When a producer knows he or she has an animal-health problem and contacts a veterinarian for help, the conversation and process are fairly straightforward. But in many cases, the most valuable service the veterinarian can provide involves solving problems about which the producer is unaware.
That process might require the veterinarian to learn and practice new skills, including, perhaps most importantly, higher-level communication with the client.
During this year’s American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) conference, long-time Purdue veterinarian Mark Hilton, now with Elanco Animal Health, led a presentation titled “How to Keep Beef Producers Asking for More.” The topic followed a the conference theme of “Become Indispensable,” with much of the conference content exploring ways practitioners can build their business by expanding services and helping clients become more successful.
Rather than just perfecting skills learned years ago, driving further and working longer hours to reach new clients, Hilton encourages veterinarians to do more with the clients you have. Often, he says, clients accustomed to limiting their veterinarian contact to emergencies do not realize how more in-depth veterinary consultations could benefit their businesses. “The most important step in developing a new service,” Hilton says, “is to offer it.”
Hilton offers these suggestions for expanding your services and becoming indispensable to your clients:
- Arrange a consultation visit that is separate from your clinical visits.
- Ask questions, and let the client know you want to be an asset to the operation. Ask about their business goals and dive deeply into the barriers preventing them from achieving those goals.
- Listen to understand, not to respond. Keep notes on each of these meetings.
- Avoid telling the client he or she has a problem when they do not perceive the problem. Instead, ask questions that allow you and the client to arrive at a solution together.
- Consider leading producer study groups, in which producers collaborate on specific health or production issues. The veterinarian can serve as coach and facilitator, while clients learn from each other and identify areas where they could benefit from the veterinarian’s expertise.
- Show genuine interest. Hilton cites a quote from Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, who told salespeople to pretend every customer is holding a sign saying “make me feel special.”