March 13, 2014
By Barbara Baker - NJC Marketing Services Director
Northeastern Junior College ag sales students Kyle Tallent (left) and Austin Badding (right) actually demonstrate a Kuhn Knight baling unit as part of their sales pitch during the ag trade show. (Courtesy Photo )
Every year at Northeastern Junior College, a room in Hays Student Center fills up for one full day with a small group of bright shining stars who make up the Ag Sales Class. These are agriculture students who are typically pursuing an agri-business or production ag degree. After weeks of in-class learning and individual preparation, they pack the room full of visuals, products, hand-outs, and business cards bearing their name. They put the salesmanship savvy they’ve learned during the semester to work in a real-life situation. Students may choose to work alone, or with a partner, but their mission is the same. They must choose an agriculture product or service to represent during a life-like agriculture trade show.
The students must thoroughly research their product or service. In each case, they have actually spent time with the company, or its representatives, to know exactly what the pros and cons are of the product line they’ve chosen, who the main competition is, and what, if anything, their chosen product has over that competitor. Students put together a display booth, complete with signage and if possible, they bring the actual products to the event to show it off to potential customers and buyers. Potential customers are usually other students from the college, faculty and staff who come by to view the show, and most importantly, a team of judges from the ag sales industry who are on site, with critical eyes, scoring their every move. The judges watch how these students interact with the public and how well they answer questions presented by those who visit their booth. This is not a place where random B.S. can fly. The students have to know what they’re talking about. They have to be prepared. They have to play the role like they would in real life. The judges even conduct an interview with the participating students later in the day and in the end, some big awards are determined.
Dallas Dear goes before the judging panel for a personal interview regarding her Amen Custom Leather product line. (Courtesy Photo)
Winning the most recent round of ag sales competition at Northeastern was Austin Badding of Keenesburg and Kyle Tallent of Hotchkiss who represented high performance balers and rakes manufactured by Kuhn Knight, a world-wide agriculture machinery manufacturer. Kuhn’s North American headquarters is located in Brodhead, Wisconsin. Badding and Tallent, both sophomores, displayed an actual high performance twine unit as part of their display and were able to show their audience what the exact features and benefits were of the product.
The rules on the show are pretty straight forward. Use whatever resources and knowledge you can obtain to make your display the best it can be. Fortunately for Badding, his father works for Kuhn and was able to hook the team up with some great company visuals, including the equipment on display. The two received the highest score for the contest and were also chosen Best of Show. Those spectators who come through the trade show are also asked to cast a vote for which display they thought was the best.
Willy Sandau, a sophomore from Greeley chose to represent Five Star Turf, a Platteville, CO company that offers both commercial and residential turf grass products and services in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming. He came in a very close second during the competition. Like Badding and Talent, Sandau had family connections to the company and was able to get access to some great visuals to use as part of his display.
Willy Sandau (left) discusses Five Star Turf with Vice President of Academic Services Stanton Gartin during the on-campus ag sales trade show. (Courtesy Photo)
All of the students participating did an exceptional job showing off their products and services. On in particular who drew quite a bit of interest was the sales booth on display by Dallas Dear. Dear, a sophomore equine management student from Littleton, chose to represent Amen Custom Leather, a sole proprietorship owned and operated by Ken Amen of Sterling. What made this especially attractive for many who were on hand to view the show is that Ken Amen is a retired Northeastern professor who now makes his living training horses and doing exquisite leather work. For many years he was the director of the college’s well-known and respected Equine Management Program. Today he spends time meticulously creating beautiful custom saddles, breast collars, reins, headstalls, purses, billfolds and just about anything that someone wants made from leather. He has become a true craftsman with his products being sought out by others all across the country. Dear, who was familiar with his home-based shop, opted to bring his talent to the forefront during the show. She had a saddle and numerous other products made by Amen on display.
The ability to apply what is learned in the ag sales classroom to a real life setting not only helps students become totally engaged, but also helps build on a skillset that will be necessary when they do reach the workplace.