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SALES AND MARKETING INSIGHTS FROM PURDUE UNIVERSITY
PRECISION SELLING
It is no secret that selling to commercial producers in today's agricultural market is challenging. Fewer, larger, more sophisticated and demanding farmers; complex, new technologies; tougher, more aggressive competition, even among farmers, all of these factors force customers to question how every transaction impacts their bottom line.

The growing ability to measure the impact of every cropping practice, every health or nutrition program, and every outsourced management service makes the term "precision agriculture" highly descriptive of today's marketplace.

CREATING THE RIGHT VALUE

Precision agriculture demands Precision Selling - a strategy where agri-salespeople must sharpen their approach and be more precise in how they utilize their resources to create the right value for the right customers. Of course, good agri-salespeople have always been adept at matching their style and approach to personality differences among their customers.

But Precision Selling is much more than that. Precision Selling is a systematic way of identifying the most valuable customers and prospects, understanding their unique needs, developing a solid business relationship, tailoring precise solutions that add real value, communicating that value effectively, consistently delivering on implied promises, and ensuring the customer is satisfied, and doing it one customer at a time in a very precise manner.

Precision Selling begins with precision marketing. Minimally that means having a clear understanding of the company's marketing priorities, especially which segments are most important to the long term success of the organization. Companies that fail to provide this most basic direction are essentially allowing the field sales reps to guide the future of the company.

Precision Selling sharpens the focus of the company's general marketing priorities by targeting specific customers and prospects - concentrating on those worthy of the time and precise attention that will follow.
The effort should always be a good return on the invested time and resources. Criteria used to establish "worthiness" often include current sales volume, growth potential, financial stability, management ability, ease to serve, opinion leadership, and needs that match company strengths, among others.

TARGETING THE RIGHT CUSTOMERS

Most Precision Selling targets are larger and often quite complex. Precision sellers work hard to understand the decision-making process within the customer's business, identifying the influencers as well as key decision makers. They recognize the needs of the business entity itself rather than simply selling to individual personalities. Strong precision sellers strive to understand some of the product/technical, operational, financial, marketing, and personnel needs of a key account, and they seek to use their resources to create unique value for that customer.

Precision sellers become quite good at coordinating many resources - more than just products for sale - to consistently deliver value and to make sure the customer sees that value. They seek assistance from a wide variety of resources within their company and become very skilled at coordinating these resources for the benefit of their customer.

UNDERSTANDING THE
RIGHT THINGS


Seeking feedback must be a conscious and intentional activity in the Precision Selling process. Customers can so easily take their supplier for granted, leaving them vulnerable to a competitor who sweeps in with grandiose promises. At minimum, there should be an annual review with each important customer to determine their satisfaction level, get their suggestions, and plan for the next year.

While Precision Selling can be highly effective because it is so focused, much or most of an agri-seller's time will be spent in a more conventional mode - selling and servicing more traditional customers in a traditional manner. These "bread-and-butter" customers are critically important to the ongoing success of most organizations. So, while there is a strong case for a Precision Selling approach that targets economically important accounts, great care must be taken not to lose traditional business. The best precision sellers are quite effective at balancing their efforts between finding ways to serve the traditional market more efficiently while allowing them to give time to Precision Selling. AM


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