3 ways to increase therapeutic diet sales in your veterinary practice


For some pet owners, choosing the right food is a daunting task-particularly if their pet struggles with obesity or other health issues. Here's how you can help.

One of your clients might be headed to the pet store now. She's running low on dog food and Rico, her dachshund, looks hungry. He always seems hungry, but that's beside the point.

She remembers you mentioning something about pet food during Rico's last wellness exam, but she never followed through with your recommendation. So the pet store will get her business tonight because it's running a sale on Rico's favorite food. Plus, it's close to her house and Rico needed a new chew toy anyway.

So Rico will get his food, but his obesity problems will continue to develop. Your client will carry on as normal, unaware of the huge veterinary bills she might someday face. Meanwhile, the pet store's revenue will continue to climb while the products on your shelves gather dust.

Don't blame your clients for these actions. It's up to you to help them understand why they need the therapeutic diet you've prescribed. And it starts with education, says Dr. Nikki Eaton, owner of Animal Hospital of Polaris in Lewis Center, Ohio. Dr. Eaton estimates that pet food accounts for up to 10 percent of her practice's revenue, and her team works hard each month to maintain those figures.

So how can you improve your clients' nutritional compliance? Client communication is, of course, the most important tool you can use to boost sales. If your clients understand the benefits of a particular food, they'll be more likely to follow your recommendations. But here are three lesser-known steps you can take to boost food sales and keep your patients healthy.

1. Teach your team

As with almost any pet health issue, it's important that your team members understand your philosophy and recommendations on pet food. Sending a consistent message throughout the practice will help show clients why the 16-year-old working at the pet store can't match your practice's level of service and expertise, Dr. Eaton says.

For example, you might say, "Mrs. Wilson, this therapeutic diet may be a little higher in price, but it will also allow you to spend less on Leo's medication and could help extend his life." Repetition is key, so when your team reinforces your recommendations, your clients are more likely to make smart decisions for their pets.

2. Keep up with the trends

Pet food formulas change all the time. And that's a good thing, Dr. Eaton says, because these nutrition companies are constantly looking for ways to keep pets healthy. But if you've stocked the same therapeutic diets in your hospital for a while, you may be a bit oblivious to some of the bigger advancements. And that likely means your clients are oblivious too.

So stay on top of the industry. Study the latest research and keep an eye on the newest products—your clients may be asking questions about them soon. Talk to company reps at trade shows and make sure you're offering the best products for your clients and your practice.

3. Build a relationship with your rep

Your therapeutic diet sales rep is one of your most important allies, Dr. Eaton says. Unfortunately, some veterinarians view these reps as people who just want to make a sale. But your sales rep is a great resource for helping to build your nutrition program. "For me, it's been important to maintain that strong relationship with my sales rep," Dr. Eaton says. "If I ever have a problem or issue, he's going to help me out."

In addition to making sure your hospital is well-stocked, a sales rep can keep you up to date on the company's latest offerings and even give you a glimpse of what's coming next. He or she can also coordinate training sessions for your team members, provide educational materials for your clients, and answer questions.

For most pet owners, a veterinary practice isn't the most convenient place to buy pet food. So it's important to show your clients why therapeutic diets are important—and worth the extra money. Follow these steps to help your practice shine in places that pet stores can't. Rico's internal organs will thank you.

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