Monday, April 26, 2010
How to sell your stuff
Successful Farming's marketing team lines up in Kansas City
While attending the annual meeting of agri-marketing professionals in Kansas City last week, I ran into a fellow, let’s say his name was Gordon, whom I thought I’d never see again. I knew Gordon in another life, back when he was a successful sales executive, but also knew him as someone who’d been fired a couple times and bounced around a bit in his profession.
My first thought upon shaking Gordon’s hand, was that, wow, how can he keep up that smile and firm handshake? And, he actually seems genuinely interested in talking with me. If he were selling me something, I might be buying.
Marketers must have something special to stay in a tough game, it dawned on me. So I started asking some of the marketing pros at this meeting, “What does it take to be a good marketer?”
After all, don’t most farmers have something to sell besides the commodities they produce? Maybe you sell seed, club calves, or custom field work. Or perhaps you’re selling yourself to landowners.
In about a half dozen interviews, here’s what I learned, mostly pretty basic stuff, but perhaps something to keep in mind next time you’re pitching your customers, banker, neighbor, or landlord.
Understand your customers. “This means listening, and asking why should they care,” said one marketer. I get this. One’s first impulse is what’s in this for me, rather than for the customer.
Be willing to change. “It’s easy to be offended if people don’t like your product or idea,” an advertising agency executive said. “You have to be adaptable.”
Be social and outgoing. Unless you’re a guy like Gordon for whom this comes naturally, you may have to really work at this one. But, unless you put yourself out there, how are you going get your message across? You wouldn’t believe how much networking goes on at an agri-marketing conference.
Be a quick communicator. Kristi Moss, Paulsen Marketing, gave me this thought: “You need to make your message clear and succinct.” Nobody wants a long, boring story about your product or service. Marketers have taught me you should be able to give your message in an “elevator speech”—something you can boil down and tell someone in the time it takes to go from one floor to another.
Use your intuition. Some people have an innate ability to figure out what’s really needed by their customers. “You need to link what is being sold with what is being sought,” said Paulsen’s Greg Guse. To me, this means trusting your basic instincts—what do you know best about machinery, livestock, land, and other farm matters?
I doubt Gordon thinks about all these things when he’s talking with a prospective customer. He listens to you, remembers your name, and tells a good story. He has that innate ability; selling comes naturally to him. Most of us have to work at it.
Posted by John Walter at 6:51 AM