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That evil word “sell”

Pricing veterinary services is difficult; how should vets alter their approach with different clients?

21 September 2018, at 3:12pm

Looking from the outside in, vets are the nicest people you can ever meet. When an elderly lady walks in with a dog that needs treating, you may feel sorry for her and treat it for free. When the guy who looks like he cannot afford it comes in, you may give him discount since you want to make sure his cat is not in pain. This makes you feel good and makes you happy that you are treating the animals. You tell yourself that it’s a vocation, not a job.

The issue comes when you work out that the elderly lady has more disposable income than you, and the man you thought was poor just drove away in a brand-new BMW. So, what do you do? You were not trained to run a business, you were trained to treat animals.

The first thing is to value what you do. Remember what you do when you treat an animal. Relate it to what would happen if you went to a doctor: would your GP do an ultrasound, full body X-rays, orthopaedic work, or for that matter, a dental surgical extraction? No. They would refer you to a specialist in that field. You are a specialist in every field and a lot of the time it’s far harder for you to diagnose than it is for a human doctor, as humans have a good habit of saying “The pain is there.” By discounting your work, you devalue yourself – remember that every time you say the words “and the discount is…”

OK, now to the evil word, “sell”. What you are really doing is trying to get the owner to accept the treatment the animal needs and get the money that values the work you have to do. You price too high and the animal does not get treated; you price too low and you don’t pay the bills. So first, set your prices, and set them in stone, based on the value of the work needed. This may seem obvious, but how many times do you think up a number?

Now that you have valued yourself and the work you do, you need to understand the owners. As vets, you understand the animals very well, but you may not always understand the owners. When an owner walks in, the first thing you need to do is work out where their pet fits into the family. They fall into three categories: the working dog, the loved pet and the child replacement.

The working dog

The working dog is the hardest animal to get treatment accepted for. This animal is a tool that needs fixing and has only been brought to you as it is broken. Because of this, you need to give value to the treatment you want to give and how it will benefit the animal to do the job it is there to do. If it’s a sheep dog with dental problems, tell the owner that the pain from dental issues will be making the dog less responsive to his commands. It will be more likely to react badly to stressful situations. As ever, relate it to the owner and how the animal will work better when not in pain.

The loved pet

The family dog or cat should be an easy animal to get treated, but sometimes you hit walls. Remember that the owners love the animals, but they have a lot of other things that are pulling at their expenses. They have kids that need shoes and holidays. Even when that animal gets older and the owners’ expenses go down, they are still in their heads just a loved pet. With this type of customer, you need to make them understand the pain the animal is in; show pictures, show them cases. Again, relate it to them and how they would feel. With this client, staging payments or staging treatment would be best.

The child replacement

This is the easiest group of owners to get to accept treatment. This is the group whose children have all left home, they have got a new dog and they will pay anything to make sure it is happy. These people still need the same information as the last two, but need it to relate to the animal only. The animal is a person in its own right and you need to treat it as such. In future articles, I will touch on how to understand the owner and how to relate to them. Plus, how to set out your consult rooms and tricks to make the environment easier for the owner to accept the treatment you suggest. I will also discuss the fall-back option if you’re not happy in selling treatment to the owners.

European General Manager at iM3 Dental

Craig Evans is the European General Manager of iM3 Dental. Craig has over 25 years’ experience within the human and veterinary dentistry markets. He began with X-ray imaging, when he worked for the inventor of digital dental imaging.

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