How can I improve sales on food and retail products? How can I market them effectively to reluctant clients who would rather buy pet store, organic, or raw diets and think veterinary diets are simply a money grab?

As with any product or service you feel has significant value, there needs to be a clear and compelling reason for clients to consider buying what you stock. If you feel strongly about offering these particular products or services, you must educate clients and give them a reason to want to take your advice. If you've established rapport with your clients and consistently offered educational value during their visits, they probably already see you as an authority on their pets. Be sure to explain the research you have done in order to conclude that these are the best products in the category for your patients, and why. Also, specify how their pets will benefit and what they can expect by changing their diets.

To encourage clients to try a new nutritional product, consider offering a free second bag or a small discount on the first bag. You may even want to offer a money-back guarantee if their pet does not like the new food, which gives them assurance that it is perfectly safe and risk-free. You might also solicit feedback from clients who use these products to see whether they would be willing either to provide a testimonial or to be contacted by a client interested in their unbiased opinion of how the product affected their pet.

Most of all, your team needs to support your recommendations, so keep notes in the medical records and train your team to be accustomed to reading them so they can suggest an item at checkout time.

How do we convince clients that we are recommending the best and not just selling anything?

Communication could be part of the answer to almost every question in this book, but for this question in particular, it is the answer. Veterinary practices may provide a variety of services, from preventive and wellness care, vaccinations, and spay or neuter to more advanced surgical and diagnostic services. Some provide retail, nutrition, training, boarding, and grooming as well. Your practice needs to make a decision about which services to offer and to whom. As we know, not every pet owner is the target client for every practice, nor can every practice be right for every family. Whichever type of medical care and services you choose to provide, you must tailor your communication to your audience and what's best for them and their pets.

To make recommendations effectively, and thus gain compliance, a few things need to happen first. Some form of trust must be developed. This typically occurs over time, but what do you do with new clients? One way to establish trust is to ask good questions, and then be an excellent listener. Find out their concerns and direct your recommendations to satisfy those needs, while providing enough information to help them understand the most important thing you need them to know. Select language appropriate to the individual client, and to lend credibility you may want to cite studies, provide supporting literature, and even include "what can happen if I do" and "what can happen if I don't" scenarios to help them reach a decision that's right for them. If you are AAHA accredited, proudly display your certification and be sure to explain to all pet owners exactly what that means.

What can't be stressed enough is the importance of consistency. Once again, every member of your team needs to embrace the type of care you wish to deliver at your practice in order to gain the clients' trust, respect, and compliance for their pets' optimum health.

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