Reaching Out: Rep Spotlight Sarah Gotwols
One inside sales rep uses her clinical experience to help customers through challenges great and small.
When Sarah Gotwols talks with her customers in veterinary practice, she isn’t afraid to ask the difficult questions and wade into the finer details when it comes to their equipment. Whether it involves terminology, procedures, or protocols for both veterinarians and their support staff, chances are that Gotwols has heard it before, even in an advanced clinical setting.
From practitioner to sales
Gotwols began working with Penn Vet Supply in early 2017, transitioning from being a full-time licensed veterinary technician to a position on the company’s inside sales team.
Having a strong background in veterinary medicine for nearly 20 years has given her insight into her customers’ needs without having to set foot in their practice. After attending Manor College and obtaining her degree and license, she began her career in a mixed practice, working with both companion animals and livestock. She also resided in a veterinary clinic, learning the skills needed to care for hospitalized pets during the evenings and weekends. From there, Gotwols developed her skills and moved on to a busy, multi-doctor small animal practice where she remained on staff for 12 years, continuing to grow and learn.
Change was on the horizon for Gotwols, and she sought new ways to utilize her knowledge and experience in practice. Gotwols said she found what she was looking for with Penn Vet Supply, a regional distributor located in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area where she has lived and worked for most of her life. Being able to support her local comrades in the veterinary field has been a rewarding and fulfilling experience, she said. Penn Vet’s support of privately-owned practices also attracted her attention, knowing that many veterinarians struggle against online retailers and corporate business models.
“It’s difficult to come in cold from a different industry and into the veterinary world,” she said, adding that the veterinary industry as a whole is a community filled with unique and diverse individuals from all types of backgrounds. Being able to understand their needs in practice is a huge bonus that has helped Gotwols earn the trust of many of her customers. She said there are times when she is familiar enough with a treatment, procedure, or service that she can often anticipate the needs of the customer.
When it comes to assisting a customer with an equipment purchase, each conversation will be different based on their needs in practice, she said. Gotwols has worked with veterinarians and support staff from a variety of practice settings, from basic to advanced, wellness services to referral departments.
For an inside sales team member, one of the biggest challenges when speaking with customers is that often it is with a support staff member who lacks an understanding of how equipment is specifically utilized in patient care. “Very often we are getting third-hand information that is passed from doctor to tech to purchasing agent, who is simply asked to obtain pricing and availability,” Gotwols said. “Much of the ‘selling’ aspects of equipment fall to the wayside,” she said, adding that important information regarding functionality and value of a specific item is often lost.
Regardless, a customer’s requirements for a piece of equipment will be multi-faceted. And, “they know what is best for their practice, their situation, the demographic, and it is our job to find the best piece of equipment that meets their needs within their budget.”
Patience and persistence are crucial to building a solid working relationship with customers. Gotwols recommends reps “get to know the practice so that you’re familiar with how it runs from day to day.” This approach has helped her to increase her customers’ satisfaction with their equipment purchases.
Surveying the landscape
With consumers spending more on pet care annually, the landscape of veterinary medicine is vastly different from when Gotwols entered the profession. From her perspective, she has noted that the role of technicians and support staff has changed the most within the past decade. “Veterinarians are starting to rely more heavily on their staff members for patient care,” and this has led to an increase in technicians being decision-makers with equipment purchases as well.
Patient care is also improving thanks in part to a strong support staff. “We [veterinary professionals] are caring more for our patients now than we did 10-15 years ago,” she said, recalling advancements in pain management and patient comfort. This drive for higher levels of quality of care in medicine is also fueling the need for advanced technology with monitoring and diagnostics that are key to the success of the practice.
Increased reliance on support staff has extended into the areas of distribution as well. Gotwols said she has noticed that customers are contacting sales representatives for more detailed information than in the past. With this in mind, she said that it is helpful for reps to be knowledgeable and motivated to help customers to the best of their ability. She added that her clinical experience with equipment has been key to Penn Vet’s field representatives, with many of her team members asking questions to learn even more about industry and customer needs.
Caring and compassion also extend from her skills as a veterinary technician into her relationships with her customers. Gotwols said that she and the Penn Vet team are invested in the success of her customers.
“I like working with my customers,” she said. “I like being able to provide the experience and the customer service that they are in need of … They’re not just talking to someone to place an order.” Gotwols said she enjoys being able to have more in-depth conversations with her customers about their experiences as well. “Just to be able to talk to them about cases and medication advancements and equipment advancements – it’s a good feeling to have those conversations and know that all of my experience in-clinic is being utilized, simply in a different way.”