economic transactions. You need people to trust you if you want to sell your products or service. Building that trust starts by first trusting others. You can’t harvest without first planting. Sow trust with every interaction.

 

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More thoughts on Trust

Last week I had the honor of speaking to Titan Pro’s dealer network on soil health. One of my fellow speakers was Jeff Beals.  WheTrustn Jeff is not speaking or consulting, he serves as executive vice president at NAI NP Dodge Commercial Real Estate Company and is co-host/producer of an award-winning business talk-show on 1110 KFAB Radio.

When I lived in the Omaha area I enjoyed listening to his radio program on the weekends, so it was a real highlight of the conference to share a stage with Jeff and then listen to his talk.

The topic Jeff spoke was How to Sell in Brutally Competitive Environments. The key to sales in a brutal environment, trust. You must develop trust to be effective.

Jeff’s 5 steps to develop trust are:

  1. Clear communication
  2. Pass a moment of truth (when you have the opportunity to be truthful, you had better be)
  3. Consistent performance
  4. Behave as a fiduciary
  5. Be responsive

These all are in alignment with Margie Warrell’s 3 core domains of Trust, which you know I am a fan of.

I couple of other tips I really liked from Jeff’s talk were:

Customer before commission

This aligns with my definition of trust, I have faith that you will do what is in my best interest. Once you truly server your customer, you will be in demand and you won’t need to worry about commissions. Worry about yourself first, then you will always be worried about your commissions.

Jeff’s deadly sin of sales – is to assume

I think many people in sales and marketing think they know what the customer wants and are fearful to ask too many questions out of fear. Fear they will look dumb. If you want to build trust, and ultimately a sale, you must know what the customer wants. The only way to do that is Jeff’s rule #1 (see above).

Over the past couple weeks though I have realized one thing is missing from Maggie, Jeff and my keys to building trust.

Trust is reciprocal. What I mean by that is, you have to trust to be trusted.  More on that in a future post.

Make sure you check out Jeff’s work, and if your group is looking for a speaker, I would recommend him for any event you are planning.

 

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Do You Compel or Convince Cattle?

Have you ever tried bringing cattle in from the pasture to a corral? Which do you prefer: driving them in or grabbing a bucket of grain and calling them in?Do You Compel or Convince Cattle?

For the bucket of grain to work, you must consistently spend a few minutes each day in contact with the herd. This brings the cattle to trust you and become familiar with your bucket of grain. When you walk into the pasture, they come running and will follow you into the corral because they want what you have, and in a few minutes, the entire herd is corralled.

The corralling is quick and easy; the hardest part of the work is that short, consistent, daily interaction with the herd.

If you don’t have consistent contact with the cattle, or show up looking different on corral day, the bucket of grain doesn’t work. Your only option is to get a few people on four wheelers or horses and over-power, wear-down, and chase the herd, into the corral.

It’s usually not quick and generally not easy. It takes a plan and effort. Many cows in the herd will object to the idea of being corralled. Some will change their minds once they’re in the corral and try to get out. And while you may be able to overcome all these objections and finally corral them all, it’s very hard work at the time. Some of the cattle are going to be dissatisfied with the results.

The selling game is a lot like corralling cattle.

You can get up and put your on selling boots, overcome objections and always be closing. Lots of effort and hard work at the time.

Or you can do a little work every day to build trust with the herd. Once the offer is made, the herd comes running.

Nothing is better than having people lined up who can’t wait to give you their money for your product or service. Isn’t that the dream of every business owner?

A customer that is compelled – or even driven – to purchase your product doesn’t get buyer’s remorse. They become a champion for you. They tell their friends. Their enthusiasm for the product can compel more people to join your cause. More people line up to give you their money.

So, why is being an “order-taker” considered a slur on sales people?

Why is it that most sales people think they need to go belly-to-belly and convince the prospect they must have their solution?

Marketing to build customer acceptance and desire for the product should be the number one tool for every sales person. It is more work than pulling on the sales boots and chasing down and over powering the customer.  But it creates satisfied customers who come back time and time again for your product or services, resulting long-term relationships that benefit you and your customer.

 

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Reason Beats Nothing

On the Scott Adams blog (the guy that draws Dilbert) he makes the case on persuasion as:

  • Identity beats analogy
  • Analogy beats reason
  • Reason beats nothing

What do you think? Does this seem right to you?

Let’s compare PC’s to Mac’s.

PC’s are cheaper, more ubiquitous, and more capable. Mac is more expensive but has better appearance and ease of usability. In a business setting, PC is the logical choice.

It’s like this: a Mac is like leasing a new car. You just know it’s going to work. If there is a problem you can take it to the Apple store, no questions, and they just fix it. Buying a PC is like buying a just out of warranty used car. It’s probably going to be ok, but if there is an issue, it’s going to be time consuming and expensive.

Using a Mac lets people know you are hip, successful, capable and up-to-date with the latest standards. Using a PC says you are frugal, all about business and somewhat behind the times.

.

See what I did, there?

Scott is right, and strong marketers like Apple already know this. Remember the “Are you a PC or a Mac” ad campaign? That guy is lame. I still use a PC, I guess I must be lame, too.

In contrast the Mac user is capable, comfortable in his own skin and cool. Isn’t that what we all want to be, Apple cool?

By appealing to a person’s identity, Apple tripled their sales from 2006 to 2009.

Even agriculture isn’t immune to identity marketing. I have seen many Agribusinesses utilizing Macs.

Now go figure out your company’s identity; then connect that to your products. Then get out and connect with your customers.

Stop selling on your reasons. They don’t work.

 

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