Developing Practice Advocates

By Kirk A. Augustine
July, 2015

The U.S. Equine business has seemed fraught with challenges since I first got involved in the 1980s. I suspect confusion over defining the market size (and therefore market opportunities) remains an underlying encumbrance. Depending on the source, there may be as few as 4 million horses or as many as 9 million horses in the United States today.

Whether calling on an equine specialty hospital or calling on a practice that does equine, finding the veterinarian can often be challenging. The very nature of the number of horses per location and their geographic separation frequently puts the doctors in the truck. Success comes to those DSRs who build a solid relationship with the person(s) who stay at the practice location whether clinic manager, buyer or vet technician.


A teaching role

Vet-Advantage columnist Pat Malone has often coached reps to “get out of their own way”. This is especially true when trying to build one or two advocates for you/your company in a practice. This is not a one-time “how to win friends” personality exercise. Rather, a deliberate strategy to lead and empower a person (or two) to actionably deliver your message to the decision maker(s) in the practice when you are not present.

When you cultivate relationships and develop a reputation of bringing valuable information, trust forms. DSRs that earn that trust help their advocates vouch for something because the advocate believes it is important. Much like how a DSR learns during a ride-along day with a manufacturer rep, the practice advocate learns from the DSR how to present information to the decision-makers as if the DSR did it themselves. It is essentially a teaching role/tactic.


Tending the advocates

DSRs with good advocates in their accounts are armed with copies of materials and prioritize three or less items to have passed-on to the decision makers during a call cycle. They may print FAQs or develop a handful of questions that the advocate can ask in the process of sharing the information with the decision maker(s). For sure, advocates must be armed with benefits to be successful.

A DSR’s advocate might sound like this when presenting your information.

“Our <distributor name>rep <your name> was in today while you were out on calls. He/she left two new things for me to share with you plus one promotion worth several dollars to us given our historical purchases. I was not sure how you and the other doctors were approaching <disease situation>. I am sure this <new product> will speed recovery when used along-side our <current treatment>. Here’s the information I kept with some highlighted information <your name> was confident you would want to know.”


Following-up in a defined period is critical to advocacy building. Calling the advocate to see how it went and offering more clarity or knowledge regardless of the result is paramount. Ultimately, practice advocates become an extension of the DSR and occasionally can be tended by telephone to present new ideas without a practice visit.

Retailers (including dispensing equine practices) all need help merchandising. Glen Templin’s article in this issue speaks to some of the nuances of serving the retail or B2C locations. Advocates in these operations are helpful as well. Often DSRs can help retailers understand the market, the competition and assist the location in teaching the staff about the product(s). In these cases, often the DSR becomes the advocate for securing and bringing in a manufacturer rep to train or bring resources for the location.


Kirk A. Augustine is an animal health industry consultant/advisor. President/CEO of FORAYS Inc., he provides the role of Exec. VP of Business Development at Vet -Advantage(his largest current client). Augustine has 3 decades of work/consulting experiences in manufacturing & distribution. Since 2002, FORAYS has provided support services to animal health manufacturers, distributors and industry aggregators.

Topics: Marketing, Kirk Augustine


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