How Can I Help You, Partner?
By leveraging your knowledge and resources, you can make life easier for the veterinary clinics you call daily.
The veterinary industry has characteristics unmatched by many other industries. It is wholly focused on the health of every animal, from our furry family members to the most endangered species in the wild. It protects and ensures the animal protein food supply for the U.S. and many parts of the world. The veterinary industry has a massive impact on humans, either directly or indirectly. Now, add the fact that this industry is considered by many to be recession resistant, shows growth in one way or another every year, and has outside capitalists clambering to be a part of it; I am not aware of another industry that even mimics or parallels animal health. With this level of uniqueness also comes unique problems.
Many industries are currently hurting for human capital. Human capital is defined here as qualified individuals that companies can employ to help produce whatever it is that their industry produces or provides. We hear about this labor shortage regularly. While this problem is not unique to animal health, it seems to be plaguing animal health regarding veterinarians. Respected organizations such as the AVMA, NAVC, Antelligence, Brakke Consulting, and others have reported that we may have a shortage of full-time veterinarians. This is especially concerning in the large animal/food production veterinary numbers.
This becomes a unique problem for the veterinary industry because we are discussing expanding the capabilities of the veterinary technician. There is an active debate on how this might affect the state of the veterinary profession. A veterinary technician performs many functions side by side with the veterinarian every day in the practice. There are many times that their roles and responsibilities are equally as important as a nurse’s role in human medicine. Yet, the general public does not have that impression of a veterinary technician. The fact is the role of the veterinary technician differs state to state defined by regulations and policies that need to be reviewed. NAVTA (National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America) and their VNI (Veterinary Nurse Initiative) are trying to make a difference by bringing clarity and definition to the many different iterations of the veterinary technician’s role across our country.
It is my opinion that veterinarians are going to become more reliant on the skills of the veterinary nurse over time. Just as we have seen the emergence and growth of the nurse practitioner on the human side, we will see an increase in the role and responsibilities of the veterinary nurse. Many practices implemented an office manager as a person to assist with the running of the business so that the veterinarians(s) could focus more on medicine and the treatment of their patients. The rise of the veterinary nurse will also provide more relief to veterinarians, allowing them to offer more services to more clients, treat more patients in a day, and regain some of their time for directing and planning their business.
Some of the issues that have plagued veterinarian offices for years are the lack of definition of a veterinary tech’s role and an increase in burnout. When you combine those with the steady increase in pet ownership and a lack of public awareness about a vet tech’s role in pet care, it’s easy to see how this problem can snowball.
What does this mean to you, the representative that calls on these stressed-out folks? I believe that it provides a clear opportunity for you to distinguish yourself as a partner. One that can make their life just a little bit easier if you leverage your resources.
As salespeople, we should always take the time to learn more about our customers. The industry’s state affects individual practices and the staff that operate them. We sometimes neglect to see the bigger picture. When looking at the macro view of any situation, it often helps to define the solutions for the micro level. Our veterinary industry is struggling with its very foundation of providing animal health care to the many segments of customers that rely on the veterinarian. You can play a role in helping your customers navigate busy days.
Providing products to your customers is one facet of your service. Each manufacturer and distributor in animal health today has an arsenal of tools to provide the veterinarian and their staff. Learn the resources that your organization offers. Take time to analyze the customers that you serve. Asking questions about industry topics shows that you are interested in their business that exceeds the transactional level. Simply engaging in short conversations about industry topics and their perspective within their practice places you in a different category with the customer. You become an interested partner rather than a supplier.
Becoming a partner to your customer is far more critical than having the best price or the best promotion. Being a true partner gives you the ability to navigate tough situations. When another provider has a better price or promotion, when something goes wrong with an order or a delivery, a customer will approach the subject differently with a partner than they will with a supplier. Partners have a discussion. Partners look for a mutually satisfying resolution. Partners show respect for one another. These are all straightforward things that we do every day and do not even realize we are doing them when we care about the other person we are interacting with. Show them that you care. Take interest in their world. Ask them for their opinion. Find options that can help make their day-to-day life more manageable. These are ways to forge the bond that separates you from the other suppliers you may compete against. Your success relies on your partners’ success.
About the author
President of Same Page Consulting Inc.
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