This article is based on the last installment in my series of podcasts on sales personas that I recorded with Mark Allen Roberts of OTB Sales Solutions. Mark is my go-to sales expert and I always learn something new when we chat about selling.
Make sure you listen to the podcast for lots of great insights into building materials sales.
Today we’re covering the farmer. Unlike fishermen and hunters, your farmers do their best work when they’re growing existing accounts.
Farmers might not be the best at winning big clients or converting reluctant customers, but they’re excellent at building relationships and creating a great rapport with customers.
It’s easy to identify the farmers in your team. While the hunters tend to work as lone wolves, farmers are usually friends with everybody. The fishermen are always busy reaching out to people over email, phone calls, and Zoom meetings, but farmers prefer to build stronger connections.
Farmers are also natural conversationalists. They can carry a discussion, actively listen and provide incredibly useful feedback. That’s why customers tend to trust farmers – they make them feel heard.
Farmers are also patient. Instead of wheeling and dealing, they give themselves time to discover a customer’s pain points and find genuine solutions to their problems.
More importantly, farmers are closely involved in the customer’s businesses. No one builds loyalty better than them. They know more about the customer than anyone else on your team. They spend so much time with each account that they’re treated like family.
How Farmers Help Your Building Materials Business Grow
A lot of building material companies measure their success based on the way hunters work. They tally up the contracts they closed and count all the new customers they acquired.
Plus, nothing feels more satisfying than ringing the bell every time you make a new deal.
But if you focus too much on those new acquisitions, you’ll be missing out on opportunities to grow your existing customers.
Nurturing customers might not be as exciting as getting new ones, but it’s a great way to increase your margins and sustain your growth over the long run. Without farmers, there’s a good chance you would lose customers more quickly than you could replace them.
Outstanding farmers can maximize the lifetime value of your clients. They can get existing customers to upgrade to a new product, use your materials in more projects and renew their contracts.
Getting new customers is difficult and expensive. Maintaining and growing the accounts you already have takes much less work and far fewer resources. That’s why your farmers are essential.
What Makes a Successful Farmer?
The farmers who drive the most value for your business are the ones who have a great eye for opportunity.
A good farmer can find new ways to solve problems for their customers. They’re able to look at a customer’s business and match solutions to their needs. This is where farmers work their magic by cross-selling, upselling, or both.
A good farmer will rarely negotiate on price. Discounts are a race to the bottom and they’re value-driven salespeople. They know the key to growing accounts isn’t lowering prices – it’s increasing loyalty.
Customers are looking for sales reps they can trust. They want someone who will listen to them and understand the way they make money. They want innovative solutions that help them succeed, not to haggle over price reductions.
That’s what farmers offer. They can walk into a distributor, dealer, architect, builder, or contractor and speak directly about the issues they’re dealing with and suggest ways to fix them.
Farmers also know how to leverage data across different channels. They can take information from one resource and apply it to another. That’s an underrated skill, but it’s how farmers get huge returns from customer accounts.
The Dark Side of Farming: Beware the Babysitters
Farmers will create plenty of value for your company, but it’s easy to confuse them for another type of salesperson who won’t pull their weight.
I’m talking about babysitters.
Babysitters are salespeople who act like farmers but don’t have the skills they do. Like farmers, they spend lots of time having conversations with customers. Unlike farmers, though, they don’t actually work on growing their accounts.
You can usually spot a babysitter based on their performance. They’ll underperform even in a booming market. They’ll pat themselves on the back for increasing revenue by 20% while the market is up by 60%.
Once in a while, though, a babysitter will get lucky. They get to handle easy clients who practically sell themselves or there’s an increase in demand that makes it look like they’ve successfully grown their accounts.
If you want to figure out whether a salesperson is a babysitter or a farmer, all it takes is one word: “why?”
“Why did this account grow?”
“Why did you offer this product instead of this other one?”“Why do you think this solution is the right one for the customer?”
If they can’t answer those questions, it’s because they got lucky. They’re babysitting a customer instead of studying them and helping them. They don’t understand the customer’s problems or how to solve them.
Babysitters are terrible for your business. They chit-chat with customers but don’t actually take good care of them. That’s why farmers get gift baskets during the holidays while babysitters only get a card.
When a customer is saddled with a babysitter, they’ll feel like their needs aren’t being met. They’ll start shopping around for something better. Because of that, babysitters have much higher turnover rates than farmers. If someone on your team is constantly losing clients, that’s your babysitter.
Train them, mentor them, or replace them. One way or another, you need to get rid of babysitters and put farmers in their place.
Subscribe To My Newsletter
If you like what I say, sign up for my newsletter here and get my weekly newsletter every Sunday night.