Veterinary sales reps dont have to be annoying

October 24, 2019
Emily Shiver, CVPM, CCFP

Emily Shiver, CVPM, CCFP, is regional director of operations at the Family Vet Group, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Shiver resides in Florida.

How to get to the place where you dont roll your eyes when theres a sales rep in the lobby.

Mary Swift/stock.adobe.comNo more running, hiding and trying to duck from veterinary sales representatives. Instead, collaborate with them to grow your veterinary practice. Yes, it's possible! Here's how.

Create relationships 

Send an email to all of your sales reps from both distributors and manufacturers. In your email, express that you would like to make some plans for growth within the practice and that their products would play an integral role. 

Ask them to meet with you and a few other team members for an hour or so. Without a doubt, the sales reps will respond in a very positive way and your next few weeks will be busy!

Prepare for your meeting

This is the first building block to your new partnership. Here are a few things you need to consider when planning for your first meeting:

Who will attend? My preference is the practice owner, practice manager and inventory manager.

Pick your location. For the first meeting I prefer to meet outside of the practice to avoid interruptions.

Schedule a time that makes sense. Noon at a restaurant is exceptionally loud. A coffee shop at 10 a.m. may be the perfect setting.

Include your team. Openly discuss your goal to create a new partnership with your reps. You might be surprised by how much input and ideas they have.

Set expectations

During your meeting with your sales reps, set very clear expectations. Time is money, as the saying goes. Be honest and let them know you typically duck and cover when they come by because you just don't have time to hear about the new flea and tick preventive (when you already have four on the shelf) or how much you need to spend to get your 3% rebate. If they come to talk about ways to grow your practice, maybe it'd be worth your time. Here are a few propositions I discuss with my reps:

Staff education. I don't mean a lunch-and-learn on a product you don't even carry. I'm talking about how to handle client conflict, personality tests to improve morale, basic flea and tick education for your new hires, diet education and more. You name it, and I guarantee they have a resource or can find one.

Strategic pricing. Sales reps travel to many practices. They have their fingers on the pulse of pricing strategies, or they've at least heard of different approaches. My experience has always been positive when discussing pricing. Remember, their goal is to help you move product, which benefits them. 

Staff challenges. These are fun! Typically, you set a goal for a particular product and if your team reaches or exceeds that goal, they get lunch or something similar. What I prefer to do is set a 30-day goal based on quantity sold and additionally set a “stretch goal” over 90 days that's also based on quantity sold.

For the 30-day goal, reps will cater lunch. For the 90-day or “stretch goal,” we've done things like providing new scrubs and jackets as well as inviting staff members and a guest of their choice to Top Golf, an escape room or Dave & Buster's. Reach that 90-day goal and you really keep that product at the forefront of everyone's minds long term.

Inhouse resources. Think of things you struggle with on a daily, monthly or yearly basis and ask for resources on:

OSHA training

Inventory training

Client reminder platforms

Profit analysis

Workflow

Compliance

Morale boosting

Usually these resources are free to your practice, courtesy of the company. Sometimes there's a cost associated, but don't freak out on me yet! Discuss the possibility of the reps covering the cost to the practice. They're usually more than willing to do so.

Change your perspective

The last step in this process is changing the way you view these sales reps. They are not annoying! They are your allies! If you treat them as such, you won't believe what you can accomplish within your practice.  

Schedule meetings with them every four to six weeks.

Set measurable goals.

Stay in contact with them in between meetings if you need additional resources.

Celebrate the little victories!

Two years ago, I worked hard to change my attitude. I started treating my reps as friends and not annoyances. We've improved pharmacy revenue and staff education, which has led to more effective client education and better compliance. I can honestly say my reps don't stop in to “sell me something” anymore. They visit with me as a friend and together we brainstorm, smash goals and destroy benchmarks. 

Emily Shiver, CVPM, CCFP, is practice manager at Cleveland Heights Animal Hospital in Lakeland, Florida.