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More than a sale

published: September 18th 2020
by: Caitlin Richards

Private treaty allows buyers and sellers to build lasting relationships. The nature of private treaty allows buyers to work directly with breeders to find the best bull for their operation and budget. Breeders who take the time to build relationships – backed by honesty and integrity – create loyal customers, ensuring the success of their business for years to come.
    Rocking Chair Ranch, Stalwart Ranch and Tom Brothers Ranch share some of the things they have learned over years. Each operation raises a different breed in a different part of the state of Texas, but they all approach private treaty as more than a sale.
    When it comes to making a sale, Bill Cawley, the ranch manager for Stalwart Ranch, Willis, Texas, says visiting and getting to know the buyer is the key. When a potential buyer contacts him about their Brangus bulls, Cawley takes the time to talk with them whether it is over the phone or in person.
    “Like any business, you may have a lot of customers but to the buyer you are their primary focus,” Caw-ley says. “They remember you whether you remember them or not. Get to know them and what they are looking for. You are just making a friend. That is the way I look at it. I treat them the way I would want to be treated.”
    Randy Wood, the manager at Rocking Chair Ranch, Fort McKavett, Texas, feels the same way and says most of his evenings are spent on the phone texting pictures of their Hereford bulls, sharing EPDs via email and talking on the phone with potential buyers. On top of those methods, social me-dia has been a means of communication and relationship fostering for Ellen Tom with Tom Brothers Ranch, Campbellton, Tex-as.
    “Social media is a great tool to use, too,” Tom says. “I am always amazed at the inquiries we get off of Facebook. We have even sold a bull to a buyer in North Carolina off of Instagram.”
    Tom explains she regularly posts content on their social media sites sharing their story to build a relationship with buyers. She makes a point to post good quality pictures of their SimGenetic bulls. She shares images of them working with the cattle and videos explaining what they are doing and why they are doing it – like performance testing. Doing so allows buyers to get to know the operation, the brand and the bulls.
    Understanding the buyers’ needs and goals is extremely important. It goes deeper than simply making a sale, though. Wood explains by understanding the buyer’s needs and their operation’s goals he is setting the bulls and buyer up for success, rather than selling any bull and the buyer end up being unhappy with the bull’s performance.
    “Everybody is not going to fit everything,” Wood says. “If you don’t have what will fit their herd, don’t sell it to them just to sell them a bull. They won’t come back.”
    Most of the time, Wood says the buyers will do a lot of the talking and it’s important to just listen. All three operations shared they provide as much information as possible to the buyers. Whether it be EPDs or genomic enhanc-ed EPDs, birth weights, weaning weights, fertility test results, or videos and images, they all collect as much data as they can and have it readily available for the buyers.
    Utilizing advertising op-portunities is another way the breeders build relationships with their buyers. While word of mouth is the best advertisement, each breeder has seen the value in either advertising at bull sales, in publications, with mailers or catalogs. Ad-vertising is just another way to get their ranch’s name out there and connect with buyers.
    Twice a year, Rocking Chair Ranch creates a mailer to send to past customers and anybody on their mailing list. It contains all the available bulls and information on each. Being present at bull sales has been another touch point for them. They are able to connect with customers even if they aren’t selling a bull right then at the sale.
    “You have to use all of it – publications, printed materials, social media, sales and your time,” says Wood.
    In an effort to have customers feel like they are being treated fairly, Tom Brothers Ranch hosts an opening day private treaty event. All of their bulls go on sale that day and are first come first serve. Prior to the event, they put together a catalog showcasing the bulls. The catalog is then made available online and mailed out. Addition-ally, they video their bulls to post on their website and social media accounts.
    The relationship with buyers after the sale is equally as important as before the sale. Wood admits he and his wife have never been on a vacation where they do not end up stopping at a buyer’s operation.
    “We will stop and visit anytime we are close,” says Wood. “I am going to stop and see how the bull is doing. If I don’t, I can’t see the bulls and see what they are doing to help them.”
    If he does not make a ranch visit, Wood is following up with phone calls. He says he keeps a big calendar on his desk to make notes on of when buyers say they will be turning out bulls, weaning calves and selling calves. When the date rolls around, he will give the buyer a call to see either how the bulls performed, or how the calves weaned and sold  at the sale.
    “We try to stay in touch with everybody as best as we can,” says Wood. “Rather than sending a Christmas card, I would rather talk to the buyer. I want to know how their business is doing, and how the calves sold. I will even ask them to send me pictures of the calves.”
    One way Tom says she builds relationships with buyers after the sale is by being a go to resource for any questions they may have. A lot of customers consult with them on everything from herd health programs and vaccination protocols to nutrition and marketing.
    “We will offer any assistance we can to help their bull be successful,” says Tom. “Even if they need help marketing their calves, we will help with that, too. We are an information source for them. And if we don’t know the answer, we probably know someone who does and will find out for them.”
    Building lasting relationships with buyers ultimately builds a strong reputation. Repeat customers, referrals and customers requesting bulls sight unseen are some of the biggest signs of a successful private treaty business according Cawley, Tom and Wood.
    “The best boost of confidence for us is when repeat customers ask us to just pick out a bull for them and deliver it,” says Tom. “It’s also great when new customers tell us they heard we were the best to go to for the breed – so they are here to buy one.”
    All of these insights are about more than just buying a bull. It is about building relationships and creating a reputation buyers know they can trust. Taking the more than a sale approach is the key in developing a successful private treaty business.

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