Vaccines and Preventatives Compliance: The Fallacy of Education


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Education is the key in only a few vaccines and preventatives interactions. In most of the contacts with customers, you’re the key to compliance.

“The key to compliance for vaccines, flea, tick, and heartworm prevention – even osteoarthritis – is continual education to support preventative products and processes.”

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the three great lies beginning with “the check is in the mail.” The above quote could be the fourth great fallacy. Far too often we believe that more education will solve every problem. It will not. If it did, we would have achieved 100% compliance years ago and this whole column would be unnecessary.

When you mention vaccines or preventatives, your customer will begin to formulate an attitude about that subject. The attitude they adopt dictates what they need from you and education is the answer to only a small percentage of their possible responses.

Although this column is written from a practice perspective, I am confident that distribution reps across the industry will grasp its application to their success.

Let me illustrate.

Customer reactions to vaccines and preventatives

Your first customer’s reaction is indifference – vaccination or prevention is not a priority for them. You can give them an informational handout, but the customer will round file it upon leaving. So, in place of education, why not find out what their priorities are and tie that back to the need for vaccines and preventatives? If you cannot reconnect it to their priorities, move on.

The next customer is troubled by the thought of preventatives or vaccines. You can educate them on the litany of facts to justify vaccination, but unless you were lucky enough to hit on the source of their trouble, all your facts go in one ear and out the other. Why not find out what is troubling to them and resolve the trouble? If there are multiple issues, keep going until all are resolved.

Your next customer has been visiting Dr. Internet and reading about the risks of preventatives or vaccines. There’s a good possibility that more education will only increase the perceived risk. Instead, why not acknowledge that like everything in life there is some risk and move the discussion to the way you mitigate the risk?

Your next customer is absolutely opposed to preventatives and gives you a flat-out NO. There is more emotion in this exchange and if you suggest education as a solution, your customer may perceive you are inferring they are stupid. Instead, stop selling and start asking questions to uncover all the reasons they are opposed to preventatives. You cannot fix the problem until it has been identified.

Doubting Thomas is your next customer, and he is skeptical that vaccinations are necessary for his indoor cat. Instead of doing a complete data dump, why not limit the conversation to panleukopenia infections, how they are spread, and how even indoor cats are vulnerable if unvaccinated?

Now, I know that you have been anxious to give your customer that beautiful educational handout on vaccines and preventatives. Your opportunity is coming next.

When your customer is open to a discussion of or knowing more about vaccines and/or preventatives, that is the only time education is the appropriate strategy. Go ahead and give them the brochure but walk them through the high points. You must be part of the process because self-education is often a polite way to avoid deciding.

I suspect you know what to do when your customer starts asking positive questions, is enthusiastic, or commits to compliance. So, I will not bore you with strategies for those reactions.

Back to the original premise. Education is the key to compliance in only a few interactions. In most of the contacts with customers, you are the key to compliance. Your ability to read your customer’s attitude at that moment in the conversation and apply the appropriate strategy for that attitude is key.

Only you can answer the remaining question: is it worth your time and effort? You decide.

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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