Inside Sales: Difference Makers

Inside Sales

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Understanding the drive, and commitment, of veterinary inside sales reps to their customers and organizations.

Helping veterinary practices keep their doors open amid the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t just part of the job for the industry’s inside sales reps. According to those whom Veterinary Advantage spoke to, assisting the veterinary practices was a priority because of the bonds they had formed with the individuals at those practices.

“I made a concerted effort to reach out to all the customers I work with to let them know I am here for them, and if there was anything I could do for them, both business wise or personally,” said Benjamin Newsom, inside sales rep, Patterson Veterinary.


“As we have all experienced, the key to getting through this crisis isn’t just about the access to product, or even information,” said Duari Weiss, customer engagement representative, commercial customer engagement team, Covetrus North America. “It is about supporting one another. I feel good that I was able to support customers not only with their product needs but also to be there
for those who were simply having a bad day.”

Those connections are just one of many ways in which inside sales reps are vital to their organization’s sales efforts. In the following interviews, Veterinary Advantage reached out to several members of distributor inside sales teams for their insights on succeeding as an inside sales rep in today’s marketplace, as well as how they are assisting customers amid the pandemic.

Difference Maker – Sarah Harnish

Photo of Sarah Harnish
Sarah Harnish,
Inside Sales Rep, Midwest Veterinary Supply

Veterinary Advantage: What do you enjoy most about your job?

Sarah Harnish: My long-term relationships and friendships with my accounts. I was talking to an account the other day and she asked how long we have known each other – it’s been 32-33 years. We laughed about that. She said we’ve practically grown up together. I feel like that with a lot of my accounts. I’ve grown up with them over the course of 30-plus years. I’ve watched where a doctor went into practice and now his kids are taking over the practice and there are grandkids on the way, so it’s very much relationship-driven. That’s how you earn loyalty. I know my accounts personally, even though a lot of these accounts I will never meet face to face. But I consider my accounts my friends. My job is to make their job easier. My accounts appreciate that and that they can call me with anything.

Veterinary Advantage: What does it take to succeed in the role of an inside sales rep?

Harnish: Recognizing the needs of your clinics, adapting to all the different things that go on in clinics, and genuine care and concern on a personal and business level. Because I have been working with these accounts for so long, when we talk over the phone, I can tell what their day has been like. You need to be able to read what’s going on. Right now amid COVID-19, it is adapting to people’s changing needs, because they are so different right now.

Taking care of people is important. I always say to my accounts, “I will run reports on the promos ending every day the last week of the month to make sure no one misses a rebate by a dollar or even a thousand dollars.” People appreciate that. They’re busy. My job is to take care of them, and that has gained me a lot of business.

It’s about looking out for people, like if there is going to be a shortage or a price increase. Keeping people aware of all those things is key.

Veterinary Advantage: What is the key to an effective relationship with your organization’s outside sales reps/territory managers?

Harnish: I have one rep in southern Virginia that I share a lot of large animal business with. The majority of my base is large animal. He and I share a lot of accounts together. Our relationship goes back 30-some years when he was a buyer in a practice and I was a sales rep at another company. We continued our friendship and came back around to both of us working at Midwest. Every morning I hear from him between 7-7:15 a.m. We talk about what’s going on with the accounts, anything we need to focus on, industry trends, etc. I will hear from him sometimes 5-10 times a day.

Those reps are the eyes in the clinics. If they see a situation or change, I rely on them to let me know those things, so I can react the way we need to.

I think it’s key to have good relationships with manufacturer reps. When I need something or I’m trying to get something for an account that I don’t have, I try to keep a good open relationship with every manufacturer rep. We’re a distributor, and we sell everyone’s line of products. You have to have a working relationship with everyone. Our job is to offer everything we can with each line to our accounts and let them make the decision as to what’s best for their individual practice.

Veterinary Advantage: How do you see veterinary medicine changing in the next 5-10 years?

Harnish: When I started, we didn’t text or email. It was all done over the phone. Now, people are very busy and have time constraints so they’ll email or text orders. Online stores have become a major thing. I think those platforms will continue to grow, and I think the pandemic has pushed it that direction even more. If clients can’t come in to get their meds, they can go onto the clinic’s online stores. There is competition with some of the online, non-distributor places. The veterinarians need to keep that business coming back into their practice because it’s their bread and butter. Midwest has a phenomenal team to help with customers’ online stores. I’m not the computer person, but I turn those requests over to the team, and it’s incredible what they do.

Veterinary Advantage: How have you helped your customers amid the COVID-19 pandemic?

Harnish: As soon as it started, I began calling people and asking them how they were doing, how were they reacting to it. What are their plans? How are they going to continue to do business? What can we do to make it easier for them? When all of this started, it wasn’t a time to call and talk about sales. It was a time to call and see what we could do on a personal level. What items could we get to help them out? What could we do as a distributor to help them get through their day-to-day things?

Some clinics dove into it figured it out and were very aggressive about not losing the business. If they had great ideas, I wouldn’t name them to other clinics but I would say, “I’ve heard of some clinics offering this, maybe that would be a good thing to do.” Giving people ideas, but also asking how they were doing personally. “Is everyone in your family OK?” Those types of things. Because at the time, people’s focus didn’t need to be on buying huge volumes of products. It needed to be on getting through day-to-day business, keeping their head above water, and keeping everyone safe.

Difference Maker – Benjamin Newsom

Headshot of Ben Newsom.
Benjamin Newsom,
Customer Service Rep, Patterson Veterinary

Veterinary Advantage: What do you enjoy most about your job?

Benjamin Newsom: Working for Patterson Veterinary for over 23 years has been a great experience. It continues to give me the opportunity to impact the lives of co-workers and customers both professionally and personally. I have had the pleasure of working with so many wonderful co-workers at Patterson; it makes coming to work something I look forward to. I am reminded of that more than ever right now having to work remotely. I miss our teamwork, comradery, and friendship. When working with customers, it is truly rewarding to have them trust me to help them grow and build their clinic into a successful practice. On a personal level, I really enjoy getting to know people and finding out what they are passionate about. I also like taking the opportunity to brighten someone’s day by trying to invoke a smile or a laugh.

Veterinary Advantage: What does it take to succeed in the role of an inside sales rep?

Newsom: I believe that valuable assets to increase the chances of success as an inside sales rep are active listening skills, good product knowledge, being able to recognize an opportunity to upsell or cross-sell a product that will benefit the customer, implementation of empathy when someone is upset, a true desire to remain teachable and continuing to strive to be a better person every day.

Another aspect to consider is that people have different individual personality strengths. In my opinion, if inside sales reps can identify what those are for themselves, they could use them to their advantage. For example, I am extremely service-oriented inside and out of work. I take great pride in helping people and build relationships based on trust through honesty and integrity. I must believe in what I say and do, and that translates to my customers that I always have their best interest in mind.

Veterinary Advantage: What is the key to an effective relationship with your organization’s outside sales reps/territory managers?

Newsom: Clear communication is the most important aspect of building and maintaining a strong working relationship between an inside and outside sales rep. I feel that it is important to know what clinics the outside sales rep I work with is seeing on a week-to-week basis so that I can make sure to focus on different clinics that they might not be able to visit that week. This maximizes our interactions with all clients in our territory and minimizes redundancy of coverage in the area. Additionally, I like to know what new products or promotions my rep is detailing, and which clinics showed interest, so I can follow up the next time I talk to them. Collaborating as a team is important so that we can provide the best service to our customers. I believe by understanding and supporting my rep’s goals, through the actions I take on a daily basis, helps forge a lasting relationship that we are truly working together to develop and grow the territory.

Veterinary Advantage: How do you see veterinary medicine changing in the next 5-10 years?

Newsom: Over the years, human-pet relationships have grown closer and as such, people are more invested in the health of their pets. We have already seen the use of DNA testing in the veterinary industry to identify breeds and to discover if potential preexisting conditions from genetic markers exist. Veterinary medicine could follow the current trend in human medicine with personalized medicine, which allows doctors to treat, diagnose, and even prevent disease based on knowledge of genetic makeup.

As far as how inside sales will be impacted in the years to come, I believe the industry will continue to move more towards online and software integrated order placement. I have already seen an impact of generational changes. Younger people prefer to do things electronically and I believe technological advancement will continue to improve the interface. This will challenge me to find new ways to connect with my customers and customize different ways that are best suited for each of their individual needs.

Veterinary Advantage: How have you helped your customers amid the COVID-19 pandemic?

Newsom: I am grateful to work for Patterson Veterinary. We were very responsive from the start of the pandemic and set a plan in action to get the inside sales team set up and working from home as soon as possible. This enabled us to be here for our customers with the least amount of impact on them as possible. I made a concerted effort to reach out to all the customers I work with to let them know I am here for them and if there is anything I can do for them, both business-wise or personally. I made a point to thank them for being there for their customers and recognize the sacrifice they are making with possible risks of exposure. Patterson also implemented allocation allotments on PPE and sanitizing products, which has helped me keep the customers I support supplied with these products throughout the pandemic.

Difference Maker – Rodney Allerheiligen

Photo of Rodney Allerheiligen
Rodney Allerheiligen
Inside Sales Representative, MWI Animal Health

Veterinary Advantage: What do you enjoy most about your job?

Rodney Allerheiligen: I love my job because it is exciting, fast-paced, challenging, and rewarding. I enjoy building solid relationships with my customers and helping them meet their needs and goals in a timely, efficient manner. I look at it as a partnership with my customers in helping them successfully manage their inventory and feel blessed to be a part of their success in running their veterinary clinics. I also love that we truly make a difference!

I had a clinic that wanted to order a drug that was on backorder. They needed it very badly. I watched it daily for over a week, and we had a few of them finally come in. I called my customer right away to let them know and we got it shipped out. They received it the next day, and the clinic said if they had not received it when they did their client’s pet would have died within hours. The clinic was very appreciative of my efforts.

I enjoy working with the territory managers and vendor partners in helping clinics meet their goals. I also enjoy working with the other departments within MWI in resolving issues or helping clinics with their account. As ISRs, we communicate with purchasers, the marketing team, the warehouse team, accounts receivable, account maintenance, sales tax, eCommerce, returns, IT help desk, logistics team, pet food team, etc., to help make sure clinics are provided excellent service. I work with a lot of outstanding people that help me do better at servicing my customers.

Veterinary Advantage: What does it take to succeed in the role of an inside sales rep?

Allerheiligen: For me to succeed as an ISR, I set personal goals along with the goals that management sets and relentlessly pursue them. I think to succeed as an ISR you need to have the mindset of “What value can I provide as an ISR to my customers that will help them do their job better?”

I also believe that if we provide excellent service, the sales will come. An example of providing excellent service is when I received an account in my territory years ago. I did some research on their sales history. I noticed they had purchased a lot of some line of products from a certain manufacturer for a period of several months. The vendor had a rebate program going on at the time that was coming to a close that month. I saw that they would qualify for the program and receive a rebate of over $700 if they were enrolled. Per the manufacturer rep, I found out they were not enrolled. I asked him if they could enroll late and that their sales of these products were trending upward, but the rep said it was too late. I asked him if he could check with the home office to see if they could approve it. The rep got back to me and said, surprisingly, the home office approved them to be enrolled late. The clinic was thrilled when I called to let them know they would be enrolled and earn the $700 rebate that they did not even know about.

To be a successful ISR, we need to know the why behind why we do something. In this case, my why was because I wanted my customer to earn a $700 rebate and to also build an atmosphere of trust between us. The why behind the why is because the clinic would be able to use that $700 to grow and help their vet clinic, which in turn would have a positive impact on their clinic, its staff, and their clients. Another benefit was that this helped build a relationship between the vet clinic and its vendor rep.

Veterinary Advantage: What is the key to an effective relationship with your organization’s outside sales reps/territory managers?

Allerheiligen: The key to an effective relationship with my territory managers is for us to truly work as a team to effectively give our customers excellent service. As an ISR, I expect to help them with anything that they might need. If they need me to follow up with a clinic, help get a report, assist in resolving an issue, etc., I am always willing to help. Also, if I contact them with something I may need help with, they are glad to help. We communicate a lot throughout the week. I believe our shared efforts create a positive synergy that helps us deliver outstanding service to our customers.

Veterinary Advantage: How do you see veterinary medicine changing in the next 5-10 years?

Allerheiligen: I see veterinary medicine as an industry that will continue to flourish and grow in the next 5-10 years. There will be many new cutting-edge products, technologies, and programs that will help veterinarians thrive and help them better serve their clients. Most clinics I work with are staying very busy and still growing. The veterinary customers of today are self-educating at breakneck speed about the health of their animals, and it is more important than ever that vet clinics align with their customer’s wants and needs and provide outstanding service and added value within the client visits. In the next 5-10 years, there will continue to be challenges from online pharmacies. While this has been an issue for the past several years, I feel the clinics that are proactive and confident in their staff, their products, and their strategies they implement will continue to flourish.

Veterinary Advantage: How have you helped your customers amid the COVID-19 pandemic?

Allerheiligen: The dynamics of COVID-19 made it very challenging for many clinics. Some of the changes they made were curbside-only pickup, reduced staff, staff rotations, shorter hours, emergency only, etc. For this reason, many clinics had to adapt quickly. I was able to help them by finding alternative products to ship them because of the many backorder issues that occurred.

I also tried to adapt to clinics’ schedules. For example, I called a clinic early in the month to let them know that a program was ending at the end of the month that would save them money on certain products. The purchaser for this clinic usually likes a reminder phone call the last week before a program ends. Since they were on a rotational schedule, she asked me to call in week three of the month to remind her. I put it in my calendar and contacted her the third week of the month instead of the last week of the month so they could take advantage of the program.

Difference Maker – Sam Lane

Headshot of Sam Lane
Sam Lane, Manager
Inside Sales, Covetrus Global Prescription Management

Veterinary Advantage: What do you enjoy most about your job?

Sam Lane: Veterinary practices are run by incredible folks who pride themselves on building great relationships and providing great service. They are in high demand and are absolutely essential. Their clientele is passionate about their pets and horses and will do anything for these members of the family. With that said, the veterinary industry is in a technological golden age where new companies and products focused on making pet ownership easier emerge daily. Unfortunately, immediate access to unlimited options can be detrimental to veterinary relationships and services, and let’s be honest, veterinarians are the one group of people all pet and horse owners should be consulting with when making decisions about these family members. So, what I enjoy most is that we help our veterinary partners strengthen their practices by providing products that make it easier to care for your pets and horses while putting the veterinarians first. The best part is that I’m surrounded by people who feel the same, and we’ve developed many incredible relationships with our veterinary partners along the way.

Veterinary Advantage: What does it take to succeed in the role of an inside sales rep?

Lane: Our team provides guidance on how to best use the Covetrus Prescription Management platform. It’s then up to the practice to incorporate the service into their day-to-day operations. Our most successful sales reps are able to build great relationships with their partners, to the point where the clinic knows we have their best interest in mind, and they’re great coaches. The platform has a bunch of different features (all of which are included for free), but it’s possible that not all are appropriate for every clinic. So, the team has to take a consultative approach, building easy-to-implement workflow strategies that address the practice’s primary needs, and be able to teach the staff how to use them. They also need to be flexible and recognize areas to improve their own plans. A practice’s needs may change regularly, whether its new staff members, global quarantine, etc.

Veterinary Advantage: What is the key to an effective relationship with your organization’s outside sales reps/territory managers?

Lane: The teams who have the most success understand the different roles and areas of expertise. They don’t blur the lines of their responsibilities while relying on one another to keep the best interest of the practice in mind. If a clinic has a better relationship with one particular rep, they do a wonderful job introducing the rest of their team and establishing the fact that the practice has a full group of dedicated experts ready to help. I will note that our inside and outside reps, trainers, and territory managers do a great job of working together.

Veterinary Advantage: How do you see veterinary medicine changing in the next 5-10 years?

Lane: Well more than half of all U.S. households have a pet and that number is only going up, so I’m happy to say I believe the demand for veterinary services will remain very strong. I imagine we will see wider adoption of telemedicine and virtual products, as well as streamlined client communications. I hope pet and horse owners will continue to rely on their veterinarian, and only use “Dr. Online Search” to find a vet rather than seek medical advice!

Veterinary Advantage: How have you helped your customers amid the COVID-19 pandemic?

Lane: I’m really proud of Covetrus and everything we did to help over the last few months. We dropped everything and built telemedicine services, free for all of our partners to use. We launched a webinar series with industry experts focusing on clinic operations, finances, staffing, drug shortages, retail loss prevention, and client communications during a crisis. We released an online resource center, and we adjusted our account management approach to meet the changing needs of our partners. We created strategies that worked with curbside service, reduced staffing, social distancing, and alternating staff schedules. We also took swift action to make sure our own employees had everything they needed to work safely.

Difference Maker – Duari Weiss

Headshot of Duari Weiss
Duari Weiss
Customer Engagement Representative, Covetrus North America

Veterinary Advantage: What do you enjoy most about your job?

Duari Weiss: There is quite a bit I love about my job! I love to learn and there is always the opportunity to learn about new innovative products and solutions. I absolutely love being able to have a positive impact on my customers on a daily basis, whether that is assisting them with research, resolving an issue, or just being an upbeat part of their day. I also enjoy the excitement of offering services and solutions for their practice outside of traditional distribution. Covetrus, a veterinarian-centric company, is able to provide our customers with a solution for almost every need a practice could have. I love helping our customers navigate the ever-changing world of veterinary medicine!

Veterinary Advantage: What does it take to succeed in the role of an inside sales rep?

Weiss: There are several things that I believe it takes to succeed as an inside sales representative. You must be able to multitask and be adaptable. Throughout my day I have to be flexible in what gets done first as I am constantly balancing the needs of our customers as the number one priority. Having the ability to adapt to how you work also helps you stay aligned with your customers’ needs.

In the time since I have held my current position, I have witnessed a great change in how veterinarians and their staff order and how they prefer to interact. Adapting to fit their needs is vital. And lastly, motivation. Have a plan! Look for those opportunities that aren’t as obvious and am prepared to initiate that conversation.

A motto I like to live by is: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

Veterinary Advantage: What is the key to an effective relationship with your organization’s outside sales reps/territory managers?

Weiss: The key to an effective relationship with my territory managers is quite simply communication. We share accounts so we must share information. If I pitch a new product to a customer or talk to them about a new service or equipment it is important that my territory manager knows that a conversation has already taken place. It is vital to have a strategy and be aligned with territory managers as it only strengthens the united front needed to best support our customers. We are a team!

Veterinary Advantage: How do you see veterinary medicine changing in the next 5-10 years?

Weiss: I am excited to see changes and innovations in veterinary medicine in the upcoming years. I think we can continue to see the trend of more accounts going corporate and continue to see more online and virtual interactions. We are at a turning point in the industry when it comes to technology. Veterinarians are recognizing that their clients want access to information and products quickly. I believe we will start to see more telemedicine in the upcoming years as well. I couldn’t be more excited about the future as I know my company is in an amazing position to help veterinarians navigate these changes.

Veterinary Advantage: How have you helped your customers amid the COVID-19 pandemic?

Weiss: As we all know the COVID-19 pandemic drastically affected our customers in every single way in which they conducted business. Changes are difficult to implement even with advanced planning. However, our customers had to devise plans to be able to safely and compliantly conduct business. This created a lot of extra stress and quite simply difficult times for the veterinary staff.

Covetrus responded quickly to help our customers navigate some of the pain points of working through a pandemic. We ensured our customers could access the PPE and other products available, created informational webinars, provided assistance for transitioning to telemedicine, and created an animal-health specific pandemic information repository.

However, as we have all experienced, the key to getting through this crisis isn’t just about the access to products, or even information. It is about supporting one another. I feel good that I was able to support customers not only with their product needs but also to be there for those who were simply having a bad day.

Illustration credit: istockphoto.com/martinedoucet