Editor's Note: The USTA website is pleased to present freelance writer Bob Carson and his popular "Outside the Box" features. This monthly series is a menu of outlandish proposals presented with a wink -- but the purpose behind them is serious. The views contained in this column are that of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of the United States Trotting Association.
“Becoming known (at least among your prospects and connections) is the most valuable element in the connection process.” -- Jeffrey Gitomer
The sales process begins when the seller makes a connection with a potential customer. After the door has been opened, the seller makes a case, and then tries to close the deal. Should you be selling a complex, niche product, like expensive sailboats, or an African safari or a Standardbred yearling, your market is limited and the difficulty of making new connections is formidable.
Formidable does not mean impossible. Connecting with new customers is a challenge that must be accepted in any business.
Let’s try to make some connections for the future of harness racing. For demonstration purposes, we will assume control of a breeding farm named Montague Farms. Our farm is located in New Jersey. This fall we will have approximately 30 babies foaled on the farm; each will eventually go to market as yearlings at the Standardbred Horse Sale in Harrisburg.
|Autumn Ryan graphic|
One of our first tasks after the birth of these foals will be to give each horse a name. This is where we become proactive in an industry that is far too often reactive. This is where we look a few years down the road and plant some seeds instead of trusting our fate to the winds of mere chance.
We will separate our yearlings into batches of three. Here are the names that we will give three of our babies.
Cannon Fodder MB
Karl’s Komet Krusher MB
Viano Piano MB
Here are the names we will give another three of our babies.
Yachts of Luck VY
Healey’s Comet VY
Bass River Valhalla VY
Here are the next three names.
Premio Vesuvius PF
Kielbasa Klomper PF
These names may sound as if they were selected at random, bits of inane wordplay. This is not the case. Each name is as purposeful as a pacemaker implant (a metaphor that may have some relevance). Each name has a rationale; in fact, each name in each group has multiple purposes. Every action we take, even one as simple as a name, should have usefulness.
The name selection process began by researching businesses in New Jersey, because in this example the yearlings will be eligible to the New Jersey Sires Stakes program. The local connection was our first criteria.
Individual businesses in the state were selected using a few simple filters; each company has a few hundred employees, each has longevity and appears to be innovative. These companies have won awards for treating employees favorably and have excellent communication with their employees. The selection process for this prototype of naming three groups of our foals took me less than two hours. If selling harness yearlings was my livelihood, if my business depended on it, I would dig relentlessly to find promising partners.
A name is a potential asset. It should not be wasted. Each name should be part of a plan. In the nine examples listed above, each name has deep threads; let’s look at just one -- Healey’s Comet VY. Why this name? Obviously it is a word play on the famous Haley’s Comet but there are other reasons behind the name, lots of reasons; each a potential flair in the night.
The letters VY relates to Viking Yachts in New Jersey. Viking Yachts has a solid reputation, long background and fine customer and employee relations. Healey is the name of the family that owns the business and has owned the business since day one. Many of us would be thrilled to have our name on a champion racehorse.
Another factor that came into play as we chose this name is people who purchase yachts have resources, have demonstrated that they spend on hobbies and they already are involved in a somewhat competitive activity.
Twice each year, Viking Yachts publishes a magazine titled Valhalla, for owners of Viking Yachts, which talks about new models, events, owner profiles and news items related to the company. The three horses we named in association with the Viking Yachts group would be a perfect little story. Connections and concepts like these are endless and should not be missed. The name would be far from the end of our promotional efforts, the name would be a simple beginning -- a connection.
If we make a connection we can push push. How? We should promote our product in every way possible.
After naming the horses, my next step would be to contact the individual business the mysterious last two letters represent (Mercedes Benz, Viking Yachts, Premio Foods), and introduce our farm. We will send videos of the three horses romping in the field and then explain why the names were chosen.
Then we push onward. We explain that at absolutely no cost, obligation or effort, the ten business groups in this little trial are part of a friendly competition. Whichever group of horses has the highest total dollar amount of earnings at the end of the season will receive a trophy (The Harness Business Cup) and a $2,000 donation to a charity of their choice.
With permission, the company will be sent periodic updates on the horses with the identifying letters. They will be encouraged to share this material with their employees. We will let each company know who purchased these horses and how much money they sold for at the sale. Where the horses are headed and what is the time frame of their training. When is the date of the first qualifying race for the horses and where and for how much are any of “their” horses racing for. Etc.
What will our reception be? How much will the companies care? Will they want updates on this trio of race horses? Will they share this information and videos with their employees? Will they participate? Who knows? Much will depend upon the presentation. It is entirely possible, if fact likely, that we will be greeted with a rude slamming of the phone or a request not to bother the company with this race horse nonsense.
So what? Welcome to the world of sales. The vast majority of pitches find a chilly reception. Good salesmen do not take rejection personally and they move on to the next attempt, the next initiative. A sale is a game of numbers, one in a hundred is better than zero. And even if the results from this batch happen to be zero, what have we lost? Worst case scenario is we send a horse to market named Yachts of Luck instead of something completely useless.
What if Somebeachsomewhere had been purposefully named after a city, a place, a person or a business? Harness racing would have had additional opportunities. The name Somebeachsomewhere may have a smidgen of relevance to hard core horsemen (he was sired by Mach Three, out of Wheres The Beach, a Beach Towel mare), but this name does not do a bit of work in the rest of the world. The name Somebeachsomewhere offers very few connections or links to the non-racing community.
What if Somebeachsomewhere had been named Connectivity DD? Suppose the farm chose the name because of a thread to a very successful internet advertising company named Digital Directions. Inc.
This great horse would have raced his career (and spent his sire years) with a name that at least had the opportunity to do some good, to make some (pardon the pun) connections in the world outside of harness racing. Useful names might be a long shot, but they are a free shot and better than no shot.
If breeding farms are proactive and creative, maybe they can nudge these companies to answer the phone, respond to an e-mail or take a peek behind our curtain with incentives. We might be able to reach employees of these companies where the goal, of course, is to spark interest, and eventually create future customers.
Bottom line, we are selling a product -- harness racing. Breeding farms are selling a specific part of the game -- yearlings. Selling is hard. Selling is messy. Selling is often devious and clever. Selling is work and persistence. Selling is a search for connections. The names of our horses scream out to be sales connections.