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June 27, 2018 | Coach’s Corner | Greg Martinelli | Views: 750

Questions: The Swiss Army Knife of Sales

What can we learn from police, doctors, lawyers, the FBI and … a five-year-old?

Questions: The Swiss Army Knife of Sales

When in doubt, ask a good question. Questions are the Swiss army knife of the sales world. As you know, this knife pretty much has a tool for every job you might run into. From cutting, to hole punching to even a corkscrew in case you need to open a bottle of wine while in combat. You can do it all with this knife. 

Questions are just like this knife. No matter what situation you find yourself in on a sales call, asking good questions is the main tool a salesperson can use. 

Whether you are: 

  • Uncovering customer needs
  • Dealing with price resistance
  • Checking in to see if your customer understands your presentation
  • Closing the sale
  • Following up on an offer
  • Dealing with a customer complaint

Every one of these situations calls for us to ask good questions.  How do we get better at asking questions?  Here are some thoughts and some people we can learn from.

  1. A 5-year-old:  Ask "why?"  Ever explain something complicated to a 5-year old?  What’s their go-to question?  Why?  They just keep asking until you have no further answers.  Or as I used to say when I had no further answers, “go ask your mother."  Kids are tenacious. They don’t even hesitate. Before you finish the answer to their previous question, they are back at you with another “why?” question.  They are going deeper, one layer at a time until you simply don’t know anymore. The Six Sigma Process Improvement group jumped in on this and turned it into one of their steps.  They call it the Why-Why analysis. They claim that by asking “why” five times, you get to the real heart of any matter.  See Sell Like a 5-Year Old for more about this topic.
  2. FBI hostage negotiator:  In his book, “Never Split the Difference," Chris Voss teaches us to change “why” questions into “how” questions. His reasoning is that when you ask "why," a person answers by defending their decisions.  A "why" question can almost come across as accusatory or implying they are doing something wrong. To get a customer thinking of other options, we don’t want them defending their decision, but explaining it. By asking a “how” question, you get your customer to open up without digging their heels in on their decision.  For example, when working with a prospect, we often ask, “Why do you buy that product?”  Instead, ask, “How did you make the decision to use that product?”  or “How does that product solve your problems?”
  3. A doctor: With only 12 minutes per patient, today’s doctors don’t have a lot of time to chit-chat.  They get right to it while they are still washing their hands. 

Then they diagnose with a treatment. 

  • Where does it hurt?
  • How long has it been hurting?
  • How bad is the pain?
  • How have you treated it so far?

As salespeople, we often jump right in with our product presentation (the diagnosis/treatment) before ever asking questions to solve our customer’s problem.  Find the pain points first with good questions, then ease those pains with your product. By the way, shouldn’t your doctor wash their hands before shaking your hand on the way in? Just a thought. See Sell Like a Doctor for more about this topic.

  1. Police & lawyers: If you’ve had the honor of being on a jury, been at a trial or watch any of the investigative TV channels, you see a pattern of questioning by police and lawyers that is very effective. The witness or suspect is typically nervous or in some cases even hostile. Jumping right in with tough or deep dive questions would scare this person and push them away from opening up. So, they start small. Making it easy for them to answer. Gathering facts and getting the witness or suspect to open up and “put their cards on the table." Then, they start digging in with deeper questions. The same goes for your prospects. Ever run across a very closed off or tight-lipped prospect? One of those sales calls where even your open probe questions only net one-word answers?  When this happens, start small and ask some safe or easy to answer questions. Soon, you will find an area or subject this person will open up about. That’s your cue to dig a little deeper.

When in doubt on your next sales call, take out your Swiss army knife and start asking questions!

June 26, 2018 | Grain Hedge Insights | Kevin McNew | Views: 427

U.S. Corn Conditions Drop Slightly

Mixed messages from White House regarding Chinese foreign investment

U.S. Corn Conditions Drop Slightly

U.S. Corn Conditions Drop Slightly, Soybeans Unchanged

The USDA’s Crop Progress report has dropped Corn G/E rating by 1% to 77%. Colorado and Minnesota saw the biggest G/E drops with -6% and -4% respectively. Corn was 67% G/E this time last year. Soybean conditions were unchanged at 73% G/E. This rating is 7% better than last year and 5% better than the 5-year average as the entire Midwest has seen good moisture and temperatures this growing season. Spring wheat dropped 1% to 77% G/E, up from last year’s 40% G/E when much of the Northern Plains was severely drought stressed.

Mixed Messages from the White House Regarding Chinese Foreign Investment

Reports from the WSJ early yesterday morning suggested that firms with at least 25% Chinese ownership would be prevented from buying US companies that possess “industrially significant technology”. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tweeted that these reports were “false- fake news”, stating that this investment blocking is not specific to China. Mnuchin is much more dovish on the trade war with China. The Trump Administration is set to make more announcements regarding investment restrictions this Friday.

China Removes Tariffs on Livestock Feed of Asian Origin to Meet Their Demand for Soybeans

Import tariffs on soybeans, soymeal, rapeseed, and fishmeal will be removed July 1 as China seeks alternatives to US Soybeans. The countries exempted are Bangladesh, Laos, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and India, all of which are rather small producers. Last year, India grew 11 MMT of beans but only exported 269,000 MT and exported none of the 7 MMT of rapeseed grown in the same crop year. This follows yesterday’s news that China has approved imports of French beef, which were previously banned due to concerns of mad cow disease which hasn’t been an issue in Europe for nearly 20 years. China is the world’s #2 importer of beef, importing nearly $3.3 billion worth in 2017.

Agroconsult Reduces Their Brazilian Second Crop Estimate Following Crop Tour

Agroconsult, a private Brazilian consulting firm, cut their safrinha corn crop estimate down by 1.8 to 55.2 MMT, citing planting delays back in February and drought stress. They made no changes to their export estimate at 28 MMT, despite skyrocketing freight costs following the trucker protests back in May. Grain handlers at Brazilian ports have halted farmer purchases due to these rising transportation costs.


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

June 25, 2018 | Grain Hedge Insights | Kevin McNew | Views: 380

Warm, Wet Weather Across Corn Belt Boosts Crops

Nebraska, Minnesota, and I States have all received above average rainfall at this point in the growing season

Warm, Wet Weather Across Corn Belt Boosts Crops

EPA to Increase Mandate for Advanced Biofuel and Biodiesel Production for 2019, Ethanol Mandate Expected to be Unchanged

EPA chief Scott Pruitt is expected to announce an increase to the government mandate for biofuel production to 19.88 billion gallons total, up 3% year on year. Advanced biofuels, such as cellulosic ethanol made from switchgrass or wood scrap, have had their allotted production increased by 590 mil gallons to 4.88 bil gallons. Biodiesel will also see an increase of 330 mil gallons to 2.43 bil gallons. Soybean oil is a major component for biodiesel manufacturing. Conventional biofuels, like corn-based ethanol, will likely see no change in its mandated production allotment in 2019, remaining at 15 bil gallons. Pruitt will also likely not reallocate biofuels to be blended that were waived via hardship waivers earlier this year after facing harsh criticism from the oil industry.

Export Sales Announcements

Private exporters reported to the U.S. Department of Agriculture export sales of 186,000 metric tons of soybeans for delivery to unknown destinations during the 2017/2018 marketing year.

Managed Money Turns Net Short in Soy, Adds to Corn Shorts

Amid the trade war between the US and China, MM is now 27,073 contracts net short, the largest short position since Jan 23. Just last week, MM was net long by only 105 contracts. MM was also selling corn, bringing their net short position to 57,451 contracts. For SRW, MM turned bearish, moving from a net long position last week to 4,861 contracts net short this week. MM actually increased their longs for HRW to 60,606 contracts.   

Improved Weather In Australia Sees Wheat Sell Off, Conditions Remain Good In The US

Areas in western and southern Australia have seen several inches of rain over the past few days and are expecting up to 2 more over the next week according to NOAA. US HRW harvest is also 27% complete, compared to the 5 year average of 19%. Warm and wet weather across the Corn Belt has been a boost to crops. Nebraska, Minnesota, and the I States all have received above average rainfall at this point in the growing season. Flood warnings and watches remain in effect in parts of E NE and W IA as thunderstorms are expected and some rivers and streams are already overrunning their banks.


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

June 22, 2018 | Grain Hedge Insights | Kevin McNew | Views: 404

U.S. Dollar Eases Off 11-Month High

U.S. manufacturing data released by the Fed showed weaker than expected results

U.S. Dollar Eases Off 11-Month High

Chinese Soy Stocks Hit 8-Year High

Soy stocks at ports in China hit a cumulative 7.8 MMT this week which is the highest mark in eight years. Normally stocks peak in August, so Crushers likely loaded up on the Brazilian product in fear that soured U.S.-China trade relations would ultimately make beans harder to obtain.

Export Sales Announcements

Export sales of 131,300 metric tons of corn for delivery to Mexico. Of the total 30,000 metric tons is for delivery during the 2017/2018 marketing year and 101,300 metric tons is for delivery during the 2018/2019 marketing year. Export sales of 117,000 metric tons of corn for delivery to Panama during the 2018/2019 marketing year.


Ukraine Wheat Harvest Likely to Shrink

Ukraine’s Ag Minister pegged the wheat harvest this season between 23 and 26 MMT. Ukraine harvested 26.2 MMT. Weather forecasters said this month most Ukrainian central, eastern and southern regions have seen no rain since April and a severe drought could shrink this year's wheat harvest by 15 to 30% below original forecasts.

U.S. Dollar Eases Off 11-month High

The dollar pulled back from its 11-month high after U.S. manufacturing data released by the Fed showed weaker than expected results. The dollar has rallied sharply in recent months as the Fed has signaled more interest rate hikes to come. But traders are wary of an economic slowdown tied to U.S. trade policies going forward.

In the last two months the USD index had shot up 6%. A higher US dollar is detrimental to US export sensitive commodities.


Weather Mostly Favorable

Rains should continue through the next five days, likely a factor producing near to below normal temperatures. This pattern will remain favorable/positive for crops. A warm-up is on the way yet again for the 6-10 and 11-15 day forecast.


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

June 20, 2018 | Grain Hedge Insights | Cody Bills | Views: 617

Soybeans Hit New Low

Chinese officials saying they will fight back against Trump’s “blackmailing”

Soybeans Hit New Low

Soybeans Hit Lowest Level In 10 Years After Trump Threatens More Tariffs

November soybeans traded as low as 864.5, the lowest in nearly a decade, following Monday’s news that President Trump would consider an additional 10% tariff on $200 billion worth of goods. Chinese officials immediately responded saying they would fight back against Trump’s “blackmailing” with tariffs of their own. Monday’s USDA Crop Conditions report offered no real support, downgrading beans by 1% to 73% G/E but well above the 5 year average of 68% G/E.

Ethanol Closed At Contract Lows As Chinese Buyers Dry Up

Earlier this year, China announced a plan to use E10 fuel nationwide by 2020, potentially opening the door to much greater imported quantities from the US. China has not made a significant purchase of ethanol in nearly 6 months and American stockpiles are growing, reaching a 10 week high of 22.174 million barrels as of last week’s EIA data. Dec corn closed down 1.75 cents after dropping as much as 17 cents and Jul ethanol finished trading at $1.397 per gallon, a contract low.

Overnight Tenders

South Korea’s Major Feedmill Group has issued an international tender for 138,000 MT of corn to be sourced from the US, Black Sea, South America, or South Africa. Following this announcement, South Korean corn purchases in June have now reached 1.5 million metric tonnes. Lower prices due to good American growing conditions and blowback from the US/China trade war has lead to a surge in exports to other Asian countries.


Flash Flood Warnings In Effect In Parts Of Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota

E NE, W IA, and SE SD have received good rains over the past week but an additional 2-3 inches on the forecast have led to flood warnings and watchings. The National Weather Service says that recent rains have pushed the Missouri River and its tributaries higher, putting IA and NE counties along the river at risk.

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

June 19, 2018 | Supplier’s Side | Steven Kilger | Views: 76

CPM Beta Raven Wants to Be Your Feed Facility Partner

The company contributes experience, innovation and customer services to the relationship

CPM Beta Raven Wants to Be Your Feed Facility Partner

When California Pellet Mill (CPM) acquired Beta Raven from Raven Industries, Inc. in 2002, it purchased a company with 30 years of experience in automation solutions.  Headquartered in St. Charles, MO, Beta Raven was founded with a goal of providing control solutions for the feed industry ranging from individual procedures to full facility automation. 

CPM Beta Raven’s Larry Beck, general manager, and Scott Grayson, business development manager, spoke with Feed & Grain about the company and its place in the feed industry.

“We were founded when facilities started to need more control over their manual operations,” says Grayson. “That need is still there today, many of the projects we work on are mill operations evolving from manual to automated controls due to feed facilities’ increasing requirements to track a lot of data they didn't need in the past.”

CPM Beta Raven has been around for over 40 years, since the beginning days of automation in the feed industry. This means that if a problem comes up or a solution is needed, more than likely they’ve seen it before.

“It may sound cliché, but the amount of experience we have in this company truly makes the difference in many of the projects we do,” Grayson says. “Many of our coworkers have been with us for 30 years or more, that experience provides a solid foundation of customer support that's hard to match.”

Grayson says that the earlier you involve CPM Beta Raven in a project, the more that experience will work in a client’s favor.

“With the level of experience, we have on our team, relying on us at the beginning of any project will help minimize costly issues from unexpectedly appearing as the project moves forward,” Grayson explains.

Experience is often seen as the antithesis of innovation, but CPM Beta Raven has worked hard to gather a balanced coworker base to bring the best of both worlds to the projects on which they work. 

“We have made a major investment in fresh engineering talent,” says Beck. “With this talent comes fresh ideas and technology.”

Beta Raven knows the value of innovation and practices a field-driven approach to it. Their best source of new ideas is the guy in the field.

“We don't just sit in a boardroom trying to come up with what the industry will need,” Grayson says. “We respond to project requests and what our customers request, then develop solutions.”

The relationships CPM Beta Raven has with fellow CPM business units are another major strength. If an end user is buying other equipment from a CPM company, Beta Raven has control solutions to match.

“The synergistic engineering between us and other CPM divisions allows us to develop control solutions alongside the equipment they're developing,” says Beck.

Being there at the beginning, whether at the conception of a piece of equipment or a facility, is key to overcoming the many challenges that those in the feed industry face.

“We live in an age where companies need the best industrial automation solutions to operate a feed mill while staying in compliance with government regulations and maintaining customer relations,” says Beck. 

CPM Beta Raven wants to provide those solutions and has made customer service one of the cornerstones of its operations to help facilities with their challenges.

 “Our sales guys have taken calls in the middle of the night because a client has had a problem,” Grayson says. “When things come up in the field, our people are there to help no matter when they spring up.”

 “We want the companies we work with to see us as partners in the industry, not just solutions providers,” explains Beck.

For more information on CPM, visit the Feed & Grain Buyers Guide. Contact Larry Beck at 636-255-1600 or, and follow them on twitter @CPMBetaRaven or Facebook @CaliforniaPelletMill.

The Suppliers Side is a biweekly blog that dives in-depth into the companies that service the feed manufacturing and grain handling industries. For any questions or comments please contact Steven Kilger at  

June 18, 2018 | Grain Hedge Insights | Cody Bills | Views: 540

Beans Mark One Year Low

Grains down in overnight session

Beans Mark One Year Low

China Responds To Trump With Tariffs Of Their Own, Beans Make 1 Year Lows

Beijing announced that they will counter with $50 billion worth of tariffs on American goods. Soybeans are squarely in their sights, as well as aircraft and cars. President Trump announced $50 billion worth of tariffs on Friday. The proposal will go into effect on July 6 and will hit goods ranging from semiconductors to industrial chemicals with a 25% tariff. Jul 18 beans traded as low as 903.00 per bushel, a year low. Dipping below the $9 handle would make a 2.5 year low.

Managed Money Goes Net Short On Corn; Cut Down Their Longs For Beans

Last Friday’s Commitment of Traders report showed heavy selling pressure by speculative investors for corn, which is now net short by 12,238 contracts. Last week, MM was net long by 78,696 contracts, showing a week on week change of 90,934 lots. Money managers are now only 105 contracts net long due to trade complications with China and excellent US crop conditions. This is the smallest position held by managed money since February. HRW saw an increase in MM’s position of 3,439 to 60,606 contracts net long. Chicago wheat had a marginal increase of 77 lots, bringing MM’s total net long up to 25,135 contracts.

Brazilian Soybean Premiums Rally On Renewed Chinese Demand

Chinese buyers are looking increasingly to Brazil during the time of the year when old crop supplies usually dry up. Spot prices for soybeans from Paranagua increased 40 cents to +120 SK8 just last week. Increases in freight rates due to government mandated minimum prices have added on to the cost of beans. The price floor has also led to a decrease in trucks delivering grain, with 14.2% less in Parangua and 22.4% less in Santos.

South Korea Stops Shipment Of Canadian Wheat Due To GMO

South Korea has suspended any imports of wheat or flour from Canada following the discovery of a GMO variety of wheat from Alberta. This news closely follows Japan’s decision to halt tenders and sales from Canada because of the presence of GMO. Canada is South Korea’s #3 supplier of wheat, accounting for 9.2% of the Asian country’s imports. In 2017, South Korea imported 226,355 MT of wheat from Canada.


The risk of trading futures, hedging, and speculating can be substantial.

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June 15, 2018 | Grain Hedge Insights | Cody Bills | Views: 599

Trade War Intensifies

Mexico may impose tariffs on U.S. corn and soybeans

Trade War Intensifies

Trade War Intensifies

Overnight it was reported that President Trump would release a list of 800 Chinese product categories, down from 1,300 previously, that would have a combined $50 billion in tariffs. Officials state Trump no longer believes that Beijing's influence over North Korea is a compelling reason to ease up on trade talks now that his administration has opened up a direct line of communication.

China vowed on Friday to strike back quickly if the United States hurts its interests. "If the United States takes unilateral, protectionist measures, harming China's interests, we will quickly react and take necessary steps to resolutely protect our fair, legitimate rights," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular daily news briefing.

On top of that, reports were circulating that Mexico was looking at imposing tariffs on U.S. corn and soybeans. Neither crop was on Mexico’s original list released a few weeks ago for targeting the US. But now, Mexico is thought to be studying ways to mitigate the economic pain of such a move.


Japan Halts Canadian Wheat Supplies on GMO finding

Japanese farm ministry said on Friday it has suspended its tender and sale of wheat from Canada after grain containing a genetically modified trait was discovered last summer in Canada's Alberta province. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said on Thursday the wheat containing a genetically modified trait, developed by Monsanto Co BAYGn.DE to tolerate the Roundup weed-killer, was discovered in Alberta. "We are suspending the tender and sale of Canadian wheat until we confirm that the Canadian wheat that Japan buys contains no GMO," an official at the Japanese farm ministry said.


South Koreans Back in for Corn

Bargain buying continued overnight as two different feed groups from South Korean (KFA and NOFI) were both in the market tendering for around 60,000 MT of corn.

NOPA Crush Expected to be Record Large

Analysts expect at 165.1 MB crush for the National Oilseed Processors Association (NOPA) data in May. That would be 8% higher than the month's all-time high. NOPA’s report is due at 11 am CDT.


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

June 14, 2018 | Coach’s Corner | Greg Martinelli | Views: 735

Fail Fast

Here's how to learn fast and recover even faster

Fail Fast

Fail fast and small. Recover fast and big. Please understand, I don’t mean fail intentionally. In sales, however, trying to achieve perfection in everything before actually going to the market will result in more failures, not less.

How so?

Strangely enough, a recent documentary about The Improv comedy club is a great analogy. Located in New York, The Improv was basically an open mic comedy club where almost every great comedian got started. During the documentary, they interviewed Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, Ray Romano, etc. They showed clips from their first years in comedy and those first times on stage. Every single one of them said the same thing.

  1. I was terrible in the beginning
  2. I worked hard and kept at it
  3. I improved over time by testing material at The Improv
  4. I never went to the big stage (the Tonight Show or Letterman) before testing it out at The Improv

We can learn a lot from these four observations. You take your products, your techniques, your sales questions and you try them out in a small way. Maybe, that’s with a “safe” customer. Maybe it’s in a “safe” part of your territory. But, it’s with real customers or prospects where you can see real reactions. From those reactions, you modify, work hard and eventually you improve.  

What about customer surveys, expert panels and customer panels? All good if you have the budget, but a word of caution. Customer surveys are not the same thing as opening up their wallet and buying. So, take the results with a cautious eye. If you give someone a free sample and a coupon and then have them fill out a survey, odds are likely they want to “be nice” and say good things. This doesn’t mean they will actually take the next step and buy. Panels are sort of the same way. Hired to give their opinion, they can be easily influenced or favor the company that is bringing them together. Again, this might not translate into actually buying when the choice is presented.

So, how can we fail fast and small, but recover faster and recover bigger? If you have been on territory for any length of time, you should have those customers and those areas of your territory that you feel safe with. These are loyal customers that you have worked very hard for and earned a lot of trust and respect from. These customers will tell you exactly how they feel about you, your products and your company. Treasure these relationships because they are your version of The Improv. This is where you take your ideas for products or programs and test them out in a small way.

Over the many years of launching products and different programs, I can’t tell you how many times this technique paid off in a big way. Several times, it saved embarrassing failures before launching to the whole marketplace. However, most of the time, it yielded small tweaks that made the product or program just a little better and a little more of a fit for the customer we were going after.

Launching a new premium dog food campaign, our supplier recommended using a 1,000# ISO (Initial Stocking Order). They put together the list of their recommended products to make up that 1,000# order. By trialing this out with a couple dealers in my territory, we found about 800# of those products wouldn’t sell and had to be returned. Needless to say, we didn’t take that concept any further.

Several areas of the country had gone out with the ISO program to all their customers. And just about everyone of them were returned. We guaranteed the return from our customers but our supplier had a no return policy. So, our fellow sales people in those locations had to somehow sell off dozens of those products that now clogged their warehouses.

We had failed in a small way with only a few dealers, which allowed us to recover fast and focus on those products that actually did sell.

Join us at Coach’s Corner every other week, where Greg Martinelli offers sales coaching tips for the Ag Sales Professional.

June 14, 2018 | Grain Hedge Insights | Cody Bills | Views: 499

Corn and Soybean Sales Beat Analyst Expectations

Recent decline in prices spurred on purchases

Corn and Soybean Sales Beat Analyst Expectations

Soybeans Make 10-Month Lows Following China Tension, Informa Estimate

Beans fell on the news that President Trump may slap China with additional tariffs as soon as this Friday and that the ZTE deal appears to have stalled.

Adding even more downward pressure, Informa estimates that soybean acres are up 500k to 89.902 million acres. They also estimate production to be 4.409 billion bushels; a record high. The July soybean traded as low as 931.25, the lowest since Aug 31, 2017. Nov beans touched 956.00 during yesterday’s session.


Ethanol Production Increases to One-Month High, Stockpiles Grow

Production is up by 0.012 from last week to 1.053 million barrels a day, the highest since May 11. This weeks production was up 5.1% over last year during the same week. Ethanol production is on pace to meet USDA expectations and now weekly production only needs to average 1% over LY to meet current USDA projections. Inventories rose to 22.174 million barrels, a high last seen on March 30.


Flood Warnings and Heat Advisories for Illinois-Missouri Border

Heat indexes of 105 deg F and high humidity are expected for counties on both sides of the Mississippi in Illinois and Missouri. Further East, there are flood warnings in effect following heavy rainfall that has pushed rivers over their banks. Eastern Iowa still has some flood warnings in effect and could expect small hail with the thunderstorms anticipated in the area later today.

Export Sales

This week’s corn and soybean sales beat analyst expectations as the recent decline in prices spurred on purchases. Soybean sales jumped sharply from last week with sales to Indonesia, Unknown Destinations, Egypt, Japan and Portugal.





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

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