Brian Conrad, practice manager at two practices in Washington, told a crowd of 50-plus at CVC in Kansas City Aug. 28 that he understood their product sales pain.
Veterinarians, he says, are calling for lower prices than their own practice for the benefit of clients who complain about cost. Receptionists and other team members say they don’t want to profit on products and don’t want to sell stuff like retail salespeople. And clients wonder why the products the doctors recommend isn’t available at the veterinary practice.
Conrad offered dozens of tips for the team members, practice managers, and doctors in charge of inventory and managing product sales. Here are some highlights:
1. Remember that worrying about cost is not clients’ No. 1 emotion. In the exam room, clients are feeling hope that their pet is going to be OK and fear that their pet will not. “It’s our job to instill the hope and alleviate the fear,” Conrad says, “not worry beforehand that they’re concerned about how much it will cost to make their pet healthy.”
2. Reinforce a consistent message. Doctors should choose one or two foods, NSAIDs, etc., to offer to clients, not a retail area full of a dozen different brands. Team members’ job descriptions, staff evalautions, and day-to-day performance should include the ability to educate clients about the importance of the doctors’ recommendations. Clients should receive handouts, wellness report cards, and consistent reminders so they know the recommendations are important.
3. Be creative. Package products and services together. For example, Conrad put together a parasite prevention and treatment package that gives who prepay a package of materials for an at-home fecal (if necessary) and a discount on parasite prevention products if they buy right then. Conrad placed brochures and marketing pieces on exam room walls to get clients asking about the program.
Intense competition online and at big-box retailers for pet food, flea and tick products, and more, has many veterinary inventory managers throwing up their hands and giving up. “I’d much rather a service than a product, too,” Conrad says, “but having products on hand for the products you recommend most is a real time-saver and help or clients. Don’t give up.”