But mention the word “selling” to most vets, nurses or practice managers and it’s usually enough to send them running for the hills ! The mere mention of the word to someone who is not a sales person immediately conjures up visions of the double glazing salesman who won’t take “No” for an answer, or the girl who rings up just as you are sitting down for your evening meal to offer you the “deal you cannot afford to miss!”.
To a good sales person though, this image is a complete anathema of what selling is all about. But what constitutes a good salesperson and why is selling to our clients so important?
Making sales is fundamental to the success of any business, but very few veterinary practices make active selling a key part of their marketing strategy. When the going gets tough, as it has been over the last few years more and more clients have thought twice about having that vaccination done, or getting their pet neutered, and so it has become even more important to utilise your client base to the full.
It is also imperative in a difficult climate to differentiate your practice from others in the surrounding area. Clients have a lot of choice where to take their pets, so what’s so special about your practice? Marketing the practice is key, but in a survey of practices in one geographic area recently, 100% were sending out booster vaccination reminders or reminders of some kind; 91% had a web site; 100% had waiting room displays and pet food racks; 86% sent out newsletters regularly; 79% held nurse clinics on a variety of topics and 100% used the marketing tools given to them by their main suppliers, so where’s the difference?
Also, what makes the difference from a client’s perspective? As most clients choose their veterinary practice based on the people they see in the practice rather than the facilities the practice offers, it’s the selling skills of the practice staff that can make a huge difference to practice revenues. But how many practice staff do you know who work in a vet practice because they want to be a sales person? In fact if “We sell a lot of products / services to our clients in this practice and selling these products and services will be a key part of your job function. How do you feel about that ? “ was a standard interview question for practices, how many people would feel comfortable about taking the job?
So what constitutes a good salesperson? - A good sales person is someone who listens, who finds out what interests his or her client and then makes a clear recommendation about what should be done. However, 97% of practice staff view selling as “being pushy” or “not my job” or “clients don’t like it”. Of course clients won’t like it if you are “pushy” but this is not what proper selling is about.
Selling is about knowing what your client currently does for their pet and then making that clear recommendation about the other things they need to do to ensure the best for their pet, and then following it through to get the sale. “But we do sell things in our practice” say some practice partners. But selling is not giving out a flea treatment to a client who comes in to ask for it. Selling is talking to the client about a flea treatment when they have come in to have their cat’s abscess lanced, and this is very different.
In setting a sales strategy for the practice, a plan needs to be put in place :
In summary, honing the practice’s selling skills will give you a very clear advantage over your neighbouring practices and will certainly increase revenue. It is also probably the hardest thing to take on as a practice team. However, if after reading this, you are thinking “ You have to be kidding – I don’t think so ! “ your competitor down the road might just be thinking “ Hmmm. Now that could be very interesting !