The Complete Picture for a Sales Call

Sales

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How to examine and diagnose the needs of your customers before offering products and services during a sales visit.

I saw a quote the other day that said, “Prescription before diagnosis is malpractice.” While it was written in the context relative to veterinarians, it also struck me as being relevant for every inside and outside rep in animal health.

It’s common for a veterinarian’s day to consist of 15-20-minute increments with clients. Within that time frame, they examine, ask questions, diagnose, and then consult and prescribe. Why would we do anything differently? We cannot come into a meeting or a conversation with a customer and expect to sell them something without knowing anything about them.


While we always have pressure to focus on the numbers, enhance our abilities to influence and lead our customers, and sell the products that make the most sense and revenue for the companies that employ us, to truly be successful, we must first ask our customers questions. We need to follow the way that they are accustomed to interacting.

Creating a connection

Engaging the customer does so many more things that will provide you the information that you are looking for. The connection you create with the customer and their staff is very important. It has been said that your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, and how you leave others feeling after having an experience with you becomes your trademark. Gaining a connection is one of the very first steps in your ability to accurately assess the situation and your customer’s interests and needs.

After you have established a connection you can start to build a rapport. Rapport is more than a dialogue. According to Merriam Webster, the definition of rapport is “a relationship characterized by agreement, mutual understanding, or empathy that makes communication possible or easy.” Getting to this level with any customer is imperative as it becomes the foundation for all future conversations and provides the opportunity for future interactions. You should feel satisfied that you’ve built real rapport before any other discussion takes place. This takes the emphasis away from selling and creates an environment where you’re seeing if there’s a mutual fit between what you provide and what your customer wants.

A large part of rapport is trust. People will not believe the message if they do not believe the messenger. Proving your interest in their needs and wants is imperative as you build rapport and trust. The more that you can get the customer to tell you about themselves and their practice, the more accurate you will be with your examination.

The examination

Once a proper examination is underway you can start to make a diagnosis. Arriving at a diagnosis is often complex, involving multiple steps.

1. Taking an appropriate history of symptoms and collecting relevant data prior to entering the practice is imperative. What have they purchased in the past? What is the demographic that they serve? What time of year is it and what is the relevant focus for their geography? Ask questions.

2. A physical examination is next. What does the physical practice tell you about their focus and their emphasis? What is the vibe of the practice as a whole and how does the staff interact with one another? Are there marketing materials in the waiting room? What are they promoting to their clients? The physical exam also includes your conversations and the rapport building. All of these pieces (plus many more) will assist you in creating an initial diagnosis.

3. Generating a provisional and differential diagnosis also has many facets. Your first diagnosis may be missing some elements. It is imperative that the customer feel involved and empowered as you both aim to create a prescription that will solve an issue and meet the needs of your customer and their clients. Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. Use the established rapport to have the customer assist with the diagnosis process.

4. Testing can be very important in reaching a perfect prescriptive resolution. Creating options for your customer is important during this stage of the process. It would be an assumption to think that we can solve our customer’s problems with one answer. Giving the customer options on products, promotions, billing terms, and other elements that empower them to do business with you is important. Work to see where their interest and their reservations are in order to get the complete picture of their needs and reach a final diagnosis.

Prescribing solutions

Now that we have executed a successful examination and created a mutually agreed-upon diagnosis, we can then move into the prescription. This often is the consultation portion of the interaction between veterinarians and their clients. We can employ the same practices. Consultations contain dialogue where both parties seek clarification and make recommendations. This is where it all comes together for a mutually beneficial recommendation based exclusively on the examination and diagnosis processes. Start by presenting the information as you see it, referencing the input that they have provided, leveraging your knowledge and experience as a tool for them to use, and finally presenting what you feel is the best option for the customer.

Never sell with the goal of getting the money. Sell with the intention of solving the problem or making the prospect’s pain go away. It is exactly what our customers are doing when they walk into an exam room with a patient and a client. Create a good feeling your customers will remember. Always remember that it takes longer to get a new customer to come on board than to keep an old customer. Treat both like they are gold!

Never underestimate the power of follow-up. Check on your customer as often as you can without wearing out your welcome. It speaks to your commitment to the relationship when you are there to see how they are and what they need versus only dropping by when you have something to sell. These are all good practices for both inside and outside reps to employ as you strive to become a pivotal part of your customer’s business.

istockphoto.com/Mehmet Hilmi Barcin

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