50 Shades of No

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Whether you are a boarding farm seeking specific clients, or a stable looking for that one special trainer, sometimes people tell you no. But all "NOs" are not created equal. Many times if you truly want that person, client, or trainer associated with your equine business, what you do after they say "no" can make the difference in a future "Yes!"

Everyone in sales and marketing has had a current or potential client say no, and if you are in the business of boarding, training, or managing horses, you are in sales and marketing, too! If a potential client or potential business associate (trainer, rider, vet, farrier, etc.) tells you no, too often the relationship gets stagnant or even ended over that one word. And that word might not have even been meant to be as final as you thought.

Too often you are offering a customer a solution to a problem they don’t know they have. That’s like offering a vaccine against a disease no one has heard about. Occasionally you are offering goods and services that your client or potential client needs, but the time is not right for them to make the decision or purchase.

As important as that is making sure YOU understand what the potential customer or business associate's problem is before you try to pound a solution into them that really doesn’t fit.

For example, if you really would like a certain vet to do the dentistry at your barn, but that person has said no, first try to ascertain why no is the initial answer. Is she too busy? Is your barn out of her normal coverage area? Are there not enough horses there to make her trip profitable with normal charges? Do you not have facilities that are conducive to the vet doing a good job?

Once you understand the problem, then you can try to work on a solution so that the veterinarian has an easy time saying yes! Offer to organize all of your clients (and the clients at surrounding barns) so the vet has to only make one stop to set up and can do 10 or more horses in one day (or whatever she is comfortable with), and make sure you have a clean, safe, well-lit area for her to work.

As I have said before, no is a great starting place! It gives you a firm position to work from. At the point of no, you need to translate the "no" to one of the following:

  • Now is not the time to discuss that.
  • I don’t know you well enough to make that decision today.
  • I don’t know your farm/stable well enough to make that decision today.
  • It is not financially feasible for me in my current circumstances.
  • Don’t bring that up again!

There are many shades of gray, and many meanings to the word no. If you got a no via email, call or go visit. If you got a no over the phone, send an email or go visit. If you got a no while visiting, send an email or call.

With each of these tactics you need to have additional information that gives your potential customer or business associate more reasons to hear your reasons. Don’t just repeat the same thing in a different medium. Use audio, video, graphics, online or in-person meetings, PowerPoint presentations, facts and figures…whatever it takes to get them to stop and hear what you are trying to say.

Do you think that equine vet who specializes in dentistry might be swayed if your entire barn of boarders and their horses did a quick video saying they would love to have her be their dentist (or trainer, or vet, or farrier)?

When I was in college at the University of Kentucky, I was a student teacher in the riding program. In those days anyone who attended the university could take a beginning riding class as an elective or a physical education credit, so we had many people in the class who had never been around horses before. Most of the other student teachers were females of college age, but one was an older man who had returned to college for another degree.

It was the day to learn sitting trot, and the students were gradually getting the feel for moving with the horse. However, there was one male college student who just couldn’t seem to get it. We all tried coaching him, and he continually bounced in a way that I’m sure was as uncomfortable to him as it was the horse.

Finally the older male student teacher took the young man aside and talked to him a moment, then told him to try it again.

To our amazement, the young man sat the trot as if he were an experienced pro!

The older male student teacher wouldn’t give up his secret, even though we begged him during and after class. Since he and I were friends, I asked him when we were alone in the tack room later how he had solved the student’s problem.

“When you are teaching someone something new, you need to be able to describe it in a lot of ways, trying to find the one that connects with that individual. With him, I said, ‘Act like you are in second place in a 'mating' contest (or words of that nature that would be understood by the average college male).’ ”

In other words, don’t just keep repeating the same things you have said to your customer, trainer, farrier, vet, dentist . . . Try to use new or different terms, symbols, imagery, and examples that would mean something to the person with whom you are talking.

So, next time your potential customer or business associate says no, decide what kind of “no” they mean, then if possible, try to find a different way of giving them information that can sway them to the answer or action you want.