Ease the pressure in the exam room when communicating with clients


Be persuasive, but don't push too hard. Otherwise, you run the risk of driving your clients away.

You may have felt the economic crunch recently, but one of the worst mistakes you can make during these sensitive times is to use high-pressure communication tactics when recommending your hospital's services and products. As a veterinary practice owner, you're overseeing a hospital that must remain profitable. But this can create the perception of a conflict of interest that's difficult to navigate.

And you're not alone. Like veterinarians, human dentists face the same dilemma. "We're always going to have that conflict of interest," says Dr. Ann Boyle, dean of the Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine. "But we have to keep in mind that the patient's view of us is that we make decisions in their best interest, not our best interest. If they start to sense we're trying to 'sell' things in our discussions of their treatment options, they're going to trust us less."

The fact is, when you bundle client education with your recommendations for surgery, dental prophylaxis, a wellness exam, or an OTC product, you run the risk of having your explanations morph into "selling." Suddenly, clients see every piece of information you deliver as building a case for your financially driven recommendations. Instead of education, they see your instruction as an attempt to overcome objections and "close the sale." Which they recognize as a sales technique.

Today's clients are more skeptical and discerning than ever. Most can sense when you're trying to sell them something their pets may not need. When you're explaining the need for a service or product and you notice a client suddenly becomes quiet or tries to end the conversation with "I'll think about it," that person is probably feeling a little uncomfortable—perhaps annoyed—and just wants to end the conversation. This isn't the time to be pushy, even with the best of intentions.

Nothing will drive clients or prospective clients away faster than aggressive, high-pressure communication tactics. It's a warning to ignore at your own peril.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Bob Levoy is the author of 222 Secrets of Hiring, Managing, and Retaining Great Employees in Healthcare Practices (Jones and Bartlett, 2007).

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