The Pandemic and Engaged Veterinary Clinics


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Consider these strategies to create more engaged veterinary clinics while increasing the number of those that see you as an asset. 

The ongoing pandemic has impacted all clinics across our industry. The level of impact varies because of different factors. One consistent differentiator between struggling and thriving practices is their level of engagement.

Struggling clinics consistently point to the pandemic, the economy, and competition from other clinics, OTC products, Walmart, PetMed Express, and manufacturers as the problem. On the other hand, thriving clinics have adjusted to the restrictions of the pandemic and continue to grow. They compete effectively for their pharmacy and OTC business and partner with manufacturers and distributors to best serve their clients and their owners. So, their starting points are different and their attitudes, negative or positive, illuminate a sharp contrast in their approach.

So, my first advice to distributor reps is to start with the mindset that it is possible to influence the level of clinic engagement in your territory.

Then consider these strategies to create more engaged clinics while increasing the number of clinics that see you as an asset as opposed to just another rep.

Identify the goals of the decision-makers

What are their aspirations? Objectives? Every clinic owner is not necessarily interested in growing the business. They may be reaching retirement age and would like to maximize the valuation of their business. They may be looking for ways to increase their profitability. There are a wide variety of potential objectives, so do not assume, or if you do, at least verify your assumptions.

When you ask your clinics, you may get a blank stare primarily because no one ever asked them that question. So ask, but give them time to think it over. Once established, an annual follow-up to ensure their goals have not changed is appropriate. You cannot help your clinics reach their objectives until you know exactly what those objectives are.

Connect your presentations to their goals

Why would I (Clinic Owner) be interested in anything that is not helping me get to where I want to go? This is where Decision Goals have the greatest impact, i.e.

“I’m convinced that adopting a competitive flea and tick strategy will protect your top-line revenue while enhancing the overall valuation of the clinic. Let me run some numbers for you; then you can decide if this approach is right for your situation.”

So, to accomplish this on your calls, remember these three criteria:

  1. Start with a confident statement about your idea, product, or service that contains a benefit important to your listener.
  2. Transition to neutral. It’s safe for the listener to be invited initially to simply look and/or listen.
  3. Acknowledge the listener as the decision-maker and that, as such, you are OK with a well-informed yes and a well-informed no. Again, it makes the conversation safe for your listener.

This type of opening also positions you differently than your competitors and moves you toward the trusted advisor status and away from just another distributor rep.

Reaching the decision-maker

The primary responsibility of practice managers and buyers is to take many of the routine tasks from the DVMs and the practice owners, but they also have a secondary role of shielding the decision-makers from sales reps whose only interest is selling something. Further compounding this situation is their goals may be different than the decision-makers. While the practice owner may want to maximize the clinic’s value so he/she can retire comfortably, the buyer’s goal may be to minimize his/her own workload.

So, a benefit to the owner may be a burden to the buyer. That is unless you are creative enough to reposition your idea, product, or service to at best improve the buyer’s life or at least not further complicate it. The same three criteria above come into play, repositioned to the buyer’s point of view, which then opens the door to the clinic owner. And you have become even more valuable because you have helped everyone get what they want while getting what you want.

All these strategies hinge on your confidence in your knowledge, skill, and ability to think outside the box and create solutions that are flexible enough to provide value to all involved in the decision-making process. It’s not easy, but the value of a territory filled with engaged clinics will pay dividends for years to come for you and your organization. And you will have transitioned from just another distributor rep to an invaluable asset.


Patrick T. Malone 

Patrick T. Malone is a business advisor and leadership mentor based in Blairsville, Georgia. He is the co-author of the best-selling business book “Cracking the Code to Leadership” and may be reached at [email protected] or 706-835-1308.

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