What Ag Can Learn from Software Sales

Eric Postma

T The way agribusinesses connect with their customers has always been intriguing to me. It’s an industry that is full of innovation, yet the sales and marketing teams have often relied on very traditional methods to reach their customers. Relationship-based selling, tradeshows and a good firm handshake are still heavily used approaches in agriculture. This is not entirely unique to agriculture, as many other sales-based industries also rely on traditional sales methods (think of automotive, finance, etc.).

That said, I don’t think traditional methods are good enough anymore. People are changing in the way that they learn about, research and purchase products. New digitally-native organizations have forced certain industries to adapt - Netflix has changed the way people purchase and consume media, Amazon has changed the way people buy products, and software companies have changed the B2B sales game.

Most software companies are new startups and don’t have legacy systems, people or processes in place. Instead, they have had an opportunity to truly embrace zero-sum planning and build sales and marketing teams that deliver optimal results given their situation. This industry has led the way when it comes to embracing sales enablement.

Agriculture companies can learn a lot from the software industry about selling with modern tools and techniques. I believe that these seemingly different industries, in fact, share a lot of common sales issues:

  • Both industries sell technically complex products that require educational content to be delivered to their prospects.
  • Ag and software companies all need to reach geographically spread-out audiences.
  • Software companies need to be lean (“Bootstrapping” is a common term used to describe the early approach to building these companies), and in recent years, ag has had to find ways to be leaner than ever before.

Based on the similarities in need, there are some great lessons that ag companies can learn from software sales companies. While seemingly very different, agriculture and software face similar problems when it comes to sales and marketing. We can look for innovative approaches in other industries to help your sales teams do what they do best.

Lesson 1: Publish content to educate your customers

More of the buyer’s journey is happening online, long before a customer connects with a sales rep. Your customers have questions, challenges, and opportunities that your products, services and approach can address. You probably already help address these questions in the conversations your sales team has with your customers, and your sales team can become an excellent resource for developing content that is useful for your audience.

Lesson 2: Use digital tools to reach your customers

Ag companies have embraced some digital marketing methods but have only started to dip their toes into digital sales. 2020 has been a year of adaptation as many agribusinesses have had to learn the art of crafting a good email or the opportunity of e-commerce. In a time where we can rely on tradeshows and on-farm visits even less, we need to learn how to adapt our approach.

Lesson 3: Automation is your friend

It can be hard to keep up as sales teams are expected to reach more people with fewer resources. There are tools available that help scale sales efforts so that your team can focus on the most qualified and valuable customers. When implemented correctly, marketing automation, sales automation, and CRM systems help your marketing and sales team to become more efficient.

Lesson 4: Unite sales and marketing

Sales enablement is all about connecting the sales and marketing team around common goals and processes. Software companies have embraced the role of Chief Revenue, Growth, or Experience Officer – someone responsible for the company’s growth. Sales and marketing can’t exist in a silo because your customer doesn’t see your silos (unless of course, you sell silos).

We are beginning to see some of these modern sales enablement techniques being embraced in the agriculture industry. Ag tech startups and other new entrants often see the need to reach farmers with digital methods, while many other organizations have had to scramble to adapt over the last 12 months. The need to adapt and embrace digital methods has never been more apparent. As consumer behavior continues to evolve, the question is not if you will embrace new digital approaches, but determining which digital strategies are needed to thrive.

About the Writer:

Eric Postma - Vice President, Digital

With over 15 years of digital marketing experience, Eric has seen first-hand the ever-evolving trends and shifts that have defined the digital era. At Think Shift, Eric works closely with clients to help them navigate the constantly changing digital landscape to achieve their business goals.

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