It’s That Time of Year – Holiday Conversations
The holiday season provides reps with many topics of conversation to have with loyal customers.
In the animal health industry, we do business according to a calendar that we all seem to instinctively know even though it isn’t necessarily published anywhere. We know the ebbs and flows of our industry and what they mean for product selection, product promotion, and customer education.
This year is no different. The holiday season provides many topics of conversation to be had with our loyal customers. Making certain that they are prepared for the upcoming season with the right products, the right promotions, and the right pet owner education materials is our responsibility. Some of the topics for this season are:
- Garbage gut With the holidays fast approaching, we tend to focus on family time and togetherness. Many of these holidays revolve around a meal. This becomes a prime opportunity for our pets to show off their cuteness and employ their perfected begging tactics on unsuspecting visitors, which can result in our pets eating table scraps and getting more people food than they should be allowed.
- Pet travel and boarding Traveling pets will need vaccination boosters, kennel cough vaccines, and anxiety meds, as well as hard goods like kennels, leashes, and prescription management for time away. Keeping our pets safe as we travel is very important.
- New puppies and kittens Cute and cuddly pets are often a popular gift this time of year. Pet health visits, initial vaccinations, wormers, hard goods, and many other categories are associated with the addition of a new pet. Getting the new pet owner prepared and stocked for the adoption of a new pet is large opportunity this time of year.
- Wintertime ailments Our pets are susceptible to cold weather just as we humans are. Colder weather can cause stiffening of the joints, arthritis pain, cold symptoms, lethargy, and other symptoms associated with being out in the cold. Being aware of the effects of cold weather on our animal companions is important. Shortening the duration of outdoor exposure and noting any visible signs of discomfort are important to keeping pets healthy during the colder months.
These are just a few of the topics that can be chosen for you to discuss with your customer base. Educating your customers on what to emphasize with their customers is a great way for you to learn more about your customers’ business and their approach to expanded pet care. Asking questions about these topics and others can be the catalyst to a conversation that will demonstrate that you are interested in more than just selling something to your customer. The approach to these topics can be one of discovery. Asking your customers how they communicate with their clients is also important. As you gain insights into the communication styles of your customers, you can start to recommend tools and topics that may help them to connect more with their clients.
Making a list, checking it twice
What products are associated with each of the topics above? Have a list of products at your disposal that you can share with your customers. Determine if there are opportunities and/or promotions that can be offered on many of the items associated with these topics. Are there educational materials that you can provide to your customer that they can use to start these same conversations with their clients? Find materials that coincide with the conversations that your customers will be having with their clients.
It is important that you make these offers in a way that is supportive and proves that you understand some of the challenges that they will face during this time of year. Partnering with your customer to tackle these challenges is a great way to establish yourself as a valuable ally. Posing open-ended questions that create a dialogue can lead to you learning more about the inner workings of your customers’ business.
Getting a customers to tell you about their business or themselves is often much easier than it sounds. Approaching these seasonal topics in a manner that creates an opportunity for your customer to educate you on their thoughts, their tactics, and their business is a much more successful approach than offering information about each of these topics and the products that go along with them. You should be versed on the products and promotions associated with the seasonal topics. However, the products and promotions should not be the primary focus of the conversation. A successful conversation about the potential areas of concern for pets during this season will more than likely result in your offering products, promotions, and material/tools that a veterinary practice can use to educate their clientele. Being prepared to offer these materials is where you create more value. Focusing solely on the products, promotions, and materials is where many sales reps miss the opportunity for a deeper connection with their customers.
Allowing the customer to lead the conversation is imperative. Gently directing the conversation using questions is an art that we have all practiced at some point, but many times we do not use these skills in a business or sales setting. We become more focused on the task at hand, and the need to sell to our customers. The most successful salespeople are those who can lead a conversation without the customer ever knowing that he or she is being led. Choosing a topic that is relevant and making it personal by asking about your customer’s thoughts and his or her approach to the topic creates the perfect segue into offering items that will fit their needs and shows that their success is a mutual goal will create trust and loyalty.
Photo credit: istockphoto.com/Vasyl Dolmatov