When a customer looks to you, their retailer, as a trusted resource, opportunities are created to build a relationship that is mutually beneficial to both parties. You help them, and they help you.
But to get to that point, you need to establish a level of trust. I’ve outlined some steps below that I used with my customers in the past to help me and my team build trust and establish mutual goals. As ag retailers, with how many of your customers do you take the time to complete the following actions?
Disclose Short-Term and Long-term Goals
When a customer establishes short and long-term goals, you can start identifying tools and opportunities to support them in achieving those goals. For instance, if a customer is increasing the size of their operation, you know their demand for product will increase. If a customer is transferring management of the farm, you will want to meet the new farm manager sooner rather than later.
Whiteboard Session to Map Out the Farm Operation
Depending on the operation, the white board session may last five hours or more. This is a great opportunity to review spring, summer, fall and winter activities occurring within each quarter. This would include identifying all inputs, all equipment and labour used in each, and defining key decision milestones.
Sometimes session rules need to be defined; this includes establishing from the outset who will see the information summarized. If a customer is not comfortable sharing a level of detail, point taken, move on.
Identify Farm Operation Constraints and Efficiency Opportunities
Identify farm pain points by quarterly operation and establish what is causing that customer frustration and inefficiencies. Then, begin to demonstrate your knowledge and skills. This is crucial to building shared trust.
Annual Customer Meetings — Open and Frank
Hosting annual meetings allows you and your customers to discuss what mutually worked well and to identify areas for improvement. This meeting also becomes the beginning of the new year planning process, and serves as an opportunity to align planning and purchasing windows. These annual meetings will usually be significantly shorter than the initial white board session.
Identify Mutual Opportunities
Once pain point are identified, think about opportunities as a retailer to guide and direct. Prioritize these critical issues and mutually agree to jointly address and streamline. Doing this creates win-win solutions.
These types of meetings are designed to develop a trusted advisor working relationship with your customer. The insights gained provide you the opportunity to recommend solutions that include your products and services with an associated return on investment for the customer.
When the solutions you’re recommending benefit both seller and buyer, the end result is that you both look forward to the next meeting and seeing how you each will prosper.
Executive Director, CAAR
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