Understanding Buyer Psychology Means More Horse Sales Success

By Elisabeth McMillan

June 18, 2012

Whether you run a large scale sales horse barn, breed, train or ride - most hunter/jumper professionals are involved in the sales process.

Even the trainer representing the buyer will often find themselves in a selling position when they suggest their client purchase one horse over another. And while this article focuses on selling horses, the principles contained in it also apply to selling services like boarding, training, breedings and lessons. Basically no matter what type of horse business you have, understanding the sales process and developing good sales skills is essential for success.

Developing good sales skills begins by understanding the psychology of the sales process from both the buyer's and the seller's point of view.

While the seller may fear being rejected or not making a sale, the buyer's biggest concern is making a good decision. The buyer's position is generally far more stressful than the sellers. Studies have shown a person's heart rate can double when making a decision, and increased heart rates can often precede making the wrong decision.

While the general rule of successfully selling horses will always be to get the right horse in front of the right buyer, there is a bit more to it. Learning how to successfully reduce the buyers stress level can greatly increase your own sales success.

Buying a horse is a big decision for most people and once you have shown them “the right horse”, there are still two major issues that influence their buying decision:

  • Does the buyer respect and trust you?
  • Does the buyer trust his or her own judgment?

The more respect and trust the buyer has for you and the more they trust themselves to make a good decision, the more comfortable they will be during he sales process. The more comfortable the buyer is, the less stress they will experience and the more likely it will be for them to make a positive decision. So how do you increase respect & trust? You start by helping the buyer identify their goals and trust in their own ability to make a good decision.

Rather than attempting to control the sale - guide the buyer through the sale. Think about helping the buyer make a good decision and encouraging them to feel comfortable with the decision making process. Rather than trying to "sell" them on your horse/horses - "sell" them on their own decision.

The first step toward getting a positive sales decision from the buyer is establishing a productive dialogue.

Ask the buyer key questions about the horse they are looking for and their riding goals. Your mission is to uncover and understand their needs and wants so that you can help to fulfill them. It is similar to how a doctor relates to a patient. A doctor asks questions first, analyzes the answers, observes the patient and then finally, suggests a few options or a prescription. The patient naturally assumes a position of trust and respect - but imagine if you were to go to a doctor who walked in the door and immediately wrote you a prescription or suggested options without even talking with you? Far too often this is the case with “Horse Sales Doctors” – they forget to examine the patient!

If you want buyers to trust and respect you, honestly be interested in their needs and wants before you even suggest a horse. TIP: If this conversation happened prior to the physical meeting (perhaps on the phone) when you see them in person try to get them to restate what they were looking for and encourage them to elaborate.

By getting buyers to talk in depth about what they are looking for, you have:

1. A better chance of getting the right horse in front of the right buyer. The information a buyers shares with you is valuable and it pays to listen carefully. For example, a rider may say they are looking for a 5-year-old, 16.2-hand bay gelding and need a quiet horse. But if you ask a few more questions, it might turn out that what they really want is a horse that makes them feel safe, wins at the horse shows and is under the age of 10.

2. Increased the buyers trust in and respect for you. People tend to trust and respect people who care about them and respect their opinions. Taking the time to let the buyer tell you about themselves and what they are looking for shows that you care about them, respect their opinions and that you trust them to make a good decision. Trust and respect tend to be reciprocal – in other words when you give trust and respect, you tend to get it back.

3. Encouraged the buyer to trust her own judgment. By listening to the buyer you have demonstrated that you view their needs as important and that you respect her ability to make a good decision. By getting the buyer to state what she wants out loud - you have helped her move forward in the buying decision, thereby accelerating the sales process.

While its true that you may already know what horse is best for the buyer without asking the questions - it is more important that the buyer decides the horse is the best one for themselves. The correct questions can help develop clarity for both buyer and seller, build the buyer’s comfort level, increase her trust and respect for you, the seller, and encourage the buyer to trust herself to make a good decision.

When it comes to successfully selling horses and getting a positive decision from buyers, the answers really are in the questions!

About the author

Elisabeth McMillan is an equine business consultant, public speaker and the founder of EquestrianProfessional.com, a website that provides business education and career support to horse professionals. For more information please visit EquestrianProfessional.com or you may email her directly at lizzy@equestrianprofessional.com

This article is a courtesy of Equestrian Professional, an USHJA educational partner. All USHJA trainers receive a 10% discount on any Equestrian Professional membership plans. Additionally, USHJA Certified Trainers receive a 25% discount. Plus, as a member you'll receive a huge discount on the Equestrian Social Media Boot Camp!

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