This issue pays tribute to two animal health leaders whose careers span 40 or more years. Yet in their retirement interviews both are current, engaged and well-aligned with the marketplace changes and needs.
Dwight Boysen is a DVM who chose to become a DSR. In that capacity, he exemplifies how a representative leads from a servant position by calling on veterinary practices. Bob Hormann, retiring from Durvet, has approached his “re-seller” customers in a similar manner. Their questions and humble, pragmatic approaches to listening and learning to identify solutions that meet the customers’ needs have made a significant impact with their respective clients, customers and industry partners.
For at least the first 25 years of their careers, the market channels were opaque vs. the transparencies of today, and they likely were unaware that they competed. The proliferation of new technologies and products also helped keep the channels aligned and more separate as our industry rushed to talk about everything new.
The expansion of the Internet (especially after 2000) plus the nearly continuous merger and acquisition activities of manufacturers, suppliers and customers has made our market behaviors increasingly visible. Expanded transportation services also made a significant difference in resupplying animal health customers’ inventories. In the 1990s it was not uncommon to say “whatever action you take today will be well known by your competition within 48 hours.” Today that might be less than 48 minutes.
Bob Fountain* recently called today’s market situation “channel blurring.” I agree. The traditional channels supported by Hormann or Boysen during their careers are no longer well delineated. A catalog or dispensing business owned by veterinarians can compete with a large multi-million dollar distributor when selling to livestock customers. Meanwhile, big box retailers or regional dealers can flex their cost position muscles by utilizing volume, private labels or internal supply services (including aggregators like Durvet), not to mention their ability to engage customers on more than animal health products.
So what is a DSR to do?
In our Spring 2015 issue we focused on questioning, selling benefits and (as Jim Whitt put it) identifying “What can I do to help?” In this context, I am reminded of the 5 P’s of marketing: 1) Product; 2) Price; 3) Place; 4) People; 5) Promotion.
Numbers 1 and 2 are likely “table stakes” today given our market’s transparency and pricing policies. Number 3 is a dynamic that has to be identified and serviced (such as the need for bio-secure routes in swine).
Number 4 is where you and your company differentiate yourselves against the competition, which includes the support staff that ensures orders are delivered on time and complete while being billed correctly. This includes communication with the manufacturers/suppliers about your activities and efforts. Number 5 requires individual customer-level planning to ensure the most applicable promotions are executed by the customer against their product demand both historical and current.
In many cases, being competitive and growing your territory’s business requires taking more time to think, prioritize and plan. I think you’ll find elements of these skills in the articles about Boysen and Bob Hormann. Both keenly developed their abilities to focus and prioritize, which ultimately supported 40+ years of individual success.
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.