Ask yes or yes questions for positive results

Limit negotiating time with clients with the “two-yes-options” technique

Some pet owners may need to learn about diagnostics from the technician first and then the doctor. Marketing research suggests people need at least three messages to get to yes.

If you’re tired of negotiating with clients over professional service and product pricing, it’s time to change your approach. Sales professionals guide their process with the “two-yes-options” technique; let’s look at how your team can turn “no” answers into “yes” decisions.

Bargain shoppers

A price shopper calls and asks, “How much are puppy shots?” The receptionist describes services and prices.

“Do you want to make an appointment?” she asks.

“No, but thanks for the information,” replies the caller.

The yes or yes solution
Potential clients have made 60 percent of the decision to do business with you before they call, according to Harvard Business Review. Receptionists simply need to guide callers to become clients. “Do you want to make an appointment?” is a yes-or-no choice. Instead, guide callers to become clients with two yes options. Say, “When can we meet your new puppy? We could schedule Bella’s exam at 4 p.m. today or 11 a.m. tomorrow. Which do you prefer?” Receptionists at walk-in clinics need to invite prospective clients to visit. Say, “We offer the convenience of walk-in service, so no appointment is necessary. We are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to noon. When could we meet your pet?”

Heartworm testing naysayers

A client brings in his dog for an annual checkup. The technician (or veterinary nurse) says, “We recommend performing a heartworm/tick test today.” The client declines because his dog is on year-round preventives.

The yes or yes solution
Avoid “wiggle” words like “recommend,” which tell clients heartworm testing is just a recommendation and not medically necessary. The Companion Animal Parasite Council guidelines advise annual testing of all dogs and year-round preventives. Screening for tick-borne disease may be the leading driver if your hospital is in an endemic area.

Tell naysayers, “We will collect a blood sample today to test your dog for heartworms and tick-borne diseases. Mosquitoes spread heartworms to both dogs and cats. Symptoms of heartworm disease may include exercise intolerance, coughing, loss of appetite, weight loss, labored breathing, or heart disease. Signs of tick-borne disease can involve fever, lameness, skin rashes, lack of energy, and decreased appetite or water intake. Wandering deer and wildlife spread ticks. Dogs need to be tested each year, even when on year-round preventives. This year in New Jersey, 1 in 10 dogs tested positive for Lyme disease, and 1 in 238 had heartworms.1 Our blood test screens for heartworms and tick-borne diseases of Lyme, ehrlichiosis, and anaplasmosis. We will have results today, and then we will refill preventatives. What questions can I answer, or shall we start the test?”

Preanesthetic testing pessimists

A veterinarian diagnoses dental disease in a 2-year-old cat, and the technician presents a treatment plan that includes preanesthetic testing. The client begins auditing the plan, line by line.

“My cat is young and healthy,” he says. “Is preanesthetic testing really necessary?”

The yes or yes solution
A strong preanesthetic testing protocol ensures patients are healthy enough for anesthetic drugs, identifies and minimizes risks to ensure rapid recovery, and provides a baseline for future testing, especially on young patients. Use the word “include” if preanesthetic testing is required, because “required” sounds like a rule that some clients may challenge. You won’t get any arguments if it’s included in the procedure. If preanesthetic testing is optional, use the word “advise,” which is stronger than “recommend.”

Tell pessimists: “Your pet needs a preanesthetic blood test to ensure he is in good health. Blood work is an internal physical exam that will check his organ function and identify any unknown diseases. When we have a better understanding of red blood cell, white blood cell, and platelet parameters, our patients have less risk when undergoing anesthesia. We’ll also have a baseline as part of your pet’s medical history. If test results are within normal ranges, we will proceed with confidence. If results aren’t within normal ranges, we can alter the anesthetic procedure and take precautions to reduce the risk of complications. Shall we proceed with your pet’s preanesthetic test, or do you want to discuss it with the doctor?”

Early detection screen skeptics

Before the doctor enters the exam room, a technician asks history questions and explains the need for blood work and urinalysis for an 11-year-old golden retriever.

“My dog is healthy,” says the client. “I don’t need a wellness test.”

The yes or yes solution
The American Animal Hospital Association’s Senior Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats advises beginning senior testing for pets at middle age, which is 7 to 8 years of age for most dogs and cats.2 Retest annually, which is the equivalent of every four to five human years. Don’t attempt to sell a “wellness test” to a client with an apparently healthy pet. Update your terminology to “early detection screen,” and use age analogy charts to identify the pet’s age in human years. People know their physicians advise getting a baseline colonoscopy when they reach age 50. Likewise, you need to confidently discuss diagnostics for senior pets.

Tell skeptics: “Your 11-year-old golden retriever is 72 in human years. Like people, your dog’s health will change as he ages. Because pets age faster
than people, health changes can happen quickly. Like people in their golden years, senior pets have an increased risk of diabetes, heart and endocrine disease, and cancer. Because these diseases show few signs in beginning stages, early detection is important. Catching changes early before they become serious often means they will be easier and less expensive to treat. Think of senior early detection screening as an internal physical exam that lets us check the health of organs and thyroid function. Thyroid disease is common in older dogs. Our senior screen includes testing for heartworms and tick-borne diseases. We will collect blood and urine samples today and share results with you. Shall we perform your dog’s test today, or do you want to discuss it with the doctor?”

This yes-or-yes phrasing doesn’t give the client a chance to decline testing. You’re presenting a “yes” choice of accepting testing now or an alternative “yes” of consulting with the veterinarian. Some pet owners may need to learn about diagnostics from the technician first and then the doctor. Marketing research suggests people need at least three messages to get to yes. If the client declines testing, note the decision in the medical record, enter a callback or reminder, and revisit the issue during the next exam.

Clients may say no because they don’t have enough information to make educated decisions. The right words and confident presentations can turn skeptics into advocates. The result is better patient care, trusting doctor-client relationships and improved hospital revenue.

Wendy S. Myers owns Communication Solutions for Veterinarians in Castle Pines, Colo. She is a certified veterinary journalist and the author of 101 Communication Skills for Veterinary Teams.” Reach her at or


1 Companion Animal Parasite Council. Parasite prevalence maps. Accessed 08-10-17 at and

2 AAHA Senior Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. Accessed 07-27-17 at

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2 thoughts on “Ask yes or yes questions for positive results

  1. I believe that in the area of staff training, roll play and repetitive practice are crucial. We want these conversations to be delivered with confidence. Invest a small amount of time on a daily basis and good habits will develop quickly.