Guided by his love of animal agriculture, Dwight Boysen, DVM, has found a way to serve the industry both as a practicing veterinarian and DSR
Dwight Boysen, DVM, outside sales representative with Midwest Veterinary Supply, is retiring after more than 40 years helping veterinarians, livestock producers and their customers. During those decades of service, Boysen overcame challenges ranging from a career-changing allergy to company mergers and acquisitions. Support from his family and focus on his overarching passion for animal agriculture allowed him to find a way to stay close to livestock production – and help countless clinics and producers along the way.
Skills in practice
Boysen grew up on a farm and worked his way through veterinary school. After graduating from Iowa State University, he bought an established practice in Audubon, Iowa, from an older veterinarian in partnership with Chuck Schnack, DVM. Together, they ran the only large-animal clinic in the county. When Boysen left, there were five, full-time veterinarians serving the client base. The practice is still successful today where about 15 veterinarians serve the area.
“It was a practice built with all muscle and no brains,” Boysen says. “The first year it was nothing but putting out fires before we could even start to think about preventive herd health protocols. I loved that practice. I wouldn’t want to do it again, but we all got along great as a group. It’s almost like having another marriage, and it’s tough keeping one marriage going strong more or less another one.”
Working with a team had its benefits, but Boysen was determined to pursue his dream of a solo practice. He built a practice in a thriving community and ample client base in Howell, Neb.
“It was a slower practice,” he recalls. “I didn’t cover half a county. There weren’t nearly as many clients, but I had time to do some things that I didn’t before. I was able to do equine work. Although that was never a big part of my practice, it was enjoyable to me.”
During this time, he and his wife, Teresa, raised four children. All of whom are uniquely successful in their own careers.
Shifting to sales
Over time, he developed an allergy to swine, which was about half his client base. Boysen turned that problem into the start of a new career as a DSR working with DVM Supply in Spencer, Iowa. That first job led to careers with Walco, PVP and Nelson Laboratories before joining Midwest Veterinary Supply.
“Veterinarians were not used to another veterinarian coming into their practice so frequently,” Boysen says. “I always loved in practice to get into a real diagnostic challenge. It was really hard work to keep my mouth closed and not get involved.”
In addition, calling on many different clinics showed him other sides to the business that neither his personal nor professional experience prepared him for.
“I had so much to learn when I first started,” he says. “It helped me a bunch to be a veterinarian, but I was only learning how ignorant I was. I hadn’t hardly been out of the state of Iowa. It’s a whole new world when you are faced with walking into other businesses and learning to sell yourself and satisfy the needs of your clients.”
To move from DVM to DSR, Boysen worked hard at the training provided by his employers. Relying on customer service helped ease the transition.
“I really tried to treat my veterinary clients in the same manner I had when I was in practice,” he says. “Your No. 1 responsibility is to fulfill their needs. If you provide the service that the client needs, you can be successful, and you won’t have to do much selling. You’ll be in the client’s mind when they want something.”
Cary Becker, now vice president of sales with AgriLabs, called on Boysen when Becker was a territory manager with Syntex Animal Health and Boysen was a practicing veterinarian in Iowa. The pair have known each other for 25 years. Becker thinks of him as a consummate professional.
“He always had the perspective of the veterinarian and client in mind,” Becker says. “He didn’t get disillusioned by the amount of margin on an item. He truly recommended the best product. He has a true passion and energy for the business along with a high ethical, moral sense of integrity.”
Focusing on the best recommendation for the veterinarian helped Boysen earn the trust of his customers. Working for AgriLabs, Becker appreciates Boysen’s involvement – keeping up with programs, professional demeanor and receptiveness to working with manufacturer representatives.
“He’s got criteria that I look for when I hire people: good technical knowledge, really enjoys the industry and passion for animal agriculture and the veterinary profession,” Becker says. “I’ve always admired Dwight’s work ethic and tell my team that’s a model they should strive for to be successful.”
Look out for opportunity
Boysen says he believes DSRs can actually do damage to relationships by using the “hard sell.” He recommends identifying wants and needs, satisfying those needs and integrating yourself into their business team. It’s an approach that has served him well in his current territory that spans western Nebraska, southwestern South Dakota and northeastern Colorado.
“There are lots better DSRs out there than I am,” he says. “With the young people I’ve spoken to, I try to advise them to learn to ask the right questions at the right time. All too often – especially in a practice area like I’ve had the last eight years where they have little free time – time is of the essence. I have very few clinics where I can sit with a buyer at a desk. Everyone is always at a dead run.”
Getting time inside your customer’s practice will help put DSRs in tune with their wants and needs, he recommends. For some clinics, in-person clinic time may be necessary every two weeks or every week. It all depends on the veterinarian’s personality and needs.
Heading into retirement, Boysen advises current DSRs to look for opportunity in the industry, which he believes is still abundant. Opportunities can present themselves in many different forms – from proving products to skeptical veterinarians to finding additional practice members that would fit an expanding clinic.
“This January, I spent a lot of time on the phone talking to veterinarians about LONGRANGE® (eprinomectin) from Merial. I saw the product as an opportunity ready to burst open,” he says. “On the other hand, opportunity also can present itself as a veterinarian searching for the right someone to join his practice. If you can help find that person, the DVM is deeply appreciative.”
Helping customers be as successful as possible allows DSRs to grow alongside them, he advises.
“I remember advice I received at the beginning of my DSR career that I tried to follow, which was ‘look for a fast horse, get on that horse, and when he’s tired go get on another fast horse,’” he says. “I’ve stayed a DSR because I love practice, and being a DSR puts me as close to practice as I can be.”
Boysen recommends “The Sales Bible” by Jeffrey Gitomer.
Editor’s note: In this sidebar, Kirk Augustine, President/CEO of FORAYs Inc. discusses the impact and importance of manufacturer relationships with Dwight Boysen, DVM
Kirk Augustine: How have manufacturers helped you understand the business of selling and satisfying your customers’ needs?
Dwight Boysen: Without the manufacturer training and interactions provided through my distribution company or in the territory, it would have been very difficult to do my job. I actually wish I could have had the sales and product training I received as a DSR prior to working as a DVM in practice. My office book shelf has 21 references/books that I have kept as ready resources. All of them have been provided by manufacturers or my distributor company.
Augustine:When you do a ride-along with a manufacturer rep, what are your core objectives for that time?
Boysen: The first priority is to learn about the rep and his/her company. During in-clinic appointments I like to stand back, watch and listen intently. Ride-along days are especially helpful for the B or C companies whose reps cover huge geographies and will not routinely make independent calls on my customers. For the larger manufacturers, I find one-on-one meetings over breakfast or lunch and/or routine phone calls most valuable. In this meeting format multiple accounts can be discussed as well as products and promotions.
My manufacturer reps have treated me very well over the years. Different than many colleagues, I have never felt much discrimination or channel directing activities.
I am reminded of a quote, “You have to believe in a product in order to sell it.” Working with manufacturer reps helps me learn and believe in the products I have to sell.
Augustine: You indicated the “hard sell” can do damage to customer relationships. Beyond Jeffrey Gitomer’s “Sales Bible,” what sales or communication methods have shaped your approach to servicing customers “softer”? Did you source this training or was it provided (and by whom)?
Boysen: Ultimately, the customer has to choose what to buy, so I work pretty hard to ask questions. Being a veterinarian is helpful sometimes as I can come at a subject from a couple different angles. I have been influenced more by seeing and discussing approaches vs. training programs. The manufacturer reps or trainers that model or show us conversations so we can hear it or see it have been very valuable to me.
Augustine:“In-clinic/in-person” time is an important consideration for you. How do you utilize your manufacturer rep relationships to supplement your own availability or to expand your footprint in a larger practice?
Boysen: The key here is to remain in close communication with the manufacturer rep about account needs and paradigms. It is valuable to gain commitment from a manufacturer rep to do a lunch-and-learn, and/or producer meetings, then call your account to notify them the manufacturer rep will be calling to offer support in this way. You have to recognize the opportunity and then take action using the manufacturer rep as a resource you arranged for the account.
In my area the dispensing side of the veterinary practice is critical to practice health. Often I can recommend that a practice owner consider a manufacturer’s program but may not have time or bandwidth to get around to everyone at the start of the program. It is a good practice to schedule your manufacturer rep at that account to help the account understand how to compete using a vet program and keep the product flowing through the clinic.
Augustine:Cary Becker talked about you recommending the “best” product in a category. This is quite a challenge as you may have three or more equivalents in a category. How do you choose?
Boysen: I still believe my number one job is to question, compare and contrast, plus introduce new items and hot topics. In some cases there are specific regional needs where one product is more suited to the medical need than others in the category. This was true in central Kansas some years ago when tapeworm infections in calves were a primary health factor in choosing which white wormer to highlight.
Sometimes veterinarians get into ruts or paradigms that need to be challenged for their own best interest. Our job is to gently urge them to think or try something new to get out of that rut. With all the methods of communication and information transparency in today’s world, I sometimes urge the vet to call 10-20 of his/her top clients to discuss their thinking about a specific prevention strategy or treatment concern. It is great to see how just a few calls can buoy the veterinarian’s confidence or even change his/her approach to a situation. On a couple of occasions, veterinarians have called me back with large orders as a result of an afternoon of phone calls to their top accounts. They were surprised to find out how much the producers already knew and were considering a new option. This was true in the case of LONGRANGE® for sure.
Working with ISRs
Augustine: Your long-time colleague and industry friend, Tim O’Neill (Director of Sales, U.S @ Bimeda, Inc and former colleague at PVPL) mentioned how well you utilized the inside sales reps to manage your territory. Can you share some thoughts about teaming-up with your ISRs? How did you represent the ISRs to your manufacturer reps?
Boysen: Thanks for asking about this. It is amazing how much more you can get done working as a team. Using my ISR effectively reduces the need for me to write orders and spend more time on the business needs of my customers. My approach is to tell my ISR where I will be and which accounts I plan to call on each week. After a customer call, I often call my ISR to follow-up on this or that, close the promotional order, etc. This means I often talk to my ISR 3+ times daily. In this way we stay on the same page and project the same themes with our accounts.
With my manufacturer reps, I introduce them to my ISR, ensuring they have their phone number, email and so on. If I am not available, I ask them to connect with my ISR as my back-up.
I do want to comment that when it comes to incentives or SPIFFs, the best ones are when the ISR and OSR are working toward the same objectives. These incentive types are synergistic and not counter-productive.