How to Be an Effective Communicator Without Sounding Like a Salesperson
Have you ever hesitated to recommend a preventive-care service or test because you fear you'll sound like a salesperson?
Like most veterinary professionals, you probably aspire to be a convincing and well-spoken pet-health advocate whose words effortlessly steer clients toward what's best for their pets. But when you're in the exam room trying to balance authority and compassion, all you may hear coming from your mouth is what sounds like a sales pitch.
Determining the right language to become an effective communicator is tricky and fine line to walk, for sure, but learning to find balance can achieve much. Here's how.
4 Ways to Communicate More Effectively as a Veterinary Professional
Here are four tips to help you become an effective communicator about preventive care without the salesy aftertaste.
1. Personalize the Message
Sales-style tactics can quickly compromise a client relationship. So don't focus on the recommendation—focus on the human-animal bond. In addition to basic patient history questions, get to know the pet's daily routine, personality, and activities the pet and owner share. Your client's answers not only help you assess the pet's health risks, but they can also provide ideas on what the main concerns of the client are. Then you can use these points to craft a personalized, specific, and relevant message that resonates with the client.
For example, Petey's owner lives alone and depends on him for comfort, companionship, and safety. Petey is entering his golden years, and his owner is concerned about how long he'll remain by her side. Knowing this, the veterinary team can more effectively communicate the need for blood work:
"I recognize how much Petey means to you and the big role he plays in your life. Adding annual blood work that can detect abnormalities before they progress or become a full-blown illness is one way to extend his quality of life and give you more time together."
2. Talk About Solutions, Not Services
Do your clients really understand the reason for vaccines, screening tests, and blood work, or do their eyes glaze over when they hear about all the services their pet is "due for"?
Although giving your established clients the rundown saves time (e.g., "Looks like Chloe is due for her distemper, bordetella, rabies, and leptospirosis vaccines and her heartworm test and fecal today"), this can make the client-veterinary relationship feel transactional.
Taking the time to ensure your client understands how your recommendations shape their pet's present and future health can ensure they hear your words as authentic and sincere. Plus, by placing the conversational emphasis on preserving pet health rather than the cost of disease, you can avoid scare tactics that may motivate clients to agree out of guilt and fear rather than knowledge.
3. Replace Sales-Based Incentives With Pet Owner Connection
Client compliance improves patient health and your bottom line, but bonding clients to your practice will have a stronger return on investment across all categories. If you use sales-based incentives to motivate your team members and drive preventive care revenue (e.g., monthly challenges to sell the most blood work or parasite prevention), you may actually be putting unnecessary pressure on your team or sending the wrong message about their role.
Instead, encourage your team to prioritize connecting with clients using strategies like these:
- Letting them decide. Offer conversation prompts, scripts, or phrases, but encourage team members to decide what sounds right in their own words.
- Ensuring understanding. Educate new team members on commonly recommended services. Team members who understand what they're speaking about can advise and consult rather than "sell."
- Providing personal examples. Give team members discounted preventive care services—specifically diagnostic testing and blood work—for their own pets. When they can speak from personal experience, they do so more confidently. This can address client concerns in an indirect but powerful and authentic way.
- Celebrating the positive. Acknowledge and celebrate positive online reviews that mention customer service or positive team interactions.
4. Remember That "No" Is Only for Today
If you allow it, rejection can alter your recommendation style. To lessen the blow, you may unconsciously resort to passive language (e.g., "It might be a good idea to run some blood work), or you may become more assertive and include an unspoken warning in every recommendation (e.g., "Without annual blood work, we have no way of knowing what disease might be hiding or how fast it's progressing").
Prevent defensive, desperate, or defeated language—common nonverbal communication errors included—remembering that a consistent message over time can successfully influence a pet owner's decision-making. Your client may not say "yes" today, but six months or a year from now, they may become more accustomed to the recommendation and act. Use every practice channel—including in-person, printed materials, and online—to help ensure your message will be seen, heard, and remembered.
A Delicate Balance
Being an effective communicator when recommending preventive care is a delicate balance between expertise and understanding. This can look different for every practice, but it generally involves removing unnecessary pressures and expectations and keeping your team focused on confidence, clarity, and compassion.