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Appropriate time for giving references?

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  • Appropriate time for giving references?

    I have a fairly well known retirement farm and we get contacted regularly through our website. A lot of our clients and potential clients are out of town or out of state, so understandably they request reference information to contact some of our current clients. Note, I am reiterating that I understand why they are asking for references, think it is a wise thing to do, and am happy to provide them at an appropriate time.

    Before I give out my clients' contact information I try to learn more about the potential client. I ask questions about them, questions about their horse and generally try to determine if we are all a good fit with each other. Of course I am being asked questions as well and we have a two way conversation about expectations and such. Typically we naturally reach a point where we mutually decide we are or are not a good fit for each other, and if it is the former then at this point I give out reference information if requested.


    I rotate through my clients so that no one is contacted too often just as a courtesy to them. My clients are also always very happy to provide a reference and talk to a potential customer. However I suspect part of why they are happy to do so is because we're careful about not giving out their information too often. Sometimes I have people ask for reference information right off the bat. I always explain that I don't give out reference information just for the privacy of my clients until we have a dialogue and both feel that we are potentially a good fit with each other. Most people are perfectly agreeable to this.

    I've had a couple of people act offended when I wouldn't hand out my clients contact information right off the bat when I knew nothing about them at all. Another person told me they were just thinking about retiring their horse and their first choice was to give the horse away to a companion home, but if they couldn't find one within a few months then they would be thinking about a retirement farm, but wanted reference information now.

    So would you hand out contact information for your clients to anyone and everyone who asks? Would you wait until there has been enough dialogue to determine if both parties are possibly a good match for each other? Do you give out your client's contact information to the people who hope to give the horse away but might consider retiring the horse in a few months if they can't?

    Just sitting here on a rainy day pondering these things. I want to make sure I give reference information appropriately, both for the people asking for the reference and the people who will be giving the reference. I also don't want to ask my clients to spend their precious time talking to people who aren't even serious at the moment.
    www.retiredhorses.com
    Blogging about daily life on the retirement farm: http://paradigmfarms.blogspot.com/
    Paradigm Farms on Facebook

  • #2
    Originally posted by onthebit View Post

    I've had a couple of people act offended when I wouldn't hand out my clients contact information right off the bat when I knew nothing about them at all. ...

    So would you hand out contact information for your clients to anyone and everyone who asks?
    I think you have a good approach, balancing potential clients' need to know, and your clients likely desire to remain undisturbed.

    If a potential client becomes bothered by this, I would remind them, "I'm sure you appreciate this. You and I must first determine whether we're a good match. If so, and you come to rely on me to care for your horse, you can be assured I will show you the same courtesy before giving out your contact information, to potential clients. My current clients will be happy to talk to you, once they know you're likely to become a client, too."

    Sometimes people have to be reminded that they also will receive the same benefits. Rather like waiting in line at the bank and read the sign that while the line may be moving slowly, you will receive the same courtesy and good service when you reach the teller's window.

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    • #3
      You're a wise woman, OTB, and I think you are handling this just right. If I were a potential client I would respect you all the more for your discretion.

      And frankly if someone is offended that you won't hand over your current clients' info to them immediately, perhaps they are not going to be the kind of client you want anyway....

      Do you have a "testimonials" section on your website? Maybe that is something to consider?
      We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.

      Comment


      • #4
        I do not give a potential client references to contact until I have met with them face to face first, and even then I give their information to one or two current clients to contact at their leisure. If the potential client has an issue with this I just tell them that it is part of our privacy policy, that I do not openly give out contact information. I am happy to provide a potential client with a page of written testimonials and also direct them to other testimonials on our website and other websites. I figure if a person is going to have a meltdown about not being able to call a current client right off the bat they will be too high maintenance for me anyways!

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        • #5
          Originally posted by onthebit View Post
          Before I give out my clients' contact information I try to learn more about the potential client. I ask questions about them, questions about their horse and generally try to determine if we are all a good fit with each other. Of course I am being asked questions as well and we have a two way conversation about expectations and such. Typically we naturally reach a point where we mutually decide we are or are not a good fit for each other, and if it is the former then at this point I give out reference information if requested.


          I rotate through my clients so that no one is contacted too often just as a courtesy to them. My clients are also always very happy to provide a reference and talk to a potential customer. However I suspect part of why they are happy to do so is because we're careful about not giving out their information too often. Sometimes I have people ask for reference information right off the bat. I always explain that I don't give out reference information just for the privacy of my clients until we have a dialogue and both feel that we are potentially a good fit with each other. Most people are perfectly agreeable to this.

          I've had a couple of people act offended when I wouldn't hand out my clients contact information right off the bat when I knew nothing about them at all. Another person told me they were just thinking about retiring their horse and their first choice was to give the horse away to a companion home, but if they couldn't find one within a few months then they would be thinking about a retirement farm, but wanted reference information now.

          So would you hand out contact information for your clients to anyone and everyone who asks? Would you wait until there has been enough dialogue to determine if both parties are possibly a good match for each other? Do you give out your client's contact information to the people who hope to give the horse away but might consider retiring the horse in a few months if they can't?
          I bolded the parts that I think should determine what you do or otherwise matter.

          I think the "right client" is the one who wants what you are offering. That info comes from you. The "right client" also shares your sense of how to care for horses and how to maintain a long term business relationship that has some emotional importance to the absentee owner. This is also on you-- both in giving info and doing your best to infer the client's expectations and general MO for doing business from afar.

          References from happy clients won't add shockingly new information. I'd be a little surprised if someone wanted references up front. What couldn't they learn from you? That's what I'd wonder.

          It's kind of you to rotate through you client list so that no one is burdened. You might also think about matching up clients for the prospective one-- and let them know you are doing it.

          So, for example, offer them the names of people with the "high maintenance" horse that sounds like theirs (or their kind of preferred care). Give them the name of the person who lives several states away, or the person who wants to open Pookah's stocking with him in your pasture every damned Christmas morning (with full videography). If they are worried about end of life decisions, send them the name of a client who did that with you.

          As to the last point. I'd suggest you give all the info about your farm, but help the would-be client who has the "give away" and "retire him at a high-end farm" options on the table appreciate that these are *very different* paths, emotionally and financially. The would-be client is at a big fork in the road and talking to your references might be very good or very bad, since those folks have already committed to one path. The reference who did choose your farm might help the person see why they'd want to choose your placde (or retain ownership of the horse at all), But I'd suggest that you don't necessarily want to "sell" your farm to the client who hasn't independently chosen that path and committed to it.

          You might offer greater help by helping the client appreciate the fork in the road. If you have a reference who can speak to that, I'd say this is the one you can offer. If you and your clients can't speak to the "give away" option well-- you don't know about it, or how to find a great scenario, then you just have to be up front about that.
          The armchair saddler
          Politically Pro-Cat

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