Old MacDonald had a farm…and it was full of potential profits…but his outdated systems kept him from discovering them. My spin on the classic childrens song may not have the bouncy rhythms of the original, but it has some truth. The agriculture industry has done a wonderful job of adopting equipment technology like combines and harvesters to automate tasks in the field, but when it comes to data, it’s an industry that still finds itself falling behind. Technology Advisors is looking to change that.
The idea to build a specialized agribusiness CRM first struck after a conversation with a CRM customer in the seed distribution industry. This customer hadn’t previously felt the need to implement CRM in his business. All his seed reps were long-time sales veterans with their own working processes. However, when one of those reps had to leave unexpectedly, the business owner found himself floundering through an Excel sheet of contacts not knowing who to reach out to first. He had to individually call each contact to understand their buying history, ordering quantities, and last contact with his company. At a seed conference later that year, we asked his peers about their sales experiences and were shocked to find that they too were using Excel files or some other outdated tool. Below, we’ll discuss why this approach is dangerous and how we’re using Seed CRM to try and help.
Regardless of the size of your operation, if you're still using Excel spreadsheets to track business statistics, you're missing out on the power of your own data. Basic software like Excel spreadsheets is great for small startups. It’s inexpensive, easy to manipulate, and quick to update. However, spreadsheets only go so far. For example, Microsoft Excel’s FAST (Farm Analysis Solution Tools) suite attempts to address financial planning and crop management needs, but fails to connect customers with suppliers. When a business becomes more complex with additional land, crops, customers, and needs, Excel will no longer cut it. Organizations such as Farm Business Farm Management try to help agribusiness professionals cope with the analytics and management gap of Excel’s limitations, but without a software tool, data management is still an ongoing struggle.
There are several smaller companies that offer CRM-like products. While these tools are certainly a step in the right direction, they too have analytic restrictions. The companies that produce these smaller CRMs don’t necessarily specialize in CRM, so while the product may work to an extent, it most likely will not offer seamless integration with popular products like Seedware and other existing software systems, or be easily reconfigurable to individual business needs. These CRM offshoots rarely offer a full team of support and training personnel, so the unfortunate result is one that many businesses face with new software purchases: low user adoption. Frustrations peak when management realizes they've purchased a software program no one will ever use.
Many small to mid-size operations rely heavily on word-of-mouth to generate sales and set up contracts. While this method may seem effective at first, it only reaches so many people at the local grain elevator. It used to be — especially in agribusiness — that you could pull up to a farm and talk to someone. These days, we're all moving so quickly that that approach no longer works. You are expected to call or text ahead of time, and during busy seasons it becomes nearly impossible to get a hold of someone. CRM is extremely useful for tracking all the interactions (or attempted interactions) that sales people have, so they can monitor where they stand with a customer. Email communications are logged in the system so the last point of contact is always on hand. Plus, add-on products like Tenfold can log phone calls and notes automatically to keep call data organized.
Evolving communication also demands mobility. Devices like iPads and cell phones give agribusiness professionals the opportunity to take their tech out into the fields. If they're planning to visit a seed distributor, they can automate reminders to send personalized messages to that buyer in the right season. Notes on individual accounts help personalize sales interactions – When is this buyer's birthday? What is their favorite sports team? Reps can pull up that information on-the-go to have it in front of them during an on-site meeting.
How Can Seed CRM Help?
Technology Advisors has taken the best components of SugarCRM, a leading customer relationship management software, and added capabilities specific to the needs of the agriculture industry. Our developers worked with seed companies to address the customized functions they'd need in a CRM system. The result was Seed CRM. A support team of tech specialists provide training, on-boarding, and in-house integration with back-office software like ERP, SeedWare, and even Quickbooks to complete the Seed CRM experience, so the frustrations of low user adoption are mitigated.
Seed CRM helps sales, marketing, and services analyze trends, buying habits, sales activities, customized opportunities, and much more. It fosters data transparency that allows teams to identify opportunities faster and act on them with greater efficiency. Seed CRM also supports case management and tracking, and monitors sales activities with smart follow-up and reminders. It's the best way to capture customer information, track buying histories, follow year-to-year buyer activity, and understand buying trends. Just as the farmer automates his field tech, the seed distributor can now automate processes for sales strategy, marketing, and quoting.
With fast implementation and complete support along the way, Seed CRM streamlines sales and helps create stronger ROI. It's time for the agriculture industry to catch up. Data is power, and TAI wants to help this industry harness that power, one MacDonald at a time.