Open Your Ears

Listening can be difficult. People have the tendency to want to talk instead of listening to another individual speak. I’m a talker, and I am willing to admit that I always want to put my two cents into every conversation. What I have learned, though, is that not listening can cause some trouble.

This summer, I have had the great opportunity to work for Monsanto as a Seed Sales Intern. A sales internship was not what I planned on doing this summer with my agricultural communications degree, but I have enjoyed every second of my internship. When going into the position, I was full of confidence. I knew I was going to talk with many farmers and others, which is no problem for a girl with a communications degree and a big mouth.

The first farm visit I ever made was not bad, but wasn’t a complete success in my eyes. I was visiting a farm outside of Springfield, Illinois where Joe, my boss, and I were going to observe nutrient deficiency in a field. On the way to the farm, Joe was filling me in on all of the information I would need to know. We discussed the farmer and his family, how many acres he farmed, what products from our company he planted, what problems he was facing and so on. I listened, but instead of opening my ears and absorbing the information, I would think of a response to what Joe was saying. We arrived at the farm, greeted the farmer and then headed out into the field. As we were walking through the field, Joe was giving me valuable information about the problem in the field. Once again, I was not listening and was looking at how pretty the sky was instead.
We stopped once Joe discovered the problem and began discussing it with the farmer. Then, I was blindsided with a question from the farmer: “What nutrient deficiency do you think this field is experiencing young lady?” I froze. Joe had told me this answer when we were walking through the field, but I was too busy not paying attention. All I could say was that I wasn’t sure what was going on in his field. Thankfully, I had Joe with me to save the day, but it was an embarrassing experience.

In my sales communication, the assigned textbook, ProSelling, states the five most common reasons salespeople don’t listen. The five reasons are: 1. They are bored, 2. They don’t really care about the speaker or his or her opinions, 3. They feel they already know what the customer is telling them, 4. They can’t focus on someone else for very long and 5. They are nervous and are preparing the next thing they want to say. Those five reasons make perfect sense when I think about my personal experience. In the truck with Joe, I was so nervous about not knowing what to talk about that I didn’t listen. Then out in the field, I wasn’t focusing on the farmer or Joe. I believe that almost every single salesperson in their career has faced the difficulties of listening. People may listen, but they don’t actively listen.

Actively listening is when one hears and retains what he or she has heard. Personally, I get bored doing that. I’m sure I am not the only one to get bored either, and that is because I enjoy talking. The textbook states that not listening is the number two mistake made by salespeople. I firmly believe that information because of how often I have not listened. Poor listening isn’t just in sales, though; it happens in every individual’s life. Also, people do not purposefully not listen. I know an individual not listening to me has offended me before, but it happens. I have done it myself, but I have trained myself to get better at it.

There are ways to become a better listener. One way is to ask clarifying questions to help you understand what is being discussed. Asking confirming questions is another way of making sure to understand and retain what someone is saying. In sales, what I have found to be helpful is to carry a small notepad. When I am talking with someone, I write down the key points they state. When doing this, it is critical to stay engaged with the individual and keep good eye contact. One should not be staring at the notepad the whole time. There have been many times that a farmer has said “thank you” to me for taking notes. The first time that I heard a “thank you” I was surprised. Why would a farmer tell me “thank you” for writing stuff down? He then proceeded to tell me that it shows I care about what he is saying and will remember what we discussed.

Listening takes skill. To become a better listener follow a few of my suggestions: 1.Always face the speaker 2. Maintain eye contact 3.Listen to what the speaker is saying and try to picture the words in your mind 4. Never interrupt the speaker 5. Ask clarifying questions 6. Give the speaker feedback throughout the conversation

Listening takes skill. To become a better listener follow a few of my suggestions:
1. Always face the speaker
2. Maintain eye contact
3. Listen to what the speaker is saying and try to picture the words in your mind
4. Never interrupt the speaker
5. Ask clarifying questions
6. Give the speaker feedback throughout the conversation

The little things we do to become better listeners will help us in our personal lives and careers. I will continue to stress about how important it is to stay an active listener. Ask questions, take notes, ask for clarifications, and most importantly: NEVER STOP LISTENING.

How to Become Successful in Prospecting

Imagine yourself as a salesperson. You are making sales and forming relationships with individuals, but you need to find more potential costumers. What do you do? I have one word that can solve all of your troubles: prospecting! Now that I have given you the solution to your problem, you need to figure out what exactly prospecting means.

As described in the book ProSelling, “’Prospecting’ is the term used to describe the activities the salesperson undertakes to identify potential new accounts” (91). A prospect needs to be an individual who fits in you target segment. For example, if you sell skateboards, you do not want to pick a prospect that is only interested in rollerblades. If you continue to seek out this prospect, you will be rejected and lose potential prospects that fit your target segment.

The main goal in prospecting is converting a prospect into a customer. Prospecting isn’t a simple task that takes 5 minutes though; there is a certain process. You might think that you can just be lucky and get new prospects by not going through this process, and sometimes you can. You will get lucky sometimes, but the most successful approach is searching for new accounts in a systematic way. When you start off your career, prospecting will be time-consuming because establishing a customer base is critical. Is prospecting done once you have all of the customers you need? The answer is no. Prospecting is something an individual practices throughout his or her entire career.

Prospecting does sound simple. Working hard and being knowledgeable should get you all of the customers you need right? I can agree with the statement in some ways, but to be a successful salesperson, one should be a systematic or step-by-step approach.

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On page 93 in ProSelling

The diagram, located on page 93 in ProSelling, above lays out the clear step-by-step approach in a visual perspective. Each step is critical for the success of the whole process. Analyzing territory is a critical component because research needs to take place so the salesperson can fully understand the market and identify groups in that market that have similar needs and wants. After researching, confirming goals with a manager is necessary. It is necessary because a salesperson needs to know how to direct time, effort and budget for the specific territory. The next step is choosing the methods for prospecting. There are two methods a salesperson can utilize, which are cold calls and leads. Cold calls are calls a salesperson makes to someone that he or she knows little information about. A cold call is an opportunity to build a relationship. I recommend cold calling occasionally once you further in your sales career because it is good practice that will keep you strong and confident. The second method is leads. Leads are references that are given to a salesperson to help identify accounts that are a good fit. This method is very important because they have a higher probability of success.

Once a salesperson has identified his or her prospects, prioritizing them is the next step. To do this, a salesperson must determine if the prospect is qualified. A prospect that is qualified has a need that can be satisfied with a product or service, and has the ability to make the purchase. The final step is developing profiles. Before a salesperson makes the first appointment with a prospect, he or she needs to gather as much information as possible. These profiles have important information in them that helps formulate a sales strategy. This step-by-step process helps an individual go from being an average salesperson to an above average salesperson.

Imagine yourself as a salesperson once again. You have been working with the step-by-step process of prospecting, but you are still having issues. You might think you are failing at your job, which is not the case. An article posted on Forbes states that a salesperson that is having difficulties might be missing three key sales strategies. The article written by TJ McCue states all three of these key strategies for being more successful in prospecting. He obtained these strategies from Jill Konrath, a keynote speaker, award-winning author and sales accelerator.

Konrath says, “You must focus, focus, focus.” A salesperson should focus on certain types of customers. If an individual is more focused on certain types of customers, he or she will have a better chance at the message resonating. Also, one should focus on certain types of decision makers. Make sure to become immersed in different challenges to stronger your message. Lastly, a salesperson should only focus on a certain product or service. Another tip of advice given by Konrath in the focus section is, “Focus on your customer instead.” She says to take out the “What’s in it for me?” and to listen to what the consumer wants.

The second piece of advice is to stop “touching base.” Avoid calling a prospect to “touch base” because a call should provide value. A sales person should show a prospect that he or she could help them solve a problem and figure out solutions. The last key point is to do better pre-call planning. She has a full article on the “4 Tips for Effective Pre-Call Sales Planning” that I found to be helpful, and I believe you, as a reader, will as well. The four tips in a summarized text are make assumptions, immerse yourself in certain industries you typically sell to, prepare questions ahead of time and don’t be afraid of not knowing everything. These four tips are all great for pre-call sales planning because they will help a salesperson become more aware of certain things that should be done before jumping into a sales call.

The sales industry might sound laid back at first, but it involves hard work that will evolve into skill. A salesperson is never a full expert in my opinion because there is always room for growth. My own personal advice from my experiences are for one, learn from individuals in higher positions. As a sales intern, I have the opportunity to be around many direct sales managers who all do their job differently. Paying attention to what works for him or her and asking questions as to how you can improve yourself is something I have done for myself. Another piece of advice I can give is to form bonds with as many people as possible. You want to show people that they can trust you and that you are there to help them in any way possible. The last personal tip I will give, that many find to be unnecessary, is to always let costumers see your eyes. I sell seed to growers and when going into a handshake with a dealer or grower, it is always critical to let hi or her see your eyes. This is a more personal connection that will allow the individual to trust you more. I recommend giving it a try if even if you think it won’t be any use to you. Take your sunglasses off and look the individual in the eyes.

How to introduce yourself to a prospect: Have a genuine smile, welcoming handshake and good eye contact.

How to introduce yourself to a prospect: Have a genuine smile, welcoming handshake and good eye contact.

Now that you know the step-by-step process, key points that will help you be a better salesperson and my own personal advice, get out into the sales world! Give every bit of information a try because it can’t hurt anything. In the end, it will help you grow as a salesperson when you find what works best for you. If you already have established a process, work on critiquing it even more. A salesperson can never be “too good.”

Downey, W. Scott, W. David Downey, Michael A. Jackson, and Laura A. Downey.ProSelling: A Professional Approach to Selling in Agriculture and Other Industries. 1st ed. Chesterfield: Agri Marketing Magazine, 2011. Print.

Konrath, Jill. “4 Tips for Effective Pre-Call Sales Planning.” 4 Tips for Effective Pre-Call Sales Planning. Web. 27 June 2015. <;.

McCue, TJ. “Are You Missing These Three Key Sales Prospecting Strategies?” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 15 Aug. 2012. Web. 27 June 2015. <;.

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Watering Livestock Takes A Turn Into The Future

Farmers typically have to fill livestock water dispensers multiple times a day, but not anymore. Automated water dispensers have been implemented to keep livestock hydrated at all times while farmers don’t have to worry about watering them multiple times a day. These water dispensers allow animals to be more self sufficient. Water is purified, refilled whenever low, and even kept unfrozen. Most farmers have hundreds of individual livestock to care for each day; therefore, automatic water tanks have been extremely helpful because they give farmers farmers one less job to do each day.

These water troughs are relatively inexpensive considering the amount of labor they take care of for farmers each day. Especially considering the fact that they not only heat the water for livestock, but they have sensors that allow them to automatically fill up as livestock drink from them. Additionally, they remove toxins and waste from the water so that livestock are always drinking safe water. Water is a necessity of life to all organisms, and without staying hydrated it is difficult for livestock to be productive and healthy.

The tanks can come in a variety of different forms and can cater to all different types of animals ranging from chickens to cows and horses. Farmers can choose what type they want because the prices obviously change along with its features.

Corn Heads Make A Difference

Aside from all the other improvements farmers have been to do their job in a more efficient way, the twelve and sixteen row planter and corn head has been making both planting and harvesting season go by much quicker for American farmers. Although these accessories are a lot more expensive than what farmers are used to, they are definitely worth every penny in the long run. At the 2011 Farm Progress Show John Deere used their S690 combine to demonstrate to farmers how well their new equipment worked. Showing farmers in person how much of an impact technology can have on their daily lives is not only an excellent marketing tool, but also allows them to see the product work before spending thousands of dollars. Especially with agricultural technology, if the product or machinery won’t be worth the money, farmers probably will not think twice about not purchasing it. They have to save money any place that they can.

Technology in agriculture’s primary goal must be efficiency, particularly in this case, the efficiency of field excavation and planting. Depending on the weather, in some years farmers have a lot less time to plant their crops due to a wet or too cold of a winter or spring. In other years, farmers must excavate their crops later or earlier than planned due to dry spells, too much rain, or even when winter is quickly approaching. The schedule of the farmer strictly depends on the weather around him, so he needs reliable equipment that can help him to get his job done faster and better.

Is Technology Scary?

Some are scared of new things, which is completely understandable. Technology can especially be scary. New technology gets implemented every day and the public is supposed to trust the creators a out it’s safety. Personally, technology can be scary, but there are many benefits for technology implementation in every industry. Agriculture has adapted it and seen many of the benefits.

Farmers can save time by having other devices check crops, GPS systems can navigate and located farm equipment, and so much more. The technology movement will continue to increase. The hard party about technology is trusting it to complete our tasks. There could be a malfunction or other problem that could mess something up. A lot of trust comes with using technology. Do you think it’s scary? That’s something every individual has the right to determine on their own.

The Advanced Technology in Agriculture

Today I was looking for new blogs on technology use in agriculture when I stumbled upon Brian Scott’s bog post that was posted March 12 of 2012. His article describes the twelve most advanced agriculture technologies in the industry. I found it very interesting that the technology being most commonly used now is pretty much the same as the technology being used in 2012.

The twelve’s most advanced agricultural technologies are tractors on autopilot, swath control and variable rate technology, telematics, animal sensors, irrigation using a smart phone, crop sensors, GPS systems, biotechnology, an automatic system that uses water to flush manure away, ultrasounds and testing for livestock, mobile technology, and cameras (Scott). All of this technology benefits farmers every day.

Farmers have become very good at implementing technology in their farm, and they are seeing the benefits to this. At first, technology can be difficult to implement, and farmers need to know that and also know it is worth it at the end. What I find interesting is that the technology in 2012 hasn’t increased as much as I though it would by this time. I understand it’s only been a bit over two years, but with technology moving at such a fast rate, I thought there would be more of a difference. Technology comes with many benefits and the benefits will keep increasing as new technology is produced.

Sharing Technology Using Technology

Agriculture is implementing an abundance of new technology, but how do we spread the news? Ironically, we spread the news with technology. Without technology, the news would take time to travel because it would all be done by person-to-person. The United States Census states that in the year of 2011, 75.6 percent of the population have a household computer and use the Internet. That number will only continue to increase due to the younger generation having technology at a young age or even as soon as they were born.

One of the problems as of right now is spreading the new technology advancement news to farmers so that they will read it. Farmers find out about the information, but most of the time it is on paper. Magazines, letters, and other things are presented to farmers to inform them. I believe that is wasting paper though. Social media is booming with users, and I was not shocked about this fact I learned. “…used by 57% of all American adults and 73% of all those ages 12-17” (Smith). As one can see, the younger generation is more technology savvy than the older generation and that is why it is hard to spread the information through technology with the older generation. With the use of technology, data can be sent out at a faster pace and less resources would be used.

In the future, we will begin to see more of this because the younger generation will get into the industry and they will use technology more than their dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and etc. Technology is a major movement in this era, and the movement will only continue to grow.