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Like it or not, EVERYTHING in your veterinary practice depends on sales

Posted in Operations @ Feb 25th 2016 - By Dr Diederik Gelderman, Turbo Charge Your Veterinary Practice
Like It Or Not Everything In Your Veterinary Practice Depends On Sales

One of the scariest parts of running your veterinary practice is deciding where to spend your precious time and attention.

Every day there are a million things you could spend your time doing to keep your practice in motion and your Veterinary business moving;

  • training staff,
  • doing consultations or surgery,
  • ordering drugs,
  • meeting with reps,
  • vendor/wholesaler selection,
  • arranging financing,
  • invoicing, and
  • paying the bills,

there is an endless stream, a raging torrent, really - of things to do, contemplate, and decide.

Each one feels critical.

Each one screams for your attention.

Each one can seem as urgent as the next.

When you look at it all, it seems daunting and overwhelming - a blur of endless important ‘stuff’ to do, your mind unable to focus on any one thing.

One of the scariest parts of running your practice is deciding where to spend your precious time and attention. This is no false threat. Wasting too much time on things that don't matter and neglecting the things that do will send your business hurtling off the tracks and headed nose first to the ground below.

But how do you decide where to spend your time?

Which would you choose?

Imagine for a moment that one afternoon before closing up your practice for the day, you find a golden lantern lying in the middle of your consulting room table (just go with me here). Curiosity overcomes you, and after looking over your shoulder to make sure no one else is around (because they would certainly call you crazy), you pick up the lantern and wipe away a thin layer of dust to get a better look. (You know where this is going, right?)

Immediately the lantern begins to rumble and out pops a big, brawny genie. Unfortunately, this genie has his loincloth in a knot, a tight knot and is not really in the mood for the standard ‘three wishes’ nonsense. Instead, he promises to grant you instant best-in-the-Veterinary-industry’ status in just ONE category.

Which would you choose? For the record, this isn't one of those ‘there are no wrong answers’ kind of questions. There is a wrong answer. You run through the various options in your head;

1.    Best medical care and surgical levels ever (could also be called ‘best product’)?

2.    Top-notch management?

3.    Outrageous margins and mark-ups?

4.    Awe-inspiring sales and marketing?

1.    Best Medical and surgical levels (aka 'Product') ever

The highest-quality and best product and/or service wins. Right! Or in the Veterinary field, the best technical Vet in the practice with the best ‘toys’ and equipment wins….. Not necessarily.

In fact – most definitely not!!

Of all the fancy five-star, Michelin-rated restaurants run by celebrity chefs and those promoted wildly on reality TV shows, what's the number one restaurant in the world?

Answer: McDonald's.

One of the most competitive businesses on the planet is the wine business. After all the art, science, label design, heritage, courting of tastemakers and connoisseurs, what's the number one wine in the world?

Answer:Franzia. (Yes, that's the stuff that comes in a box!)

I have watched thousands of entrepreneurs collectively spend millions of hours designing, creating, and perfecting the awesomeness of their products.

And I have watched hundreds, if not thousands of Veterinary practice owners spend similar time and dollars in planning, designing, launching and then running their ‘state-of-the-art’ Veterinary practices.

Unfortunately, I have also watched many of these same entrepreneurs close their doors or file for bankruptcy while their awesome ‘perfect products’ line the walls of their garages, collecting dust.

And I have watched those Vets barely eke out a meagre 7 – 9% profit from those carefully designed practices. At the end of the day, those Vets would have been FAR better off investing their money in a local corner store, in a McDonalds franchise or in the stock market and working as a simple ‘no-cares’ employee in someone else’s Vet practice.

No cares, no worries, stable and steady income, no stress, no mortgage, no big bills to pay, no staff to manage and your money sitting safely invested in a business that MAKES GOOD MONEY.

Like it or not (and I don't) it's not a ‘whoever-has-the-best-product wins’ world.

2.    Top-Notch Management

Perhaps you've often thought that if you could just gather the right team, you'd have the competitive edge over other practices. But countless ‘dream teams’ have failed miserably.

Companies like Enron, Bear Stearns, WorldCom,, Webvan, Ansett, David Jones and eToys assembled some of the most incredibly talented corporate leadership teams in the history of business. All went bust.

Assembling a dream team is just that. .. a dream. It's not the real crux of success. The right people focused on the wrong priorities can turn the dream into a nightmare. Just ask Enron.

3.    ‘Outrageous Margins and Mark-Ups

Well then, what about the highest margins and mark-ups? Certainly your accountant and your practice ‘financial officer’ (most likely that is you) would support that wish. Just imagine all that profit. And isn't that the goal of a business, any business – including your Vet business?

There’s no point in having great margins and mark-ups and/or being able to charge a motza for you vaccinations and office exams if you don’t get any clients and patients through the door.

So margins don't matter a bit if the product never sells. 100% of zero is still what?

Yep, zero.

4.    Awe-Inspiring Sales & Marketing 

Apple was not the first to deliver a mobile digital media player (or MP3 player) to the market. Not even close. In fact they were the eighth, and four years late to the party.

Companies like Compaq, Archos and Creative had MP3 players with larger hard drives, which could hold significantly more than 1,000 songs before one of the most brilliant marketers the world has ever known, Steve Jobs, touted (and persistently repeated), “1,000 songs in your pocket”.

So who won? Apple.

Why? Oh, don't argue that the iPod was a significantly better product. (Certainly their brilliant marketing has helped convince us all of that.)

The reality is Apple won because of their awe-inspiring sales and marketing.

The year Apple launched the iPod (2001) they declined in revenue, going from 30% revenue growth the year previous to -33%. The following year, 2002, was also a negative revenue growth year at -2%. It wasn't until 2004, three years after the launch of the iPod, that they got back to 33% growth and then dominated the digital music player market, claiming a 90% market share for hard-drive based players and over 70% of the market for all types of players.

What happened to turn the tide those three years?

Sales and marketing happened, that's what!

When it comes to the roller coaster ride that you are on as a Veterinary practice owner or manager, there is one critical thing that will keep your ride from coming to a screeching, flaming halt. Like it or not, the one thing that matters most in determining whether your Veterinary business succeeds or fails miserably is sales and marketing. . .

Here's how it works:

The ultimate success of a product or service lS 10% product quality and 90% sales.

Nine times out of ten it's not …

….the best product,

….the best service,

….the best technical skills,

….the best ‘toys’ or level of equipment,

….the best management, or margin that determines the leader in ANY industry.

Whether it's clothing, cars, restaurants, Veterinary, dentistry, accounting firms, real estate agents, lawyers, furniture manufacturers, refrigerators, or fishing tackle - the businesses that become the most successful are the ones that market themselves the best and get the most number of clients through their doors.

I don't necessarily like that fact, and I bet it makes you uneasy, too. I believe the quality of a product or service should be what's most important, and it should stand entirely on the value it delivers. But that's just not how it works in reality.

"The business who knows how to get, keep, and cultivate a customer or client gets paid the most. Period."

So make the right choice. No genie needed, this is the real world where, like it or not, sales is king. The business who knows how to get, keep, and cultivate a customer or client gets paid the most. Period.

Your Number One Job? Sales & Marketing!

From the first glow of your computer screen or your consulting room light in the morning to the last loose end you tie up before heading home, you need to be ‘selling and marketing’ your practice.

You don't get to hide from it. In fact, there is no place to hide. Whether your practice has one employee or one thousand, you have to sell.

If you can’t (for whatever reason) market your practice – that’s okay; just delegate that task to someone else in your practice. Just MAKE SURE that this job DOES get done. Delegate it but then INSPECT what you EXPECT to make sure that it’s still being done and on-track.

Marketing done well is not expensive.

It’s as simple as making sure that:

  • Your premises and surrounds are clean and tidy,
  • Uniforms are neat,
  • Handout materials, discharge sheets and reminder/recall letters are all looking good,
  • Phone calls are returned as promised, and
  • Team members are courteous and friendly on the phone and face to face.

Marketing doesn’t mean advertisements in newspapers, letter-box drops, gaudy messaging and the like – absolutely not

It’s not hard, it’s not expensive but it does need to be co-ordinated and followed through on.

Sales & Marketing – it’s not just to your clients

It’s also to your team….

Even if you have a great Veterinary team, a virtual ‘sales force’ providing your superb services and excellent products you still need to be sell your:

  • big ideas,
  • belief systems,
  • standards of care, as well as
  • vision to your employees.

Potential new staff & other external contacts…

You're also going to be selling to:

  • Potential new employees - persuading them to join you,
  • Banks to back you,
  • Vendors to trust you, and
  • Manufacturers that make your products to support you as an ‘A’ grade client and keep up the great work.

It really is everyone….

You're going to be convincing all your people to do their best. You'll be asking your wholesalers and other suppliers to be ‘fair’ to you, even to lower their prices if that were possible. You're going to push, pull, persuade, negotiate, wheel, and deal.

From now on, ‘selling’ (and I mean that in the BROADER sense) is your number one job, your top priority, the only thing that will give you the speed you need to survive the twists, corkscrews, dives, drops, and inversions along the ride of the Veterinary Entrepreneur ride.

Why is Sales & marketing more critical than other business essentials?

Everything starts with sales.

Nothing matters until a client buys something from you – a service or a product. Nothing. You can vision cast, dream board, draft fancy business plans, meet with consultants, design a nifty logo, get pretty business cards and letterhead made, but there IS no business until a client buys something.


Everything is sustained with sales.

It's the lifeblood of your practice. Do you have a problem? Well, more clients and more sales will solve most of them. And the most common problem you will run into when it comes to surviving and sustaining and growing your practice is, guess what? Yes! Sales.

Everything ends with sales.

It doesn't matter how environmentally friendly or socially conscious your practice is. It doesn't matter how important your cause or critical your Veterinary mission or how awesome your Team culture is. If you don't have enough clients and if you don’t sell enough, you'll be out of business and fast. There are no bailouts for small businesses (Veterinary business included) or for Veterinary entrepreneurs. There are no safety nets on this ride. Your only insurance policy is to go sell something. If the idea of sales as your top priority every day is making your stomach queasy, then you'll need this spoonful of medicine:

Suck it up, and go sell.

A lot.


Because the Veterinary roller-coaster ride runs on sales.

Feel free to ask Diederik any questions you may have in the comments section below.

About Diederik

Guest blogger, Dr. Gelderman is a certified NLP Master Practitioner and Trainer. He began coaching veterinary professionals with his Turbo Charge Your Veterinary Practice seminar, in 2004, to a small group of associates. In 2009, the seminars expanding internationally to Hong Kong, NZ, Europe and the US.

Dr. Gelderman has coached and consulted with more than 350 Small to Medium Enterprises in a diverse range of industries. For more information visit 'Turbo Charge Your Practice'.


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