As veterinarians, we can generate income by selling our services or by selling product. Product sales are great; they allow us to make money without breaking a sweat, something that cannot be said for most of our services.
Now, I'm not suggesting you trade in your coveralls and cap for polyester pants and slicked-back hair, but often in our profession we miss opportunities to sell product. This hurts not only our bottom line, but our clients' bottom line, as we know the products we sell will enhance their operations' profitability.
How, then, can we increase product sales?
First, analyze your entire clientele as to who is buying product from you and who isn't. Start by picking a product -- for example, calf-hood implants -- and then go through your client list, grouping purchasers and non-purchasers. You may be surprised to find sales gaps even among your good clientele.
This should be done for all herd-health products at least every couple years, as there may be gaps you were not aware had developed. Armed with your sales-gap analysis, focus on selling loyal clients first, and then move toward less loyal clients.
Next, ask your client if he wants the product. While this seems simplistic, it is the main reason product sales do not occur. Your client may not be aware the product exists, or may assume that you don't carry that product. Just because it is on your shelf doesn't mean he sees it. Move timely featured items from the storage shelf to the receptionist's counter.
Your elevator speech
Be prepared to explain how a product will benefit the needs of a client's operation in two sentences or less. While you surely will get questions about the product, the client will lose interest and stop listening if you can't quickly provide a good reason to use it.
If he says he doesn't want the product, ask why. Is there a way you can help him with the challenges that caused him to say no, so he can use the product and profit from it? Maybe an implant during calfhood vaccinations sounds great to him, but he's not comfortable running an implant gun. It may never have occurred to him that you could do it, and offering to do so changes his mind. Plus, you've sold a product and a service.
If the client says no because he's buying it from somewhere else, ask why he's getting it there. Price could be the reason, but this discussion may unlock other benefits that you bring him, such as quality of service or purchasing convenience, which may change your client's mind.
Another reason for not buying is that the client is not interested in the product. If you believe it will help his operation, don't take the first "no" as definitive. According to marketing expert Jay Abraham, it often takes seven contacts before a sale is made. Be polite, but persistence can pay off, even if you have to ask repeatedly for a few years.
The right stuff
Product selling opportunities can also pop up without prep work. When you get a request for a product that seems out of place for the season, ask your client why he is requesting that product. He may not know that a better product exists for his intended purpose.
For example, I received a request for low-potency implants in the fall from a producer who calves in the spring. Knowing he wanted to background his calves until midwinter, I asked if he had heard about newer, moderate-potency implants. He had not, and thanked me for finding him the better product.
Not only did I upsell to a higher-margin product, but that producer was thrilled when the calves were heavier at sale time and credited me for it. I didn't sell him. I helped him.
If we know our clients' operations and believe in the products we are selling to them, then having the passion to sell them a product will flow naturally.
Jake Geis practices veterinary medicine at Tyndall Veterinary Clinic in southeast South Dakota, and raises cattle with his veterinarian wife, Carolyn, in northeast Nebraska. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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