Midwest Veterinary Supply’s Inner Workings of Success
How Midwest Veterinary Supply’s inside sales team navigated the pandemic, remained close as a team, and grew more relevant to clients in the process.
Call centers are unique environments. They can be great locations to foster growth, education, and development of the reps who work there, said Dean Harris, national inside sales manager for Midwest Veterinary Supply. Thus, amid the pandemic, Midwest’s leadership made the decision to keep its call centers open rather than dispersing the inside sales team remotely.
“We realized the importance of a call center environment, and how valuable it was for our staff to continue to work together,” Harris said. “Our first priority was the safety of our staff, and secondly, to provide the least disruption to our business and be available for our clinics.”
During this time, Harris said the camaraderie among staff only grew exponentially. “As we navigated the pandemic, we made sure that we continued our contact and relationships with our vendor partners, clinics, and each other. As we moved to a virtual world, we ensured that our reps were able to attend meetings and see each other, and at least have some sense of meeting normalcy. We also became more involved in promoting the offerings Midwest has available, to support our practices and educate them in this changing environment, such as our pharmacy, home delivery, and website.”
Dedicated and invested
Currently, Midwest has eight distribution centers, each containing call centers. They are located in eight states – Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Texas, and Nevada. There are nine managers in these call centers overseeing 95 ISRs. With management, ISRs, and support staff, Midwest has over 100 people dedicated to inside sales. And this number continues to grow, as the company adds to its staff.
Harris said one of the things that makes Midwest unique is that every account has a dedicated inside sales rep, “so there is never any competition regarding account sales.” A large portion of Midwest’s staff has worked in the industry, so there is a natural sharing of ideas and helping to educate each other, resulting in a very synergetic, teamwork environment.
ISRs are invested in their personal success, the success of the branch they are located in, and Midwest as a whole, Harris said. “We often have friendly competitions within or among the call centers, which helps to create some fun. We often try to create programs/spiffs that incentivize the reps but also create an engaging environment around it.”
Midwest ISR Cindi Castelline, LVT, said she and her teammates in Las Vegas help each other stay motivated and competitive. “It keeps the environment fun,” she said. “We really do support each other and assist each other in sales goals. We want everyone to be successful.”
A big part of Midwest’s ISR success involves training. First, the company has a formal six-week training program for each new hire to complete at the start of their employment. The training covers expectations of an ISR, order entry, navigation of reporting capabilities and website, phone skills, sales training, prospecting new clients, CRM, territory analysis, and Midwest business solutions. Beyond that, Midwest holds ongoing training sessions for the entire staff; topics include sales skills, etiquette, process updates, order entry tips, etc. Midwest also provides consistent vendor training opportunities for staff.
Midwest ISR Steve Neer said he and his team are always doing virtual training with vendors and a mentoring program with other reps within the company. “We have participated in courses on improving phone skills and selling,” he said. “Just the wealth of knowledge I have learned from these trainings and fellow sales reps has helped me proceed with confidence knowing I can help make a difference in my clients’ practices.”
“We do a lot of team-building and discussions to help improve our skills,” Castelline said. “We have product training with different vendors, which allows us to help introduce and educate our customers on new products. I feel our company has high standards for customer service, and it’s extremely important. Midwest puts the customer first and I feel that separates us from other companies. We are family-based, and it spills over to our calls.”
Midwest has a great toolbox of resources for ISRs to utilize, said Chaundra Rond, Midwest ISR team lead. For instance, the company has a national inside sales trainer that provides year-round training for new and existing employees with the resources, knowledge, and overall needs that an ISR must have to meet expectations at Midwest. Along with a trainer, Midwest offers a catalog of training videos ISRs can access at any time. “We are constantly developing our skills and knowledge by working closely with our managers, OSRs, corporate teams, and vendor representatives to ensure an excellent customer experience on each call,” Rond said. “These trainings and resources provided help us not only with product and vendor knowledge but are also very helpful in targeting the needs and wants of our veterinary clinics.”
A relationship-based business
Today, Harris believes the inside sales team has never been more relevant to Midwest’s veterinary clinics. Due to the pandemic, the veterinary clinics were pressed, more than ever, with staffing issues, curbside service, closures, and product disruption. The inside sales staff became more valuable by helping the veterinary clinics navigate these issues, Harris said. Clinics were less concerned with programs and new offerings but were more concerned with protecting their staff and customers and securing products in a very disrupted market. “The ISR already had a relationship and partnership with their clinics, and those relationships only became stronger and more personal.”
The ISR team moved to more compassionate selling, trying to locate products, keeping the customer informed of allocations, providing guidance and solutions, and being more involved in their personal and staff well-being. “This is a very relationship-based business, and the most successful ISRs are the ones that grow those relationships and provide the very best customer service,” Harris said. “It’s the rep that is genuinely more interested in the customer’s overall business, and interested in them personally, that will succeed. It’s also those who are willing to invest in themselves, staying educated regarding the industry, products, and increasing their skills.”
Harris believes that the future of the ISR role is bright. “What an ISR provides to practices and distribution, in the form of sales, data entry, researcher, educator, teammate, partner, and friend, is invaluable,” he said. “And one of the most important roles of an ISR is regardless of the format that a clinic uses to place an order, it still and will continue to need an ISR to process that order, provide information on programs, rebates, opportunities, and location of product.”
Customer success story: Coming through with a special-order item
Chaundra Rond, Midwest Veterinary Supply ISR team lead, recently had a client request a stomach tube for a foal from Jorgensen. “The item is a special-order item. We do not stock it in our warehouse, so I reached out to Jorgensen to check availability,” she said. “I then found out that stomach tube had been discontinued.” While talking with the Jorgensen representative, Rond was able to find two alternatives that she could present to the clinic. “The clinic was relieved that we found a stomach tube that Jorgensen had in stock and was able to place their order.”
Customer success story: On the hunt for vaccines
Cindi Castelline, LVT, Midwest Veterinary Supply inside sales representative, recently had a customer who was expecting a delivery of vaccines, but the delivery company never showed up. “They were understandably frustrated, and upset knowing they would have to cancel appointments, as well as lose money,” Castelline said. “I called all area hospitals, to see if anyone had some to spare until a replacement showed up. We found a clinic only a few miles away that had some.”
Customer success story: Coming through in an emergency
Steve Neer, Midwest Veterinary Supply inside sales representative, had a clinic that needed an emergency blood transfusion, but they were not sure what they would need to have on hand to do the procedure. “I spoke with a couple of co-workers who have experience in emergency clinic settings, came up with a list of supplies the client would need, and got it all to arrive first thing the next morning,” Neer said. “The office manager called me and let me know they were able to save the cat’s life!”
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