The Seed Industry is Terrible at Time Management

- Rod Osthus

I can predict how successful virtually every ag company will be, long before the 2017 selling season comes to a close in 2018. It’s not because I’m extra-smart. That ability comes from nearly 45 years in this business. I’ve discovered that a company’s level of success has nothing to do with the products they sell, the programs they offer or the prices they charge. Instead, their success has everything to do with how they manage time.

Nearly 70 percent of the time available to seed sales reps is wasted every year, doing activities that don’t generate sales. In fact, I’ve found the most common event that generates the most sales is the least common event done: making well-prepared customer contacts that generate orders. Hard to believe? Not if you take a close look and compare the amount of progress you’ve been making with the average effectiveness of your salespeople.

Something is obviously wrong, and it’s not always the field seller’s fault. But don’t blame the marketplace, either. Every other company is fighting the same battles. Blame yourself for either allowing or demanding your salespeople spend their time in the wrong places. Many companies use their salespeople as utility people, asking them to do jobs that take away their ability to be with customers, just for the sake of saving a few bucks.

The No. 1 thing that generates sales is well prepared customer contacts, and lots of them. How much time is each member of your sales team allowed to spend preparing for and actually making well-prepared customer contacts? As I said before, probably only about 30 percent.

What so many company leaders don’t understand is that the entire success of their business is based on time management, nothing else. It doesn’t matter what you’re selling, it doesn’t matter what programs you have and the price doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is how your salespeople use their time.

The companies who get the increases they want every year are more efficient at orchestrating well-prepared sales opportunities, giving them more time to make customer contacts and get sales. They end up selling more in less time than their competitors. Nothing happens in any company until someone writes an order, and what better way is there to demonstrate that time is really money?

Do you want to know what kind of sales year your company is going to have? Simply observe what your salespeople do with their time. It’s like having a crystal ball. It will tell you everything you want to know about how successful your sales year is going to be. If they aren’t at customer’s planters in the spring, doing post-planting report card checks, walking fields in the summer and riding in combines in the fall, they’re wasting a whole lot of their time and your money.