Paint sunsets...not rainclouds for your veterinary clients


A new study shows that high-pressure scare tactics don't work. A positive approach, however, yields results.

Getting clients to accept your recommendations for treatment is a lot like that old expression "You can take a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." Here's a better approach: Don't make him drink; make him thirsty. For example, when you discuss pet oral health with a client, rather than stressing the dire consequences of neglecting periodontal disease, stress the benefits of proper home care and periodic dental prophylaxis.

A group of Yale psychologists recently conducted a series of experiments and proved that a low-key presentation stressing positive benefits got better results than high-pressure scare tactics. In one of their experiments, two groups of students were shown movies about dental hygiene. In one case the presentation was straightforward—it showed how to properly brush and floss teeth and discussed the desirability of visits to the dentist. The second film contained the same advice but included gruesome photos of bleeding gums and yellow buildup on the teeth.

A week later, researchers found that the students who had been shown the dire consequences of dental neglect made very little change in their dental care habits. In contrast, a substantial number of those given the straightforward presentation improved their dental care habits.

You can expect the same response from your clients. If you're recommending canine dental care, stress the benefits for the pet—improved pep and energy, better breath, and a higher quality of life. Try not to focus on the drawbacks of neglect—potential heart disease, kidney problems, diabetes, or loss of dentition.

The average person has a built-in circuit breaker that turns the brain off to negative suggestions—whether it's regarding periodontal disease, obesity, or lack of exercise. Your clients will be more compliant if you paint sunsets rather than rainclouds with your recommendations.

Bob Levoy is the author of 222 Secrets of Hiring, Managing, and Retaining Great Employees in Healthcare Practices.

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