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How to win friends and influence people in agribusiness: Six ways for allied industry to make farmers like you

Kai Yuan for Progressive Dairyman Published on 13 September 2017

How to Win Friends and Influence People, written by Dale Carnegie and first published in 1936, is one of the most influential books worldwide. The original book provided insightful wisdom of how to influence people, win friends and be a great leader. In this article, I will share some thoughts of how to take Carnegie's time-tested prescription for relationship and business success and apply it to agribusiness. The core principles of the book are quoted below, together with relevant examples.

3 fundamental techniques in handling people

1. Don't criticize, condemn or complain

Human nature does not like to admit fault. If you go to a farm and try to sell the farmer some solutions to their problems, be careful not to spend too much time telling all the bad things that the farmer did wrong, even if you are honest and have good intention. When people are criticized or humiliated, they often become defensive. If you say too many negative things, the audience will associate negative feelings with you. In this scenario, it would be more effective to spend more time on the solutions you can provide to help their needs. To handle people well, we must never criticize, condemn or complain because it will never result in the behavior we desire.

2. Give honest and sincere appreciation

A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected. When talking with customers, we should always appreciate the valuable time they give us, and we should frequently stop by to appreciate their business and follow up on their needs and issues. Appreciation is not flattery – it must be sincere, meaningful and with love.

3. Arouse in the other person an eager want

To get what we want from another person, we must see things from the point of view of others. Many people are under the pressure to sell products to customers, but we should always think from the view of customers. Why do they need the product? What problems can the product solve? Is the value of the product justifying the cost? Zig Ziglar once said there are five reasons why people don’t buy: no want, no need, no money, no hurry and no trust. We really have to think through all the points from the view of customers and help them overcome all the hesitations before a sale can be made. When we can combine our desires with their wants, they become eager to work with us and we can mutually achieve our objectives.

Six ways to make people like you

1. Become genuinely interested in other people

"You can make more friends in two months by being interested in them than in two years by making them interested in you." When we make cold calls, it would be effective to spend the majority of time asking questions about their farm business and family life. The more customers talk about themselves and their interests, the more effective the relationship building process will be. When I go to a farm, I am always interested (genuinely) in their pets, kids and livestock, and that helps to open up further conversations and build rapport. The only way to make quality friendships is to learn to be genuinely interested in them and their interests.

2. Smile

Smiles are free to give and have an amazing ability to make others feel wonderful. Smile in everything that you do. We should always smile to our customers, even if they are having a bad day.

3. Remember that a person's name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language

We can make people feel extremely valued and important by remembering their name. People love their names so much that they will often donate large amounts of money just to have a building named after themselves. In cold calls, we should try to figure out and write down the names of the owner, spouse and kids. In future visits, we should always address them by their names. Remembering a person’s name is a powerful tool to make your customers feel valued and important.

4. Be a good listener; encourage others to talk about themselves

The easiest way to become a good conversationalist is to become a good listener. To be a good listener, we must actually care about what people have to say. “When you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed.” The top salespeople I know are always willing to spend time listening to customers and asking meaningful questions. The 80-20 rule applies here: We should spend 80 percent of the time listening and 20 percent of the time talking. Many times customers don't want an entertaining conversation partner; they just want someone who will listen to them, listen to their stories, concerns and frustrations.

5. Talk in terms of the other person's interest

The royal road to a person's heart is to talk about the things he or she treasures most. If the interest of a dairy producer is to reduce feed costs, then we should try our best to present a solution that actually can help them save money. If the interest of a dairy farmer is to get more milk, then we should emphasize how we can help their cows increase milk yield. If we talk to people about what they are interested in, they will feel valued and value us in return.

6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely

The golden rule is to treat other people how we would like to be treated. The platinum rule is to treat other people how they want to be treated. We should value the opinions and judgments of our customers, even though we may have more technical knowledge on certain things than they do. No matter how many doctorate degrees you may have, you should always respect the people you work with, and respect their thoughts.  end mark

Kai Yuan, Ph.D., PAS, is a dairy technical services manager for Quality Liquid Feeds.

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