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Closing a sale on a new piece of equipment for a veterinary practice is just the beginning.

For Kevin Bonds, clear communication between a manufacturer and distributor rep on an equipment sale is critical. Bonds, a district sales manager for MedPro Associates, covers a lot of ground helping customers with purchases on equipment such as diagnostic cardiology, monitoring, defibrillators, anesthesia equipment and electrosurgical generators. His territory includes Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Western Montana. In order for the sales process to work well between a manufacturer rep and distributor rep, setting the proper expectations is important, he said. “What are we collectively trying to accomplish?”

Distributor reps generally have a more personal relationship with their account, Bonds said. “And any information I can gather from the distributor rep about the customer will help with the process.”

But the process doesn’t end with the sale. If anything, that’s just the beginning to building and maintaining a successful relationship with the client. Veterinary Advantage asked Bonds about best practices post-sale, from installation, to training and troubleshooting.

Veterinary Advantage: Once a customer has purchased a new piece of equipment, what are the next steps involved? What does a successful outcome look like?

Kevin Bonds: Once a customer has purchased a new piece of equipment a successful outcome will only be achieved with proper communication.

The steps that are usually taken are as follows:

1. I contact the customer to thank them for their business, ask if they have any additional questions, and set up a in-service to educate them on the new equipment.

2. When a date is scheduled, I always ask the customer what level of training is needed, are they familiar with the equipment, and have they used it in the past?

3. Once I know the level of knowledge, I can go through the product from top to bottom. I get them involved in the training, so they are comfortable using the equipment.
Their questions are answered during the demo.

4. Once the demo is finished, I make sure they have my contact information in case any additional questions
come up.

I always encourage my customers to self-educate prior to the training so that they can uncover potential questions or concerns.

Veterinary Advantage: What do the manufacturer rep and distributor rep need to do in order for the process to work well? What are the warning signs of the process not going well, and how can you steer it back on course?

Bonds: In order for the sales process to work well between a manufacturer rep and distributor rep, setting the proper expectations is important. What are we collectively trying to accomplish?

Distributor reps generally have a more personal relationship with their account. Any information I can gather from the distributor rep about the customer will help with the process.

Some potential warning signs are lack of communication, and not addressing appropriate expectations or potential concerns. In this day and age, we are creatures of habit. Sending out emails or a text can be an easy solution. However, picking up the phone can be much more effective and help communicate in a way email and texts just can’t. Sometimes just a simple phone call can steer the process back on course.

Veterinary Advantage: Have you worked with customers who have had a negative experience in the past with installing new equipment into their practice? How did you build trust and build up their confidence in purchasing and implementing the new equipment/modality?

Bonds: I have absolutely worked with customers who have had a negative experience installing new equipment into their practice.

Several things need to happen in order to build up their trust and confidence. First, what I think is very important is to listen to the customer. If we can just give them a chance, maybe just maybe, they will offer some insight into why new equipment installations have been so negative. If we listen to their problems, we can offer a better solution, rather than just assuming their problem is the same as someone else’s.

The second thing that needs to happen is pretty simple – show up! Get in front of the problem and address it head on. If you ask the appropriate questions initially you should have a solution prior to implementation; so show up and provide a solution. If I can make the customer feel like they weren’t just talking to someone on the other end of the line but showing up and solving a problem, then that will build their confidence and trust.

The third and final component which I feel is also a very important part of building trust and confidence would be product knowledge. You have to educate each practice on the equipment to make them feel comfortable when using it. If they don’t understand it, they won’t like using it and the entire experience – regardless of how much you listen and show up will be negative.

Veterinary Advantage: What are the most common questions that come up from veterinary practices when bringing in a new piece of equipment?

Bonds: Believe it or not, the most common question that I hear from a veterinary practice when bringing in new equipment is, who else is using this type of equipment? Most veterinary practices want some kind of confirmation that they made the right purchasing decision. They always want to know who is using the equipment in their area. If a question comes up, they like the fact that they can call a colleague.

Troubleshooting

It’s important to have a plan in place should something go wrong during the process of installing and implementing new technology and equipment in a veterinary practice, said Kevin Bonds, MedPro Associates. In these instances, the distributor rep can take advantage of two things – the resources and knowledge of the manufacturer rep, and his or her close relationship with the customer. “A lot of the time distributor reps generally have a more personal relationship with their account,” Bonds said. “They see them more often, and can gain information the manufacturer rep sometimes can’t.”

For instance, Bonds remembers an account that didn’t receive the accessories they needed. “Previously, I had sat down with this distributor rep and discussed our product offering and accessories, and through that education the rep was able to describe the problem the account was having.”

That allowed Bonds to offer a solution, “and through that relationship with the customer, the distributor rep was able to draw out specifics on what they needed without going back and forth with me to decipher exactly what was needed,” he said. If Bonds hadn’t provided some education to the distributor rep on the front end, the process would not have been as smooth. “This is a perfect example of teamwork between a distributor rep and a manufacturer rep.”

Photo of sales rep speaking with clients.

Peer to peer

Customers aren’t the only ones who benefit from training. Bonds said peer-to-peer training gets a bad rap. “Peer-to-peer training is never anyone’s favorite,” he said. “It’s not like you get up in the morning and say, ‘I can’t wait to role-play in front of my peers.’ I would have to agree, I’m not a fan of role playing.”

However, Bonds said he also believes that when reps let their guard down just enough to absorb what they are being taught, “the flood gates open.

“The next time you’re in front of a doctor and he or she asks you a specific question you may not know the answer to, the lightbulb will go on and you will remember that scenario from training,” Bonds said. “Yes, it was uncomfortable, but for some reason it sticks with you.”

Peers are often full of questions, answers, and ideas that we may all gain from. “For someone to get out of their comfort zone and answer a question, or ask a question, or present a new idea to a group of their peers who are encountering the same thing, let me tell you, it will sink in and they will remember.”

Photo credit:  istockphoto.com/andresr

Teamwork Photo credit:  istockphoto.com/sanjeri