Pandemic Lessons for Veterinary Sales Reps


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How today’s challenges present real opportunities and could provide the foundation for your future success as a rep.

After two-plus years of the COVID pandemic, we have a $30 trillion national debt. Our inflation rate is 7.5% and climbing. Academic performance has regressed. The supply chain is still struggling to catch up. We have other challenges too numerous to list.

We believe these challenges present real opportunities and could provide the foundation for your future success. The key to capitalizing on the current situation is in your attitude, the value you bring, and your talent.

It all begins with your attitude.


Admiral James Stockdale was the highest-ranking U.S. military officer in the Hanoi prison camp during the Vietnam War. He survived 8 years of imprisonment because of his attitude. What is now known in psychological circles as the “Stockdale Paradox” is simply an absolute faith that you will prevail in the end, coupled with the discipline to confront the brutal facts of your current reality.

Author Jim Collins connected that paradox with a business lesson on why some individuals rise from difficulty to become great while others emerge from those same exact difficulties weakened and dispirited. The survivors had an absolute belief that, in the future, they would survive the experience and be stronger for it. However, at the moment, they confronted their difficult reality as if it were likely to exist for an infinite time with no light at the end of the tunnel. They used the grim reality of the moment to adjust and prosper in the future.


The reality of our current situation brings us to the second key – value. The individuals most likely to emerge stronger are those who are willing to provide more value now. We cannot create value in a vacuum. We look at our products and services and decide that they provide excellent value and then attempt to go out and sell our value. The problem is that what we perceive as value may not be what our customers perceive as value. At no other time than now has it been more important to find out what our customers value and adjust accordingly.

For example, during the height of the pandemic, many of your hospitals offered curbside drop-off and pickup. Many offered touchless payment methods or telemedicine options. They were adapting to their customer’s values.


The right attitude combined with an excellent value proposition is still not enough to ensure your success in these challenging times. The final and most important ingredient is your talent – the skill to execute well at will. As a distributor sales rep, you have two choices: become satisfied with your current level of skill or adopt a continuous improvement program that challenges your competency.

It’s easy to become complacent and satisfied with the current level of skill, especially if you’re successful. However, this industry continues to change, and what was excellent yesterday is good today and will be mediocre tomorrow. So, I come down on the side of continuous improvement.

Building talent from within requires a more disciplined approach, but in the long haul, the results pay a bigger immediate dividend and will continue to pay for the long term. I consistently ask others who are successful how they manage different situations. Every rep was my coach when I was in front-line sales. Every sales manager was my source for becoming a better manager. Even today, other business owners and executives become a model for me to improve my competency.

The difference now is the adjustments are more subtle than extensive. A word, an inflection, and the tone can all impact the outcome of a sales interaction, so I concentrate on the minor things. I have always believed in the philosophy that when you stop growing, you begin to die.

In any event, business history is replete with organizations and individuals that have grown and prospered in challenging times. So can you if you remember your attitude, the value you bring, and continuously work to enhance your talent.



Patrick T. Malone is a business advisor and leadership mentor based in Blairsville, Georgia. He is the co-author of the best-selling business book “Cracking the Code to Leadership” and may be reached at [email protected] or 706-835-1308.


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