Are you sure your veterinary clients can hear you?

You can scream and shout, but until you work your communication muscles, you'll never get through to clients.
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Jan 01, 2012


George Doyle & Ciaran Griffin/Getty Images
Irecently paid a visit to a healthcare practitioner—let's call him "Dr. Fred"—to get some advice on how to improve my health through diet. He's young but knowledgeable, and I've been going seeing him for about a year to treat an old back injury that flares up from time to time. He does an excellent job reducing the pain and getting me back to my normally active life.

My first step was completing a questionnaire on my nutritional needs and goals. The follow-up with Dr. Fred showed me that he'd done a thorough job evaluating the questionnaire and knew plenty about nutrition. But I walked out of his office without taking any action.

Why? Because like many health practitioners, Dr. Fred has never learned how to communicate with his clients in a way that invites compliance. I recognized this problem because I spent several years in my own veterinary practice being at least as ineffective as Dr. Fred.

When it came to straight talk that prompted action and compliance, instead of being a strong communicator, I was a 97-pound weakling. Like Dr. Fred, I knew my stuff. I could conduct a thorough history and physical examination, and I was a competent diagnostician, but when it came to making recommendations that would serve both my patients and clients, I often fell flat. It sounded something like this:

"Well, Ms. Kapp, I've noticed a few things on Tobie's physical exam that you might want to know about, like his teeth."

"What about his teeth?"

"Well, uh, they could stand to be cleaned."

"Really? Is that where that awful smell is coming from?"

"Yes, it could be. So, sometime you might want to, you know, drop him by so we can take care of them."

"Sure thing, doctor."

Of course, Ms. Kapp—being as busy as everyone else—never did get around to dropping Tobie off.

Luckily, when I finally hired a business coach, we worked extensively on my communication skills. Learning to be a more effective communicator was a major factor in the 40 percent growth we experienced in that first year after I started working with the coach. It took work, but over time I went from a 97-pound weakling to a powerful heavyweight communicator. So can you. Ready to get to work?

Let's start with the foundation of relationship-building.