As the title suggests some people are born sales people and regardless of what they're selling they find the interaction they have with buyers an easy one. For others having to deal with potential buyers is their worst nightmare. There's no doubt selling horses can be difficult but regardless of your prowess as a sales person if you follow the basic principles for presenting horses for sale you can make your job a lot easier. While a lot of this will seem very obvious to most, I've seen enough badly presented sale ads to know it's worth writing this Blog.
Before the internet age selling horses was a much more cumbersome task, requiring you to place classified ads, posting notices on every tack shop’s bulletin board within a 20 mile radius, relying on word of mouth and/or the reputation of the animal, paying a dealer or auction service to sell it on your behalf. Today you can find a buyer without leaving your keyboard. The Internet provides a worldwide marketplace that allows for real-time information to horse buyers and sellers no matter what their geographical location. International transportation of horses to every corner of the globe has become common place so one’s market reaches far beyond the limits of your countries borders. BUT in order to tap into it you need to know how to market yourself and your stock.
Selling horses can take a lot of time and energy, and a lot of that can be attributed to answering the many questions buyers have before they ever even see a horse in person. However you can mitigate this by providing as much accurate information as possible during the promotion phase. Remember, whether you like it or not, you have to take the time to respond to enquiries, whether that’s e-mails, texts, phone calls or however you have elected to be contactable. Making potential customers feel unwelcome through statements such as ‘no tyre kickers or time wasters please’ will only alienate you from potential buyers. Remember missed correspondence could mean a missed sale so never write off any interested party. If you’ve provided the right information to begin with you should only receive enquiries from fully informed people.
So what is the right information. Here are the Top 10 tips for enhancing your chances of sale success
1. Showroom Presentation – I doubt anyone would buy a second hand car presented with an inch thick of dirt on the outside and the inside full of old McDonalds containers. The same applies to horses! There is no point dragging your horses out of a field and taking photos of it with embedded dirt, feathers that would make a Shire jealous, and a mane that could potentially stuff an entire mattress. Instead spend some time grooming, preening, buffing and polishing your horse so it looks its absolute best and above all healthy. This applies whether your horse is advertised for €1000 or €20,000.
2. Fit & Ready to Go – it’s very difficult for a buyer to decide on the suitability of an animal who is unfit and under condition. How many times have you seen someone buy a horse cheap who is under weight and unfit who then once at optimum condition for their weight and height is unrideable – at least by the person who bought them! Get your horse fit and keep them in work so that buyers get to see them at their best and are able to properly assess their suitability.
3. Take Great Photos – you have just a split second to get someone’s attention and good images will always garner more attention than the ad with a dirty looking horse with a resting leg on uneven ground. Take photos of your horse standing on level ground showing off their conformation and looking alert and happy. There is absolutely no point posting photos that are taken at distance in half or no light, are blurry or distorted or worse in a dark stable.
4. Take Equally Great Video - a photo can initially capture a buyer’s attention, but a video can show off the horse to much better effect. Their ability, level of training and overall potential is much more visible and most purchasers will want to see a video before taking the time to travel to visit the horse in person. In some cases a good video can be enough to sell a horse sight unseen. Don’t make the video too long as you’ll risk losing the viewer’s attention - 2 minutes maximum. As with the photos ensure the horse is looking its best and groomed to within an inch of its life and is not off in the distance barely visible. Use the ZOOM...!
5. Write a Concise & Accurate Description - a great photo is the first thing that will catch a buyers attention. The video takes their interest a step further! The description is the final piece of the puzzle that will lead to follow up - or bounce. Writing a lengthy history about your horse from the time it was a foal will not sell your horse. Keep your description concise, relevant and always include details such as age, height, breeding, as well as their training level and a true assessment of their future potential and for what market they are suited.
6. Realistic Pricing - pricing your horse appropriately can make or break a sale. Price too high and you risk losing time and credibility. Price too low and you might leave money on the table. Pricing should be based on the horse’s breeding, training, ability, potential, temperament and soundness. Knowing what the current market will bear for your type of horse is a good starting point but if you’re unsure how to value your animal ask your trainer, or pay a trainer for their time to evaluate your horse and suggest a price that is appropriate. I believe offering a price range, even if you don't want to commit to an actual asking price, will at least target your market more appropriately and avoid the question being asked a 1000 times. Remember that not publishing a price will certainly generate more enquiries but quantity doesn't spell success - it just spells wasted time.
7. Where to Market Your Horse - Because there are now so many places to sell your horses online the first thing you need to decide is which platform is the most appropriate for your horse, their discipline, their level, their value etc. For instance, there’s no point advertising a showjumper worth €30k on a site that is predominantly selling hunting horses. Or a pony on a site designed to sell horses. If you're a breeder or dealer then having your own website is the best option and all marketing roads you take outside of that should lead to your website where you can market everything you have to offer.
8. The Big Push – you need to capitalise on the interest you receive in the first few weeks. After that attention wanes as new prospects come on the market. People also begin to wonder why the horse hasn’t sold and ask - Is it overpriced? Difficult to ride? Did it not pass a vetting? That’s how rumours get started in the horse world, and those rumours can ruin a sale and scare off buyers. We’ve all seen ‘due to time wasters the horse is back on the market’ and wondered whether there really are that many time wasters out there.
9. Proper Trial Facilities – Whether you’re offering an unbroken youngster or a riding-age horse, buyers will want to either see it in motion, loose jumped or ridden under saddle. To do this they need a suitable place – preferably an enclosed arena. If you don’t have an arena where you keep your horse it is advisable to transport your animal to a nearby yard which does have these facilities to hire, or temporally put your horse on livery somewhere suitable while it’s for sale.
10. Full Disclosure – Depending on the value of your animal most buyers will want a vetting, to varying degrees, and with higher valued horses a set of x-rays also. Therefore, it does nothing for your credibility if you claim an animal is 100% sound and a subsequent vetting or x-rays shows otherwise. With any veterinary issue that will materially change the sale disclosure is the best policy.
Following these guidelines will at least arm your market with as much information as possible about your horse and should lead to relevant and targeted contact from genuinely interested parties. What makes selling horses an arduous task for most is the constant stream of questions. Answering as many questions as possible as part of your advertising campaign can cut down on this substantially and hopefully those who do make contact are more likely to proceed to the next stage.