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10 reasons veterinary clients are afraid to say “yes”

Make something emotional happen within them to get a fully supported “yes”

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Sales legend and trainer Tom Hopkins discusses 10 reasons why customers (or clients) are fearful of saying “yes” to your sales pitch (sorry, to your veterinary services) in his lecture, How to Master the Art of Selling Anything. Sure, many of us view the word “sell” as a four-letter epithet. Yet, practically, for the vast majority of us not on the nonprofit side of things, veterinary medicine can be provided only when we exchange our services for money.

Clients are afraid of you (of your occupation)

Clients are afraid of being sold. You may sound or look like a salesman, and they don’t want to be sold. Comfort this fear by coming across as an “expert advisor,” Hopkins said. You must make something emotional happen within clients to make them give you a fully supported “yes.” To do that, you must be able to make them:

• Like you, which will cause them to

• Trust you, which will cause them to

• Want to talk to you, which will make them

• Accept your recommendations.

Clients are afraid of making a mistake

All clients have made purchases they regret; during the consultation, you must handle their fear of making another.

Clients are afraid of being lied to

Honesty and integrity lead to long-term relationships. If you are a generalist, you want to provide “cradle to grave” services. You want to be able to help this patient in the future or the client’s next pet. In either case, your honesty is one of the main reasons clients will refer other clients to you.

Clients are afraid of incurring debt

During your consultation, make sure clients understand the value they will receive. Perceived value is the benefit they think they will get; real value is the benefit they feel they will get.

Clients are afraid of losing face

When a husband and wife are involved in the consultation and decision processes, make sure everyone present during the consultation feels important. Never belittle or talk down to anyone. If one protagonist thinks that you care more about them than selling a product or a service, they will become lifetime clients. Being empathetic—putting yourself in their shoes—is one of the most important skills you can acquire.

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Clients are afraid of the unknown

Clients may not know one single thing about your product or service. Alleviate this fear by ensuring your consultation is an educational process about the benefits derived from owning your product or opting for your service.

Clients are afraid due to bad past experiences

Clients are afraid of purchasing your product or service because they have taken a similar risk before and it didn’t pan out. Discuss with them all of the possibilities during your consultation: anesthesia risk, intraop monitoring, dedicated anesthesia technician, etc.

Clients are afraid based on prejudice

Something may have prejudiced a client—a conversation with an irate client in the waiting room, their neighbor, colleague or groomer said, or something they overheard your receptionist or your technician say before you ever showed up. Something or someone made them feel biased, and now they’ve entered the consultation with a negative preconceived notion.

Third-party prejudice

Someone already told them to say “no.”

It’s only words

Words can have only two effects on a person—positive or negative, said Hopkins. Consider banning some words from your vocabulary. What follows is a loosely adapted list of his suggestions.

• Estimate: An estimate is what you get at a car dealer. We should provide “treatment plans.” You’ve heard it many times, but do you do it?

• Recheck: I personally have replaced “recheck,” which may sound free or elective, with the expression “progress exam.” Similarly, “recheck X-rays” now are called “follow-up X-rays.”

• Cost and price: Replace the words “cost” or “price” with the word “amount.” When you talk cost and price, clients may automatically believe it’s too much.

• Monthly payment: When clients opt for a payment plan or a credit program, don’t talk about a “monthly payment.” They already have plenty of those. They may picture themselves sitting at the kitchen table, paying their monthly bills, hoping they have enough money to cover them. Instead, talk about “monthly investment” or “monthly amount.”

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• Contract: When clients choose a credit program or a payment plan, don’t use the word “contract.” They will remember Mom and Pop saying: “Stay away from contracts.” Instead, talk about “agreement,” “form” or, simply, “paperwork.”

Are these tips dishonest? Are we tricking clients into doing something they shouldn’t? Are we becoming mere salespeople? Far from it. Our mission is to help patients, and we can’t do it without the client commitment. Like it or not, this includes a financial commitment.

There is no question that spending $500 on a dental procedure, $1,000 on a laparotomy or $3,000 on a TPLO is a big decision for most clients. Sadly, we (as a team) need to deal with the financial aspect of the transaction as much as the medical part. Interestingly, you don’t have to get involved with the financial discussion.

Once your consultation is complete and as the conversation invariably moves on to the money question, simply say, “My receptionist/technician will go over the treatment plan with you,” and get out of the way. Well-trained support staff typically does a fantastic job without falling into the classic pitfalls discussed here.

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and serial entrepreneur. His traveling surgery practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. For more information, visit his websites at DrPhilZeltzman.com and VeterinariansInParadise.com.

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