You undoubtedly entered the veterinary industry because you have a passion for animal health care. But at the end of the day, it’s a business, which means you have to don a sales hat from time to time. Getting clients to agree to life or death procedures may be relatively straightforward, but other optional treatments and services, not so much. The good news is, there are actual techniques that you and your team can employ to start turning those “no” and “maybe” answers into confident “yes” decisions.
A prospect calls in and asks the receptionist, “How much are new puppy shots?” Upon hearing the cost, the caller turns down the offer to make an appointment and promptly ends the call. You’ve just lost a sale.
There are actually a number of ways you can deal with price shoppers, but the most important thing to remember is never to quote prices over the phone. According to research by Harvard Business Review, prospective clients have already made 60% of the decision to work with you before they actually pick up the phone and call. What your receptionist needs to do, then, is to effectively guide that caller to take the next step by booking an appointment.
In this case, rather than simply asking the yes or no question of “Would you like to make an appointment,” the receptionist could express excitement about meeting the new puppy and follow up with two appointment time choices.
Breaking through heartworm uncertainty
A client has brought his adult dog in for a yearly checkup. The technician recommends a heartworm test. The client declines, stating that because his dog is already on year-round preventatives, the test is unnecessary.
Using words like “recommend,” as in this case, gives off the impression that heartworm testing is really just a suggestion and not something that is medically necessary. Yet, the Companion Animal Parasite Council advises that even dogs that are on preventatives be tested every year. This is especially important if your practice happens to be located in an area where ticks are prevalent.
Rather than recommending, try being a bit more forward by saying something like, “Tick-borne diseases have become a real problem around here, and they can even affect pets that are already taking preventatives. We’d like to collect a small blood sample to make sure your dog is safe. The test results will come back right away and then we can get your preventatives refilled.”
When you position the service not so much as an option but as part of your professional guidance, you’re more likely to get the green light.
Countering pre-anesthetic pessimism
A 3-year-old cat is diagnosed with dental disease. The technician presents the client with a treatment plan, which includes pre-anesthetic testing. Given the patient’s age and relative good health, the client questions the need for such testing.
Any veterinary professional knows the importance of pre-anesthetic testing to minimize risk. In these instances, convincing clients of the same is often all about the wording. If this type of testing is something you mandate, present it as “included” in the procedure at hand. If it’s something you deem as optional, you can increase the likelihood that clients agree by using the word “advise” rather than “recommend.”
Again, demonstrate to clients who are on the fence that pre-anesthetic testing is important for the good health of their loved one. Remind them that while every precaution will be taken during the procedure, having testing done first can improve the chances of a positive outcome.
Overcoming early detection skepticism
A patient is in with her 10 year old yellow lab for an annual checkup. The technician explains the need for urinalysis and blood work. The client says, “There’s no need for those tests. My dog is healthy.”
The American Animal Hospital Association advises that annual health screenings should begin when a dog or cat reaches middle age, which is around 7 to 8 years old. But trying to convince a client who sees her pet as perfectly healthy that these additional tests are really necessary can be challenging.
Rephrasing your recommendation from “wellness” to “early detection” can often do the trick. And remember to use analogy charts that show how pets age in comparison to humans. Most people recognize that human physicians advise certain baseline tests at certain ages, like annual colonoscopies beginning at age 50. Helping clients to understand how animals age and what baseline tests are important for keeping them healthy is essential to getting them on board with that testing.
Understanding the reasoning behind why a client might decline certain services and procedures, taking the initiative to reposition your messaging and educating those skeptical clients as to why they should take your advice is key. The result will be better patient care, stronger doctor-client relationships and a better bottom line for your practice.