Changes For Success in Consultative Selling in the Veterinary Industry

Who changed the world when we were not looking? What happened to the days when people bought from us because our Brand did the most national advertising? What happened to the days when after we bought a few lunches or maybe one happy hour, we simply got the order?

Let’s just face the unfortunate facts. We have a host of competitors, and the face of the marketplace is changing dramatically on a daily basis. We hear continually about consultative selling, but don’t have time to complete the growing ‘to do’ list for today, let alone study the true meaning of trying to change the way most of us have sold in the past.

The opposite of consultative selling is transactional selling. OK that seems simple enough, a base price (usually a really low price) for a simple good or service, nothing more, nothing less. Consider it a ‘commodity-like’ mentality. If we want simply to buy ten gallons of gas, how important is the relationship, the service, the facility? Do we need a consultant-like partner?

Or perhaps we need a simple item or book from eBay or Amazon, or any other of the hosts of internet suppliers… If we might think that our organization can survive based on price and transactional selling we might also want to begin to get familiar with the internet job boards and dust off the Resume, because if we are transactional salespeople we simply cannot compete with the Internet.

Pricing 24/7, basic product and/or service information at one’s fingertips regardless of time zones, weekends, family responsibilities or personal preference or any of the things that might keep us from being accessible to 100% of our existing clients as well as 100% of any potential clients 24 hours a day, every day.

To survive we need to provide a level of expertise significantly beyond the product or service itself; to grow and succeed we need to be a consultant in everything we do. If you have already realized this epiphany keep reading and the metaphors may bring back happy memories. If we were to conduct a self-evaluation in the following three key areas, how might you stack up? Do you want to play?

Consultants Value Time as Money

Have you ever looked at your time as money? The first part of the analysis has to do with a quick review of your time. How much was used inefficiently? If you were a pure consultant how might you activities of last week changed. And if you are still reading, the next question is potentially even more personal. In the time you spent with Vet Doctors or other clients last week, in person or on the telephone, were it time that clearly 1) Saved them money, 2) Made them money, 3) Increased their potential to be successful? Do you feel the new standards start to tighten?

How would you quantify the value you brought to the table in each of those communications individually? If all this is getting a little heavy for you let’s lighten it up with a metaphor about a ‘friend’ of yours that also sells to this same market. This ‘Friend’ finishes up around 3 pm at an Animal Clinic in a small town, too late in the day travel to go to the next prospect, so ‘Friend’ stops in to see another Vet that he had received an order from last week. Who happens to be only about eight miles away.

Upon entering the office, Friend stumbles on some language such as… “Hi, I was in the area, and I thought I would stop in”…actually more of a social call. Friend simply does not realize the damage he has done. In fact those days are over, and ‘Friend’ missed the train. The message Friend has actually `sent is…”Oh, buy the way obviously my time is not really important, so I thought I might stop by and waste some of your time as well…”

And then ‘Friend’ wonders why he or she cannot get calls returned promptly or even at all.
If you were to help ‘Friend’, how might you revise his/her approach to be a little more consultative in nature, remember we are still not referring to you, or anybody you know. Imagine ‘Friend’ viewing himself as a Consultant rather than a salesperson or in case you are a child of the 80′s a Business Development Specialist. Friend now understands that time is money. Friend now understands that his role is far more than a supplier but an expert in the industry not just limited to his latest brochure.

Friend is prepared for just this type of situation. Friend spends about 2 hours every week reviewing trade journals, and Google searches on the industry and in his specific niche. He has printed and copied two or three articles and placed them in different folders applicable to different kinds of clients. Perhaps ‘Friend’ has stashed an article on internet marketing for a young new office, or perhaps a current review of TPLO for those considering moving into surgery.

Now, back to our scenario. It is 3 pm and Friend finishes at the first client. He calls the client a few miles away and the call goes something like this. ” I realize Dr. Kelly is busy, and I really do not need to see him, his voicemail would be great. Dr. Kelly, this is ‘Friend’. I realize how busy you are and although I am in the area, I do not want to bother you . But, I was doing some research and ran across an article that you may not have seen yet regarding the very thing you were thinking about in your expansion. I made a copy, highlighted the key points, and just wanted you to know I was thinking about your continuing success and wanted to share this information.”

In a re-cap, Friend understands the value of time. Friend understands even if his product might be perceived as a commodity with many competitors, he (Friend) is the difference maker which is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. And finally, Friend has positioned himself as an expert resource. On the next cycle Friend calls for an appointment and Dr. Kelly appreciates that if Friend is in fact scheduling a personal visit, then there must be something to be discussed that will have a good chance of helping his practice grow.
Friend has started the progression from Sales to Consultant.

Of course by now we have realized this metaphor is not really about a salesperson named ‘Friend’, after all who would name anybody ‘Friend’. It is about all of us, and repositioning ourselves as expert consultants. We had to work and study to be successful in the past, and with a minor shift in perspective and attitude I am confident you will be able to take your success to the next level. Enjoy the Journey!

Mike Muetzel is a nationally recognized Author, Keynote Speaker and Leadership expert. His work has been featured in the national media including, The Associated Press, Bloomberg Television, Vet Advantage Magazine, Boardroom Magazine, The Manager’s Intelligence Report, The IBM Small Business Advocate, and The Boston Globe to name a few.

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