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Agricultural Technology Sales Professional Uses Purdue’s Agronomy E-Learning Academy to Bolster His Sales Skills

Dan Hendricks, a senior business development manager at Topcon Positioning Systems, didn’t grow up in the agricultural industry, but after 10 years of professional experience in agricultural technology sales, he developed a passion for learning about the kinds of technological solutions growers need to make their businesses flourish.

Still, even as an expert in sales, Hendricks felt like there was more to learn about applying technology to crop production. He was particularly interested in why and how farmers make technology decisions. By learning more about the science behind farming, Hendricks felt that he could have better sales conversations and elevate his career.

“Even if we’re just trying to sell a product, understanding context helps you talk to growers about why they need a certain technology and what problems it's going to solve for them,” Hendricks said. “In sales, it’s incredibly important to answer the ‘why?’ for the customer. Why would he want this? How is it going to save him money and solve his problems?”

Hendrick’s interest in the “why” behind farming technology is what motivated him to take Purdue’s online Precision Agriculture course, one of three fully online agriculture courses available in Purdue’s Agronomy E-Learning Academy.

Dan Hendricks at a conference.Purdue’s Precision Agriculture course appealed to Hendricks because it offered him an opportunity to broaden his understanding of agriculture and fill in some of the gaps he had identified in his knowledge. Prior to taking the Precision Agriculture course, Hendricks felt like he was missing some of the background he needed to connect with growers in a more comprehensive way. After the course, which took just 12 weeks to complete, Hendricks developed a deeper understanding of agronomy — particularly at the intersection between data science and farming.

“How farmers collect and use data, that’s one of the areas where I had a knowledge gap,” Hendricks said. “During the course, I was able to see the big picture of how farmers use data to make decisions, which is really crucial in agriculture today.”

Quality online education

The course was also convenient for Hendricks as a busy working professional. Since the course was offered fully online, Hendricks could fit the class into his existing schedule and complete his studies without disrupting his career goals. Having grown up in Indiana, Hendricks also recognized Purdue as a top name in agriculture, making it an obvious choice for his continued education needs.

“I needed something on demand,” Hendricks said. “When I was completing the course, there were a lot of times when I was traveling for work, and I would be doing classwork at 9:30 at night in a hotel room. I was able to sit down at the end of the day and devote a couple hours to it.”

Hendricks also appreciated working closely with the course’s faculty, who communicated with him consistently and made sure he had the time and resources he needed to complete projects. When Hendrick’s work schedule picked up and he needed extra time to finish assignments, his professor worked with him to make sure he could still meet expectations and be successful in the course. That flexibility, Hendricks said, empowered him to build new skills while continuing to grow in his career.

“I found the online class very easy and accessible, actually,” Hendricks said. “The videos were broken up into small segments, all of the information was very digestible, and nothing felt impossible. Being able to plug in and get going after a long day of work was huge for me.”

Agronomy e-learning academy

The convenience and ease of Purdue’s Precision Agriculture course inspired Hendricks to take the other two online courses in Purdue’s Agronomy E-Learning Academy: Agronomy Essentials and Nutrient Management. After Hendricks completes all three online courses, he will be eligible to earn Purdue’s Crop Professional Certificate  — an advanced achievement that recognizes agricultural professionals who have successfully completed all of the Agronomy E-Learning Academy’s offerings.

To Hendricks, earning Purdue’s Crop Professional Certificate is a way of demonstrating educational attainment and advertising new career skills without spending additional time and money on a master’s degree. Each Agronomy E-Learning Academy course takes 12 weeks to complete. 

“The certificate is a way for me to get valuable knowledge without having to take that big leap and get a master’s,” Hendricks said. “That would be a 2 or 3-year commitment at least, and a big financial commitment. A master’s could be down the road for me, but for where I’m at right now in my career, I’m looking to build skills in a way that’s quick and simple, and these classes are perfect for that.

After Hendricks earns his Crop Professional Certificate from Purdue, he hopes to be able to use his new skills to become a more successful salesperson and conversationalist. The conversations that Hendricks has with growers are the key behind his professional success, and they help farmers make smarter decisions regarding the technology they use in their businesses. The products that Hendricks sells have the potential to make or break a grower’s livelihood, and so understanding the full context behind every grower’s decision-making process is crucial.

“These classes are really giving me a much broader understanding of the industry,” Hendricks said. “And I feel like I can talk more effectively now about the technology solutions that are out there, and how they can fit different growers’ needs. It’s amazing how much there is to consider and know.”

To learn more about Purdue’s Agronomy E-Learning Academy and Crop Professional Certificate, visit the program’s website.

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