Riding Shotgun – Great Bull Sellers
As we travel the highways and by-ways of the Limousin family and breed we often cuss and discuss the cattle business, sports, politics, great cheeseburgers and most of the time, the promotion and marketing of Limousin cattle.
Through “Riding Shotgun” we invite you to join us in the right-hand seat, so that we can let you in on what we find to be our marketing pet peeves, shortcuts and some of the favorite habits of top-flight professional producers. Grab a cup of coffee and take the ‘shotgun seat’—we are pleased to have you riding along.
Ever since we started traveling, one of the things that intrigued me the most is why some programs sell bulls successfully, and why some fumble the whole project. After analyzing programs that succeed at building and maintaining a bull market, while others seem to struggle, we would like to put forth the following points. These are observations that all seem to be in the equation—you can’t just do one and make your bull business work—each is a piece that leads to the next piece. Selling bulls is a science and an art, blending them will help your program.
The first piece in “Great Bull Sellers” is desire. Do you really want to sell bulls, do you enjoy selling bulls? Bulls and bull customers are going to test your patience some days. You must enjoy and look forward to the challenge. We’ve been on operations who hate the whole job and we’ve been to places that think it’s the best part of the seedstock business. Guess which ones sell more bulls.
When my grandfather sold bulls in the ’50s and ’60s, bull selling was “Who’s your Daddy”. Granddad knew the pedigree and bloodlines of all his bulls, and he would tell you over and over the pedigree of the sire and the dam and the grandsire and the granddam. Since the early ’70s, the bull selling business has been founded in data, performance data. It starts with birthweight and birthdate, goes through weaning weight and proceeds to yearling weight and average daily gain. Those were the big four for many years. Then the animal breeders (read statistics guys) got involved and those weights became EBVs “Estimated Breeding Values” and then further down the road, EPDs “Expected Progeny Difference” arrived, and bull selling joined the 21st century. The thing to remember here is that for you the breeder, it still boils down to gathering the basic data, birthdate, birthweight, weaning weight and yearling weight. The big brains in the animal breeding world will figure out the rest.
“Great Bull Sellers” keep great records, complete records, and work hard to understand not only the data, but the future of the data. Lately, we started adding in carcass data and other measurements like scrotal circumference and pelvic size, all important traits that bull buyers demand. The animal breeders will boil it down and hopefully educate you on how to use the data, it’s up to you to listen and learn. Your main job is to collect and preserve the basic performance data, because data is where it’s at in 2023.
The next piece, once you have the product, is marketing—finding and convincing prospective bull buyers that your product is their best option, their best choice. It’s no longer only selling to your neighbor or advertising in your local paper. You now must incorporate all the tools available to you—video, pictures, websites, eblasts, YouTube, Facebook, online auctions and sale management, along with your old standby, advertising and a mailing list. The bull selling catalog itself has grown from a pedigree only option to a selling piece loaded with data, pictures and information. We have discussed a lot of these in the past—“Great Bull Sellers” use every piece available to SELL their product. If you are not watching the horizon for the next new marketing opportunity, you will be behind the curve. You must have the desire to be open to new technologies, keep your brain open.
The final piece “Great Bull Sellers” use is their customer service and follow-up. It starts with a guarantee that they not only believe in, but one they can back up. It hurts sometimes and I know of instances where the client abused the privilege, but I will GUARANTEE that you cannot have a consistent bull market without one. You must formulate one that works for them and you, then you must apply it without prejudice. Semen testing finds most problems and should be a consistent policy. Delivery is a great way to meet and get to know your customers, and you need to do everything you can to facilitate delivery, get required health papers and/or hire a trucker you can trust. If the bull or bulls are bought online or on order, delivery will seal the deal and make this customer a customer for life.
Finish the job—make the customer a friend that trusts you to treat him like you would want to be treated. Give him a call four months after the sale, find out how the bulls worked and meet any problem head on. Don’t wait until the next sale day to find out the last bull he bought did not satisfy his needs.
Being a “Great Bull Seller” involves breeding, feeding, data collection, marketing and customer service all from the seat of your pickup truck. It is a challenge, but one that can be immensely satisfying.
Hug your family, enjoy your friends, and learn something every day.
See you down the road.
CONTACT THE AUTHOR
Mark A Smith
email: [email protected]