For decades, the democratic system of selling to farmers was fairly successful. That is, sales reps set their own sales goals and decided how and when they were going to achieve them. Many sellers were independent dealers who had the freedom to set their own prices and manage their sales territories the way they wanted. Sometimes they hit their sales goals, sometimes they didn’t.
But that democratic system of selling to farmers, though still in place in most ag companies, is not working. As the cost of doing business continues to go up, achieving sales and profit goals is no longer an option. Companies need their sales reps to take total responsibility for hitting their sales targets every year in order to stay in business. Ag companies need to stop being so democratic and insert a system of accountability if they expect to survive the next 10 years.
A couple of years ago, I was hired by an ag company to conduct a two-day training session for 110 of their sales reps. Only 82 reps showed up for the class. Prior to starting the session, I told the VP of sales that I didn’t realize his salespeople worked on commission and had the power to decide which company events they wanted to attend. He looked at me in disgust and said, “They aren’t commissioned, they’re salaried.” I said, “Then why do they have the option not to attend this training session? “He said, “You just nailed our biggest problem and a big reason why past trainings haven’t been working very well. That’s going to stop.”
Some salespeople can operate within a democracy, but most can’t. The cost of doing business today is too high, and achieving sales goals needs to be a more autocratic process, operating under the mentality that hitting goals is no longer optional, but essential to company survival.
When you are asked to reach goals that you believe are beyond your ability or resources, your only option is to rethink and innovate. The majority of ag sellers don’t achieve their sales goals because they refuse to innovate and, instead, make excuses. Innovating to achieve goals means taking total responsibility for doing what your company asks you to do. And that, my fellow street fighter, is not a democracy — it’s your job.
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