Ending the Fertilizer Stalemate
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Ending the Fertilizer Stalemate

January 07, 2009   |   ShareThis

Inevitably, the stalemate will end because spring will come, fertilizer will or won't be applied and crops will be grown. While calling on customers this winter might have been the toughest calls you've made in quite some time, it's time to consider the long-term cost of losing a grower's business entirely. Someone will suck it up and go after the business. Will it be you or your competition?

If you don't have a plan beyond the waiting game, there are ways to creatively approach the conversation, yet block some of the punches. 

Ask the tough questions.

The sooner you know what the customer is going to do, the better. Ultimately, the business that takes care of the customer will keep the customer. With weather and grower hesitation limiting fall fertilizer application in many areas, a service approach and the ability to get product on fields this spring will prove you want the customer's business. The only way to deliver service is to ask the tough questions so you can be prepared with application and tendering equipment, product options, personnel and a logistics plan that optimizes efficiency by getting to the driest soils first and across many acres as early as possible.

Offer a compromise.

While your price may be higher than your customer thinks he should pay, the grower's total bill can be reduced by switching from a 2-year fertility program to fertilizing only for this crop year. You also may increase the yields of the 2010 crop by fertilizing separately.

Be creative and reward customers based on loyalty and volume--either past or future business.

Find a reason to make the call.

Soil sampling is a viable opportunity to help growers make informed decisions about their fertility program, even in the spring--samples can be taken as soon as soils thaw. A 1998 survey by Purdue University shows that 80 percent of the time, the retailer conducting the soil sampling also gets the grower's fertilizer business. 

Use soil sampling as a reason to call the grower. Offer the service for free. By switching the grower to a grid sampling or zone sampling program, you may be able to develop a site-specific application program which will reduce the overall fertilizer bill without sacrificing yield that could be lost by cutting back uniformly across the field. Growers who do banded P & K fertilizer can reduce rates by up to 30%.

Bring him something new.

Just getting fertilizer applied this spring will be a challenge. By offering a product like MicroEssentials® as a new option to dry blends, you can eliminate blending time and improve application efficiency for broadcast, banded or in-row applications. Also, because nutrients (N, P, S and/or Zn) are in one granule, plant uptake of P improves 10 to 30%.

Rescue the price shopper.

Service after the sale doesn't always come with low-price product. Consider the opportunities for your business when your low-price competitor doesn't deliver application service or product as promised. The door may be open--or closed, depending on your position with the grower.

Ultimately, you need each other. It's time to make the call.

By Dan Froehlich, Agronomist, MicroEssentials®, The Mosaic Company