Agents of Change

By Pam Foster
June, 2017

How a DSR can embrace innovation and introduce it into their customers’ practices

Mobile apps. Wearable trackers. Cloud-based practice management systems. New prevention delivery systems.

Innovation in the veterinary industry is happening at a dizzying pace, as more and more companies are connecting technology with care and practice management.

In April, The Veterinary Innovation Summit – a “new groundbreaking CE event” – was scheduled to focus on different ideas, technologies, organizations, and people all committed to advancing the future of the veterinary profession.

On the event website it states, “The North American Veterinary Community and Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine have collaborated to create a unique and immersive program that will challenge the status quo while developing a mindset and skill set to thrive in this world of change. The event features three themes:

• The Quantified Patient

• The Connected Clinic

• The Exponential Practitioner

Vet-Advantage Agents of Change By Pam Foster


Innovation at the practice level
Now let’s bring innovation home to you: What does it all mean for you and the practices in your area?

We know that many practice teams are embracing innovative solutions for diagnostics, treatment, wellness care, chronic disease management, client communication, staff education, billing, and business management.

And, many veterinary professionals expect to access patient and business information on mobile devices, anywhere, with data in the cloud.

How do you keep up?

Mike Hay, Abaxis Area Sales Manager, South Atlantic, and a former Capital Equipment Specialist with Henry Schein Animal Health, said, “For DSRs, it’s a challenge to keep pace with innovation.

“On one hand, Millennials are out with it, using it now. If it’s a newer technology, they’re early adapters. You’ve got to embrace this, because it’s what your clients are doing. You need to be on game for them.

“On the other end of the spectrum is the group of tenured manufacturing reps who have been very successful, but they still use flip phones and fax machines. It’s time to update your own tools, too.”

No matter who you’re talking with during sales calls, you can be the DSR who’s an agent of change for veterinary practices in your region (and the overall industry).

Yes, you can make a commitment to being a leader in knowing what’s happening out there.

But it’s not just about innovation. It’s about what new solutions can DO for veterinary professionals in their quest to improve animal health.

“There are two challenges for DSRs when it comes to innovation,” said Mike Murray, DVM, MS, DACVIM, Technical Marketing Director, US Pets Parasiticides at Merial. “The first one is keeping up with all the advancements. But the second one is the most important: How do the innovations help clinics? What’s the benefit to your customer?

“Veterinary teams can often feel overwhelmed today, and to be a successful DSR… you’ll want to understand the needs of the practice.

“You’ll be most effective when you approach practices with a two-fold mission: 1) solving problems for the clinic and 2) identifying new opportunities for the clinic – whether it’s to streamline their work, enhance care, or increase income.” (Or all three).

“We tend to focus on solving the customer’s immediate need,” he said. “But when you can help clinics land on opportunities, you can distinguish yourself as someone who truly cares about practice success. It’s all about relationships.”

Recommendations for staying on top
So, how can you stay on top of the latest innovations while also managing your daily “to do’s?” And, how can you take a more proactive role in helping clinics embrace innovation?

Here are five recommendations from Mike Hay:

  1. Make time in your weekly schedule to keep up with new products. Most companies have weekly calls, plus you stay in touch with your company’s marketing department, R&D team, sales colleagues, and out in field, to uncover more developments. The Vet Advantage Resource App is also an excellent resource for new product fact sheets, etc.
  1. When visiting practices, ask open-ended questions. “What have you seen out there?” “Is there something with software or hardware that you’re currently not able to do, that you’d like to do?” “What would you like to have enhanced in the practice?” Each practice will have a different need or interest. The power of the open-ended question is so much greater than just, “Hey have you heard about this? 
  1. Stay well-read. Make it a priority to know what’s going on. Keep an eye on veterinary industry journals along with business journals beyond animal health. Businessweek, Inc. magazine, and Entrepreneur are just three examples. Get your hands on any publications you can that discuss business innovation. Trust me, it can be fun to stay informed.
  1. Look at what’s happening at industry trade shows. If you have an opportunity to work at the larger trade shows, block off a little time to walk around and see what’s out there. You can get tunnel vision, focused on your own products when you stay at your booth. You need to see what else is happening at conferences, including the most popular CE sessions. 
  1. Check in with practices after trade shows. Maybe your customers didn’t find what they were looking for, but they have a wish list to improve a medical protocol or front-desk process. You can take that information and build on it. For instance, you may say something like, “Hey, I was in a meeting last month and this talk, this speaker, had interesting things to say about [your topic of interest.]” Open the door to a conversation that helps them.

Dr. Mike Murray’s job includes coaching and training on innovation, and his perspective is this:

“Take a deep and comprehensive view of a practice, consider ways in which innovation will benefit them.

“Put yourself in their place and go further than anyone else to ask, ‘How would this new product or service make this clinic’s day?’

“For instance, most practices have a huge hurdle with time management. How can you help them, right now, with an innovation you’re seeing? Since you represent a catalog of products, you have a broader view of what’s available.

“Also talk with your local manufacturing rep, who also knows each practice and their unique needs.

“You’ll do best when you fit solutions with each practice’s personality. Help them see what they may not see themselves.”

Fantastic advice.

One more thing about technology: Be careful when using it with customers.

Mike Hay added a practical caution: “I discourage going in with just an iPad during visits. Practices like to hang onto something concrete (such as a brochure or sell sheet) because they may read it again later or share it with team members.” It’s good to reinforce your innovation discussion with leave-behind materials whenever possible.

How will YOU embrace innovation now?  

Topics: Sales


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