Have you seen Shark Tank? No, not the shark exhibit at your closest aquarium but the television show.
I’ve only seen bits and pieces of the show. If you aren’t familiar with it, the idea is that people go before The Sharks - a group of “self-made, multi-millionaire and billionaire tycoons”, according to the show’s website. These people pitch their business and products and offer The Sharks a chance to invest in their company.
This week I had the chance to feel like one of The Sharks - without the millions and billions of dollars in the bank.
I had the privilege of judging the North Carolina FFA Agricultural Sales contest. Teams compete a written test, a practicum and end with one member giving a sales presentation.
For the sales presentation, students chose an agricultural product that represented one of the following categories:
1. Agriculture Mechanics 2. Agriculture Production 3. Agricultural Products and Processing 4. Agricultural Supplies and Services 5. Forestry 6. Natural Resources and Rural Recreation 7. Ornamentals
They prepare a sales pitch for their chosen product, including business cards, brochures and flyers. As a judge, I was the customer these students were trying to sell their chosen product to.
The junior contestants, freshman and sophomores, had five minutes (the senior contestants had seven minutes) to assess our needs as the customer and demonstrate how their product could meet those needs. Some of the items I had the chance to “purchase” included:
- Udderly Supportive - Udder support for dairy cows - Racoon traps - “Gator Bars” - fruit bars - Chicken electrolytes - Safety Goggles - Shares in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) from a local farm - Produce Boxes
I have to admit when I was a high school freshman or sophomore I don’t think I would have been able to walk into a room with complete strangers and make a sales pitch. Actually, I don’t know if I could do that now.
One thing I did notice is that some students understood that selling is about interacting with the customer, assessing their needs and selling how their product meets those needs. Other students treated the selling process more like a speech, where they came in and talked for 5 minutes without ever really involving the customer. Regardless of how they handled the pitch, just the fact they were willing and able to come into a room and make that presentation says a lot about the benefits of being in FFA.
I was never in FFA. Even if you aren’t familiar with the organization, you’ve probably seen the blue corduroy jacket that members wear. Many people think FFA is only for kids interested in agriculture. I have to disagree.
Students competing in the Ag Sales event needed to research their chosen product, put together a sales pitch, design marketing materials and be prepared to answer questions about their product. These are all skills anyone could use in any number of careers - in agriculture and in other fields.
If you were a member of FFA, what skills did you learn that you still use today?