And provides a road map to meeting customer expectations
You may have heard about the recent survey conducted by the Wedewer Group on behalf of the American Veterinary Distributors Association (AVDA), where they found that practice decision makers prefer Distribution Sales Reps (DSRs) over manufacturers, as indicated by these significant ratings:
- 7 out of 10 practice decision makers prefer to order from distributors, having them handle the entire transaction, including billing and shipping.
- 3 out of 4 four purchasing decision makers (76 percent) say veterinary product distributors are better than manufacturers … with the main reason being that ordering from distributors “makes their lives easier” – with 62 percent citing “ease of ordering” among their top three reasons for choosing distributors.
- 81 percent of decision makers are satisfied with ordering from distributors, while only 33 percent are as happy ordering directly from manufacturers. Decision makers indicated that they “Were more likely to meet with distributor sales representatives because they understand the unique goals and needs of the practice and they like the salesperson.”
Well done! Your efforts are clearly working and you have a distinct advantage here. You’ve established trust with your customers, and you’ve earned a reputation for reliable, easy product delivery.
Areas to improve
Now, before you start doing high fives or a happy dance, let’s look at one more set of findings that show where you have a chance to boost your reputation – and orders – even more.
The following chart from the survey’s Executive Summary shows how decision makers spent the most dollars in the past 12 months. You’ll see that in nearly all categories, clinics overwhelmingly placed orders through distributors’ online ordering systems or distributors’ salespeople.
However, as you go down the list, you’ll see a few major exceptions, highlighted in yellow, where clinics are ordering elsewhere (not through distribution):
First, let’s look at Diagnostics. Yes, 52 percent of diagnostic purchases are made through distributor websites or sales reps combined, but that’s much lower than most categories when you look at the combined percentages.
Also in the bottom are Pet Food (43 percent combined) and Equipment (68 percent combined).
Think about these three categories and consider what you can do to boost the numbers in your favor, in your territory.
Here’s the main question to ask yourself: “If this survey shows that practice decision makers clearly prefer ordering supplies through Distributor Sales Reps, why aren’t the practices in my area ordering diagnostics, pet food, and equipment through ME as well? What more can I be doing to change this trend?”
When the survey results were first published, Veterinary Advantage spoke with AVDA Chairman Paula Brown, Midwest Veterinary Supply, and asked specifically: What does the survey identify as areas for improvement for distributors? What are the take-aways for distributors, and how can they be addressed?
“Our customers routinely order equipment and diagnostics from manufacturers,” she said. “These are large investments, and they’re looking for very detailed information. As distributors, we should keep reminding our customers that we are educated on these products as well, and can assist them with these items.”
Let’s look specifically at Diagnostics for ideas on how you can make a stronger case for ordering through YOU.
1. Make sure you know what’s out there today, and how each solution benefits the practice.
If your customers need detailed information, be the advisor who gives it to them.
Most manufacturers have websites, literature, training tools, guidelines, protocols, and other materials to support their diagnostic tools. Plus, you can partner with your manufacturer reps to identify the opportunities and train yourself on products, materials, and current promotions.
2. Create a reference sheet for sales visits.
Put together a checklist of the diagnostic services most practices offer – and then list the solutions you carry that address those services.
If you’ve done your homework and you’re familiar with each solution, you’re ready for the next step.
3. Ask practices about their diagnostic protocols during the sales visit.
Find out what they do and use now to diagnose vector-borne diseases, common ailments, foreign objects, skin problems, oral health issues, senior pet concerns, “ain’t doing right” mystery patients, etc.
If you discover that they’re not using the latest or most efficient/accurate tools, bring up need-based questions that open the door for your solutions. For instance, “How many times a week are you finding that you need a quick answer to diagnose [condition]? Have you seen [this new solution in my catalog], which promises to provide accurate answers [in less time or with more information or another competitive benefit]? Let’s quickly look at how they recommend using this new solution to save time, etc.”
4. Explain that you’re quite familiar with the latest, advanced solutions.
If you find that a practice didn’t realize they could order the same products through you – or ask you about them – demonstrate that you’re knowledgeable about different diagnostic tools.
Use your iPad to bring up online product literature or training materials to review with the practice. Or, offer to review product hand-outs/sell sheets together.
This demonstrates your expertise and will enhance your consultative relationship… expanding the impression that customers can and should go to you for everything!
5. Ask why the practice buys direct with manufacturers and address the answers.
If there are any objections to ordering diagnostics through you, overcome those objections with informed, positive responses.
For instance, if a practice manager says, “The manufacturer is offering better discounts or a special promotion that saves us money,” explain that you can match those discounts or promotions. It’s the same either way. And then ask, “What would it mean if you could get the same prices in one complete order from us, instead of having to deal with placing separate orders for different diagnostic products?”
If they’re going direct because they buy diagnostics that you don’t carry in your catalog, introduce them to the fabulous alternatives you DO carry. Many alternatives are likely to be just as accurate, efficient, and effective (if not more!); and perhaps cost much less. Your customers just weren’t aware of them, and they may be delighted to see what you offer (especially if it saves money while delivering excellent accuracy and other benefits).
Now that you know how practices really feel about Distribution Sales Reps, use those powerful preferences to expand the solutions you offer. You’ll be even more of a hero!