Predicting your Professional Future
How to use technology to enhance your customer relationships.
I recently attended the Veterinary Innovation Summit in Kansas City. It was a great event. On the first day, the keynote speaker was a gentleman named Richard Susskind, an amazingly thought-provoking, forward thinker. His topic for the seminar was: “The Future of Professions/How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts.” He made references to the fact that we used to be in a print-based, industrial society, and that we are now in a more digital, internet-based society.
How does that difference change the way that we access and relate to professionals? Professionals are typically people that have a greater knowledge base than the average person about a certain topic or discipline. As a society, we place value on the education and experience of professionals and because of that value, we compensate the professionals for their wisdom and guidance. What happens when that wisdom is easily accessed via computers and computer programs? What happens to the value of the professionals? Do we still need professionals as we become more of a digital-based internet society in the ever-expanding information age?
Automation has grown and become the norm in many manufacturing, production, fulfillment industries. It’s also now starting to take over areas such as taxes, e-commerce, and even things like eBay disputes. Susskind pointed out how people used to rely on human professionals to get their taxes completed. These days a staggering amount of people use do-it-yourself systems instead of professionals. E-commerce sites can now make suggestions, calculate promotional discounts, offer like or complementary products, and even predict what you might buy based on what you already have bought. All automatically. Susskind even stated that there were approximately 60 million eBay disputes last year, and not one of them was settled by a person. They were all resolved by computers using algorithms and information.
Indeed, automated systems are becoming increasingly capable and connected. These systems are referred to as Artificial Intelligence or AI for short. We used to develop AI to mimic the thought process of the human brain. Through the processing power and speed of a computer, it has created a more efficient and timely way of completing tasks than humans could possibly accomplish on their own.
Exceeding our past experiences
A gentleman named Alan Kay once said: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” I believe he is correct. What does this have to do with sales in animal health? We are all only as good as our past experiences have trained us to be. What if we were to start training ourselves differently so that we could exceed the sum of our past experiences? What if we didn’t focus on how to learn from our past experiences and instead started to mimic some of the traits of the most successful salespeople in our organizations? Observing and learning what they do and how they do it can be as useful, if not more useful, than training seminars or previous experiences.
Successful salespeople are not successful by accident. They employ everything within their knowledge arsenal to manage every customer interaction. I would challenge you to start to invent your own version of the future. Your future as a successful salesperson must have the customer as the primary focus. This means that you must approach every situation understanding what is the best potential outcome that can be realized by the customer. When we work backwards from the outcome, we start to see the tactics used to get the customer to that desired outcome. Some of this may be figuring out how to create a balance between human interaction and computer interaction. Thinking about your customer’s efficiency and teaching them to use some of the tools that your company may offer is a great way to express your focus on their success.
Mastering the person-to-person portion of the customer interaction is paramount. Allowing yourself to make recommendations that may increase the efficiency and productivity of your customer may enhance the relationship between you and your customer.
Veterinary practices are busier than ever since the pandemic. Finding technicians and other veterinary staff has become one of the leading challenges that veterinarians are facing today. We know that the veterinary profession has one of the highest suicide rates amongst professionals in the United States and an enormous burnout rate for veterinarians and veterinary staff. Since the pandemic, they have lost some of the face-to-face customer interactions, which is also leading to more feelings of isolation and burnout from repetitive activities.
Imagine being able to provide a little relief for your customers by teaching them about the tools that will allow them to become more efficient. Truly partner with them to cut down on the time it takes to order their supplies and medicines while maintaining that bond. Being their resource for more than just product acquisition and helping them to deal with some of the struggles they are currently facing can help to create a tighter bond between you and them. It’s important for you to employ a thought process that keeps you in a constant state of learning. Sharing that knowledge also makes you more important to those that you serve.
It may seem scary to try and mimic another person’s tactics or style. Make sure you make it your own as you try to emulate success. Keep the customer’s needs and challenges in mind as you serve them. The people who ignore technology and how it can be used to enhance relationships and create a tighter bond with customers are those that will inevitably be replaced by technology. Do not be one of those people. Learn to harness the power of online ordering, customer portals, practice management systems, and other technologies that can assist your customers. Be their guide and their resource and you will reap the benefits.
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