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December 12, 2018 | Grain Hedge Insights | Kevin McNew | Views: 3

Soybeans Trade Higher

WASDE Does Little to Excite Corn and Soy Markets

Soybeans Trade Higher As President Trump Claims China Is “Back In The Market”

In an interview with Reuters, President Trump stated that after his fruitful meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Argentina for the G20 Summit that China would be buying a “tremendous” amount of US origin soybeans. While President Trump told reporters that China is “back in the market” for US beans, China has yet to publicize any purchases. In the overnight session, Jan 19 soybeans traded nearly 8 cents higher to $9.23 per bushel as the market looks for signs of an end to the US-China Trade War.

Export Sales Announcement

Export sales of 130,632 metric tons of soybeans for delivery to Mexico during the 2018/2019 marketing year. Export sales of 110,000 metric tons of soybeans for delivery to unknown destinations during the 2018/2019 marketing year.

President Trump Claims China Is “Back In The Market” For Soybeans, May Halt Farmer Payments

The White House has been delaying approval for a second round of payments to be made to farmers following the sharp decline in commodity prices due to the Trade War with China. Sources say that the Trump Administration’s Office of Management and Budget has been holding off on approving the new payments because of a possible resolution to the trade tension between the US and China that may cause prices to break higher. Back in July, the USDA had authorized up to $12 billion to be used as aid for farmers and ranchers affected by the escalating rhetoric between President Trump and Beijing.

Yesterday’s WASDE Does Little To Excite Corn, Soy Markets, Wheat Sees Exports Fall

In yesterday’s Dec WASDE from the USDA, corn saw demand weaken as total usage for ethanol fell by 50 million bushels. Imports also fell by 5 mbu, leading total US ending stocks to rise by 45 to 1.781 bbu. In the US, there was no change to supply and demand for soybeans with ending stocks remaining a record large 955 mbu. Brazilian production was raised by 1.5 to 122 MMT. For wheat, the USDA dropped their exports figure by 25 mbu, leading ending stocks to rise by the same amount to 974 mbu, nearly 11% lower than the previous year. Global wheat supplies rose as Russia was revised to see a larger carry-in.


The risk of trading futures, hedging, and speculating can be substantial. FBN BR LLC (NFA ID: 0508695)

December 12, 2018 | Coach’s Corner | | Views: 40

Bite Your Tongue

Even when every bone in your body is telling you to scream out!

Bite Your Tongue

As a salesperson, learning how to bite your tongue will pay big dividends. However, it takes self-control and time to reap the benefits from keeping your mouth closed.

When to bite your tongue:

  • When a customer blames you for something that isn’t your fault
  • When a customer kicks you off their farm or out of their business
  • When a customer tells you, they are leaving you
  • When that former customer is rumored to have said bad things about you
  • When that former customer returns to do business with you
  • Even when your customer doesn’t bite theirs

Biting your tongue doesn’t mean remaining silent. It means don’t retaliate the way you really want to. When a customer has one of these outbursts, our temptation is to retaliate with our own outburst. We want to match their anger or negative energy or we want to set the record straight, in our opinion.

Here’s my advice and coaching: Don’t!

Instead, bite your tongue. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, bite your tongue. Let your customer finish. Allow them to leave you without your retaliation. This may sound like weakness or that you will be thought of as a pushover like you didn’t stand up for yourself. Maybe true, but biting your tongue allows that customer to return sooner. Meeting their anger with your own anger, just makes a bad situation worse. Additionally, your wayward customer might not actually carry out their threats. They might just be blowing off some steam at you and have no real intention of leaving you. When they calm down, they will realize your value and continue to buy from you. However, if you vented your own frustrations, you may have just made their return harder or longer to accomplish.

The reason I say all this is because I learned the hard way. The first customer that quit me, let me know in no uncertain terms how unhappy he was with me and my company. I “stuck up for me and my company”. I “set the record straight” with this dealer. Twelve years later, that customer returned. But only after another salesperson took over that area. I am convinced, he would have returned or better yet, never left if I handled it differently.

Several years later and wiser, I was kicked off a farm. This customer owed us money and my information was accurate. The customer knew it … but refused to agree with it. As I persisted, he got angrier, shouted and then told me to get the @#$% off his farm, along with my paperwork. Recognizing my previous mistakes, I bit my tongue. Leaving the farm that day, I agonized over how much I had done for this customer. I saved him time and money with my products and knowledge. I couldn’t believe he treated me this way. Four months later, he called. “Where have you been? How come you haven’t been out to quote me prices?” he asked, as if he never kicked me off the farm.

After receiving his phone call, I went back to the farm that I was kicked off just four months earlier. We went over pricing and he returned to me as a customer. We picked up right where we left off and never discussed the past. I continued to add value and he continued to appreciate that value. For the next five years, we had 100% of his business up until the day he passed away.

That’s not the end of the story! His kids took over the business and I continued to sell to them. Sitting down at lunch one day, his son began to recollect on that day his dad got angry with me and kicked me off the farm. Wanting to let it go, I mentioned that it was no big deal and “It happens”. His son continued to tell me how bad his dad felt after treating me that way but truly didn’t think he owed us the money. His dad told him how he understood that I was just doing my job of collecting on the account and didn’t deserve to be yelled at. Emotions overcame him and he felt bad about it. He respected how I reacted to the situation and he respected that I returned to sell him without retaliation or an “I told you so” attitude.

If you are naturally a reactive person and you “wear your emotions on your sleeve”, then take extra precautions to bite your tongue. Recognize your tendency and prepare for those customer interactions that might become volatile. I knew collecting on an account was a volatile topic and I was prepared that day to remain calm. Quite different than several years earlier when my dealer quit me and I failed to keep my mouth shut.

Good luck and enjoy the benefits of biting your tongue, even when every bone in your body is telling you to scream out!

December 10, 2018 | Editor's View | | Views: 329

Shuttle Loading & Rail Safety Tips

NGFA offers these safety tips and suggested practices for shuttle loading operations

Shuttle Loading & Rail Safety Tips
Dan Gunderson | MPR News

Employees need to be able to recognize hazards in the rail yard that could potentially cause harm to personnel, equipment, or commodity.

Detailed planning, proper training, and communication are key components for any shuttle load/unload operation.

Effective Communications

Prior to working around railcars, a set of requirements needs to be established between the rail crew and facility employees. Since a loading/unloading operation typically is loud by nature, depending solely on voice and radio communication is not always efficient.

One way to address this issue is to use lights during dark hours or a spotter relaying hand and arm signals during daylight hours. Regardless of which method(s) chosen, always ensure that the person(s) you are working with understands what you are trying to communicate before an action is initiated.

Working around Railcars

When an employee or crew member is required to go between or work on the end of cars, the following practices are recommended:

Engine operator has a clear understanding of the work to be performed
Engine operator is notified by employee/crew of movement between cars and verifies by radio
Engine operator ensures the equipment will not move until the employee/crew requesting protection has reported by radio that they are no longer between or on the end of the equipment
The employee/crew going between or working on the end of equipment is to wait until all movement of equipment has stopped and the slack has adjusted
When stepping out from between cars or power units, employees/crew are to watch for equipment moving on adjacent tracks or roadways

Track Etiquette

• Do not cross within 25’ of standing cars

• Do not cross in front of approaching cars

• Step over, not onto, the tracks, frogs or switches

• Do not walk between tracks • Do not sit on the track or rail structures

• Do not sit on the steps or handrails of a moving power unit

• Do not attempt to mount, cross over, cross under or dismount a rail car while it is moving

Car Roof Operations and Roof Fall Protections

Environmental conditions, such as walkways made slippery by snow, ice, or rain, can cause workers to lose their footing and potentially slip off rail car roof tops.

Employees should not stand on any other portion of the car roof other than the walkway. Windy days can pose an additional hazard for workers on top of the cars.

Riding or standing on the roof of a moving car should only be done while the car is at the loadout spout and when the car is creeping or stopped. Additional safety training is advised for employees at facilities equipped with car roof fall protection systems.

Hopper Gates

Railcar hopper gates were designed to open and close easily. Damage, normal wear/tear and weather can all deteriorate a hopper gate to the point of it requiring additional help to move.

Tools, such as a large ratchet/socket combo or a pry bar, are often used. The safest way to use a pry bar is for the worker to have a secure grip, feet securely planted, and to pull up with the leg muscles minimizing back strain. To minimize the chance of injury, seek additional help.

Crossing over Cars

An employee should cross only between cars equipped with crossover platforms and hand holds. Always maintain a firm grip and be prepared for sudden movement.

 Never step on a coupler, uncoupling lever, or draw bar while crossing through cars. Do not cross underneath a coupler, instead, find a car with a safe crossover platform. Never attempt to cross over while the cars are in motion.

Ensure that crossover platforms, ladders and handrails are inspected. If possible, use another car in the string to mount or cross between cars. Using a car drawbar as a step can be dangerous because each drawbar has several inches of slack and a foot can easily be caught if the car happens to move or is jarred.


Don’t forget the BLUE FLAG!

The practice of blue flagging keeps unauthorized engines and track mobiles from entering an occupied spur and striking parked rail cars or workers

More safety information can be found at


Disclaimer: The National Grain and Feed Association make no warranties, expressed or implied, concerning the accuracy, application or use of the information contained in this publication. Further, nothing contained herein is intended as legal notice. Competent legal counsel should be consulted on legal issues. Grain handling facilities should contact experienced safety and health legal counsel or a third-party expert if they have questions about the proper way to implement the items addressed in the document.

December 06, 2018 | Grain Hedge Insights | Kevin McNew | Views: 478

Top Executive at Chinese Tech Firm Arrested

Move puts strain on U.S.-China trade talks

Top Executive at Chinese Tech Firm Arrested

Top Executive at Chinese Tech Firm Huawei Arrested, Puts Strain On U.S.-China Talks

Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou of Huawei was arrested in Canada on behalf of the U.S. and faces possible extradition to America for allegedly violating the trade embargo with Iran.

Meng is also a vice chair on Huawei’s board and is the daughter of the company’s founder Ren Zhengfei.

Huawei is the world’s largest telecommunication equipment and second largest cell phone manufacturer and reported $93 billion in revenue last year. They have previously been in the spotlight of Western governments about concerns that they are using their devices to spy for the Chinese government and have been suspected of violating Iranian sanctions. Chinese officials have stated that they fiercely opposed the arrest of Meng and demand her immediate release. Jan soybeans were down nearly -9.5 cents overnight on the news.

Export Sales Announcement

Private exporters reported to the U.S. Department of Agriculture export sales of 198,120 metric tons of corn for delivery to Mexico. Of the total 106,680 metric tons is for delivery during the 2018/2019 marketing year and 91,440 metric tons is for delivery during the 2019/2020 marketing year.

Argentina is Approved to Export Soy Oil to China, No Word Yet on Soymeal

Last weekend at the G20 Summit in Argentina, China agreed to buy 300,000-400,000 tonnes of soyoil from Argentina, compared to 120,000 tonnes over the past three years. Both soyoil and meal prices have been hit hard in China as raw soybean imports from the US have been cut off. Nonetheless, China has not given approval for soymeal imports from Argentina just yet, as they would still prefer to import unprocessed beans and crush them domestically. Argentina is the world’s largest exporter of both soymeal and oil but Argentine soy crushing plants have only been running at 55% capacity as crushers must compete with exporters for supply following a drought-stricken soy crop last year.

Brazilian Soy Planting Heads For Home, Argentina Nearly Halfway

According to AgRural, Brazilian farmers are now 89% complete with soybean planting, ahead of this time last year at 84% and the 5 year average of 78%. At this pace, bean harvest could begin as soon as mid-December, nearly 2 weeks ahead of normal and possibly the earliest ever. In Brazil, the second crop corn is planted immediately after beans are harvested and the second crop produces roughly ⅔ of all Brazilian corn. Further south in Argentina, soybeans are 41% planted and corn is 38%. There has been excellent conditions so far for the Argentine crop and corn planting is set to accelerate as farmers deliberately slow down in November to avoid crops pollinating during the hottest parts of January.


The risk of trading futures, hedging, and speculating can be substantial. FBN BR LLC (NFA ID: 0508695)

December 05, 2018 | Grain Hedge Insights | Kevin McNew | Views: 303

POTUS Seeks Real Deal with China

Trump suggests new tariffs, or an increase in the existing tariff rates, may still be on the table

POTUS Seeks Real Deal with China

President Trump Seeks “Real Deal” With China, Warns of More Tariffs if China Fails to Compromise

In a tweet sent yesterday, President Trump said that his trade advisers, led by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, are working to secure a “real” trade deal with China; one that meets the President’s demands on intellectual property rights, forced tech transfer, and non-tariff barriers. Barring this type of trade deal, President Trump also tweeted to “remember, I am a Tariff Man,” possibly suggesting new tariffs or an increase in the existing tariff rates may be on the table following the 90-day negotiation truce. This morning, President Trump tweeted a quote from a Bloomberg article about China resuming purchases of both U.S. soybeans and liquified natural gas (LNG) although details of the purchase volumes or timetable remain unclear.

Parts of Ukraine Remain Under Martial Law As Ships Line Up, Unable to Load

Last week, Russian forces fired on three Ukrainian naval ships and detained the sailors. The Ukrainian government then declared martial law for 3 days in all of the provinces that border either Russia or the Black Sea. This turmoil has caused over 20 ships bound for ports in Ukraine to be held up, waiting for permission from the Russian coast guard, who has been inspecting all vessels travelling through the Kerch Strait since April. Russian officials have cited poor weather as the reason that ships cannot travel on to Ukraine. The Ukrainian port of Berdyansk typically loads over 1 MMT of grain but has nearly come to a standstill. Waiting costs of up to $2500 a day have also made Berdyansk an unpopular destination.

Weather Forecast Calls for Winter Weather in the East

The National Weather Service is calling for snow, freezing rain, and cold temperatures in the Eastern Corn Belt through the end of the week. Most of Indiana and W Ohio are expecting slight accumulations of snow, followed by a drizzle of freezing rain that may turn back into snow later tonight. Further south in Kentucky, the NWS has issued a winter weather advisory for several counties in the northern part of the state as they are forecast to receive up to an inch of snow.  


The risk of trading futures, hedging, and speculating can be substantial. FBN BR LLC (NFA ID: 0508695)

December 04, 2018 | Grain Hedge Insights | Kevin McNew | Views: 384

Perdue: China Will Buy U.S. Soybeans

Is unclear if China will ultimately remove their tariffs on soybeans

Perdue: China Will Buy U.S. Soybeans

USDA Secretary Says China Will Buy U.S. Soybeans, Is Uncertain If Tariffs Will Be Removed

In a press conference yesterday, the USDA Chief Sonny Perdue made comments that China will likely buy U.S. soybeans in the early part of 2019 due to dwindling South American supplies but it is unclear if China will ultimately remove their tariffs on soybeans. Many trading firms such as ADM and Bunge disagree with Secretary Perdue, saying that China may not have to buy U.S. origin beans because of the quickly-approaching South American harvest. The Brazilian soy crop has seen record fast planting and ready for harvest up to two weeks ahead of average. The announcements from China and the US following Saturday’s G20 Summit called for China to purchase US ag products “immediately” and for the US to hold off on any additional tariffs.

Brazil Soybean Planting Continues at Record Pace, is in Great Condition

As of the end of last week, Brazil was 89% planted for soybeans across the whole country, up from 84% this time last year and higher than the 5 year average of 78%. Dr Michael Cordonnier of Soybean & Corn Advisor estimates that the Brazilian crop is 95% good-to-excellent as subsoil moisture is adequate in the major growing regions of central, eastern and northeastern Brazil. There have been some cases of soybean rust being reported from the central growing region. Soybean rust is problematic in Brazil because of volunteer beans popping up due to bean-on-bean rotation and rust spore drift from neighboring Paraguay. Brazilian farmers will apply fungicide as soon as rust is detected in a field.

Winter Weather, Hazardous Travel Conditions Forecast for E Nebraska And W Iowa

The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for counties in E Nebraska and W Iowa along the Missouri River. Freezing rain is expected to turn into snow flurries with little accumulation. Roads may become iced over as the rain freezes. To the east, central Iowa to central Illinois are also expecting freezing rain and the accumulation of ice on roadways. The freezing rains over Iowa aren’t expected to last through the second half of the week but may complicate transportation on unsalted roads.


The risk of trading futures, hedging, and speculating can be substantial. FBN BR LLC (NFA ID: 0508695)

November 30, 2018 | Grain Hedge Insights | Kevin McNew | Views: 317

Soybeans Higher in Overnight Prior to G20 Talks

Leaders from world’s largest economies are set to meet in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Soybeans Higher in Overnight Prior to G20 Talks

Soybeans Higher Overnight With G20 Talks Beginning Tomorrow

Leaders from the world’s largest economies are set to meet in Buenos Aires, Argentina, tomorrow for the G20 Summit. The main event of these talks will be the 1-on-1 meetings between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping regarding the Trade War. Jan soybeans traded as much as 6.25 cents higher to $8.935 a bushel and Mar corn was up about 1.25 cents to $3.745 per bushel. Both corn and soybeans are higher week-over-week. There are some mixed signals on what will come from President Trump’s meetings. Gary Locke, former US ambassador to China, believes that Trump would hold off on any additional tariffs in exchange for further talks with China. Analysts at Scotiabank expect a deal that won’t require China to compromise much and would provide Trump with a moral victory. Earlier this week, President Trump told the Wall Street Journal in an interview that he is considering implementing additional tariffs on cell phones and computers, as well as raising the rate on existing tariffs on Jan 1 if China fails to make a deal.

Export Sales Announcement

Private exporters reported to the U.S. Department of Agriculture export sales of 120,000 metric tons of soybeans for delivery to unknown destinations during the 2018/2019 marketing year.

Argentina Continues To Buy Cheap American Soybeans Thanks To US-China Trade War

With retaliatory tariffs in place on US agricultural products, US soybean exports to China have dropped to almost none, causing domestic US bean prices to fall nearly 15%. China has then turned to  Brazilian and Argentine soybean imports. With soybean exports to China in high demand and last year’s drought constraining supply, Argentina has turned to the US for beans to crush as Argentina has one of the largest soy crushing industries in the world and are the top exporter of soymeal. Since July, 43 vessels full of US soybeans have sailed from the US to Argentina, compared to zero last year. Also, last year saw 282 US bean vessels headed directly to China, compared to only 9 in 2018. Argentina has also been negotiating with the Chinese government for approval for an export license to send soymeal to China instead of just unprocessed soybeans.

Nearly A Foot And A Half Of Snow Forecast For Nebraska And South Dakota

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for most of Nebraska and S South Dakota. The NWS expects snow accumulations up to 16 inches or more in areas of central Nebraska and wind gusts up to 30 mph in Nebraska and South Dakota. Further east, the NWS has issued dense fog advisories for much of Iowa and N Illinois. The fog may also form icy deposits on roadways which could create hazardous driving conditions.


The risk of trading futures, hedging, and speculating can be substantial. FBN BR LLC (NFA ID: 0508695)

November 29, 2018 | Grain Hedge Insights | Kevin McNew | Views: 241

Corn Export Sales Surge

USDA announced weekly export sales for corn as 1,266,500 MT, 44% higher than the previous week

Corn Export Sales Surge

Corn Export Sales Surge from Previous Week, Soybeans and Wheat Underwhelm

The USDA announced weekly export sales for corn as 1,266,500 MT, 44% higher than the previous week and up 77% from the 4-week average. These sales numbers also far surpassed analysts expectations. The largest buyers of US corn were South Korea, Colombia, and Japan. Soybean sales came in at 628,800 MT, 8% lower than the previous week but represents an increase of 50% from the 4 week average. Top buyers of beans for the week were the Netherlands, Argentina, and Mexico. For wheat, the USDA pegged export sales as 377,100 MT, which is 14% higher than last week but 25% lower than the 4 week average. The week’s top buyers were Peru, Nigeria, and Mexico.

Ethanol Production and Stockpiles Grow Slightly as Ethanol Futures Make 13-Year Low

For the week ending on Nov 23, the Energy Information Administration reported ethanol production as 1.048 million barrels per day, compared to 1.042 million barrels per day for the previous week. Inventories of the biofuel grew modestly as well, rising by 139,000 to 22.93 million barrels. Ethanol stocks this time last year were 22.044 million barrels as demand has stagnated during 2018. The futures price of ethanol traded at the lowest level since June 2005, going for $1.15 a gallon in Chicago. Demand has eroded but supply remains steady as ethanol producers continue to grind corn and distill.

Winter Weather Conditions Expected Across Much of Western Corn Belt and Northern Plains

The National Weather Service has extended their winter storm watch from Montana in the west all the way east to N Iowa and will remain in effect through the weekend. Montana and W South Dakota can expect up to 10 inches of snow. Further south, E South Dakota and NE Nebraska are expecting 4-6 inches and winds as high as 35 mph. The tri-state region of Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin is also bracing for 4-8 inches of snow and ice accumulations following a forecasted ice storm early Saturday morning.


The risk of trading futures, hedging, and speculating can be substantial. FBN BR LLC (NFA ID: 0508695)

November 28, 2018 | Grain Hedge Insights | Kevin McNew | Views: 485

USDA Set to Announce Second Round of Payments Due to Trade War

Speculated that second round of payments will be similar to the first

USDA Set to Announce Second Round of Payments Due to Trade War

USDA Set to Announce Second Round Of Payments Due To Trade War

In early Dec, the USDA will announce the specifics of the second wave of the Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments that will be issued to farmers negatively impacted by the ongoing Trade War with China. Its speculated that the second round will be similar to the first estimates issued back in Sep which were $0.005 per bushel for corn, $0.825 for soybeans, and $4 a head for hogs. This rate would mean that 64 bpa soybeans would equate to $53 per acre in payments. Producers will have until Jan 15, 2019 to complete all of the paperwork to enroll in the program and receive payments.

President Trump Freezes Program that Exempts Oil Refiners from Blending in Biofuels

The Trump Administration has just announced that they will temporarily halt issuing hardship waivers to oil refineries that allow them to forego the blending in of biofuels because of the financial burden. The White House has placed 22 waiver applications on hold while the Department of Energy drafts up new terms that will determine what degrees of financial hardship would qualify a refiner for the waiver. The Renewable Fuel Standard mandates that oil refiners must blend certain amounts of ethanol or biodiesel into the domestic fuel supply or purchase credits that are issued to refiners that do. The biofuel industry considers these hardship waivers as damaging to ethanol and biodiesel demand.

Export Sales Announcement

Private exporters reported to the U.S. Department of Agriculture export sales of 268,748 metric tons of soybeans for delivery to unknown destinations during the 2018/2019 marketing year.

Winter Storms Forecast for Northern Plains and Ohio River Valley

The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for a majority of both North and South Dakota until 6 PM local time. There is little expected in terms of snow accumulation but freezing rain and sleet may form a glaze of ice on roads that could make driving hazardous. In the east, parts of Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio are also expecting freezing rain on Thursday that is expected to turn into rain through the weekend.


The risk of trading futures, hedging, and speculating can be substantial. FBN BR LLC (NFA ID: 0508695)

November 28, 2018 | Greg Martinelli | Views: 592

FAQs for the Ag Salesperson

Not frequent but FAILED to ask questions

FAQs for the Ag Salesperson

If you follow Coach’s Corner or my weekly blog, you know how important I feel it is to ask good questions. I see salespeople fail everyday by not asking good questions. The reasons they fail in this key selling area are many. They’re not aware they should ask. They don’t know the right questions to ask. They feel like it’s too pushy or nosy to ask questions. They’re too focused on telling their customer about their products.

Whatever the reason, I put together three easy focus areas I call the “Failed to Ask Questions." While conducting a ride along coaching session with a salesperson, these are three areas that I will ask the salesperson every time. I do this because it tells me if the salesperson knows their customer. Also, the answers to these questions chalk the playing field for how to approach the customer. Please understand that the questions below are not necessarily the exact wording I recommend. You might have to ask in different words or use a series of questions. However, the answers are critical to your success at helping your customer.

  1. How do you buy?
    This is one of the most basic focus areas you can discover with your prospect. You are trying to uncover who and how they make decisions. Who actually makes the decision? Who influences that decision maker? When do they begin to consider their decision to buy?
    Agribusiness is very seasonal and some buying decisions only come around once a year (crop insurance, seed selection, etc.). However, if you are selling a $10 bag of dog food, the decision to buy might be made wherever they are when they realize they are out of dog food.
    With large purchases, like a $150,000 tractor, there might be multiple steps and multiple people involved in the decision. I don’t think it’s intrusive at all to ask, “So, what factors do you consider when deciding on a tractor? How do you figure out the best tractor for your operation? Who all gets involved in picking the best tractor for your farm?” Notice, I never asked, “Who’s the decision maker?” That’s a salesperson focused version of the question. If someone asked me that verbatim, I would probably end the sales call as fast as possible.
  2. Where do you get your information?
    Again, you have to reword this question and it usually requires a series of questions to get the full answer. You are trying to find out who influences them in your industry. If it’s grain marketing, which one of the popular traders do they follow?
    The reason this information is so important is that you can now gain an understanding of when they might market their grain. If they follow the nationally known grain marketing advisor John Doe, you can follow John and see what he is recommending. You now have great insight as to when you should reach out to this customer.
    Along with who they follow, you need to ask about where the repository of information is on your product line. For example, if you’re a dairy nutritionist, there are key universities and associations that “write the book on nutrition”. Find out which one this customer follows. Again, it gives you insight as to which nutrition products or practices you can discuss with this customer.
  3. What industry events do you attend and social media do you follow?
    This provides insight into your customers information sources and how they make decisions. This information is helpful with both this individual customer as well as your whole customer base. If everyone seems to be following a particular web site on your product line, you should be as well.
    The latest posts from these web sites or the latest speaker at their event gives you topics to explore with this customer. Here’s the important part of this line of questioning and it’s often missed by salespeople. You need to bring the big picture down to the farm level. How does the world politics, trade negotiations or the farm bill affect this customer, regarding your product, at this point in time?
    If you don’t do that, you’re not selling. You’re just having a conversation that will likely go nowhere. They don’t need you for that. They need you to make sense of the big picture and what they should do on their farm. If you don’t know, you can ask them what they think of it. And if neither of you know, then I suggest changing the topic to something more productive.

The ability to help your customer is directly proportional to your ability of understanding your customer’s specific farming operation/agribusiness. To do that, you have to become an expert at asking questions. Knowing the right question is only one component. Knowing when to ask, how to word the question, and your response to their answers is all part of becoming an expert. Whatever your reason for not asking good questions is, you need to get over it. The above three questions are non-intrusive but deeply insightful areas to discover with your customer.

They give you the insight needed to ask further questions and add value to your relationship with them. This sets you up to get deeper into the high-value questions, which lead to effecting change with your customer. One of those changes is becoming your lifelong customer.

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