Client ManagementVet Business

An Inadvertent Lesson for Veterinarians on How Not to Generate Business


This week I would like to welcome Dr. Melissa McKee  as a guest blogger. She had an interesting interaction last week that was too good (or bad) not to share. Regardless of what business you are in there are simple and effective ways to communicate with prospective clients. Sometimes these simple techniques are forgotten with dismal results. Here is her story.

A few days ago I received a message from my office that “Ted” of the, lets call it, “Bumbling Business Bureau” had called asking for me by name, but had left no details as to what this was about. My curiousity was piqued, not to mention my anxiety that this enigmatic message signaled a complaint about our practice, so I anxiously waited until I had a free moment to return the call. I was then treated to an experience that could be filed under “How to do absolutely everything wrong in a sales call”.

Now, to frame the event, consider that this was Friday, the fifth day of 4:30 am starts, record-breaking heat, and wrestling with cranky sweating horses while wearing a lead gown. I know, you’re thinking “where do I sign up?”, but it is actually worse than it sounds. The key concept is that I am busy, hot, and tired as I dial (at my expense) the long distance number provided.

I am immediately treated to a lengthy recorded introduction to the BBB, followed by a request for the extension of the party I am trying to reach. I was not provided with this information so it was my privilege to listen to Jethro Tull’s pan flute stylings while “waiting for the next available operator”. Who did not turn out to be my new friend Ted. More (expensive) time  is wasted on hold as I am patched through.

You have probably already spotted the first mistake.

The following is the highlights of our conversation:

Me: “Hello, this is Dr Melissa McKee returning your phone call”

Ted: “Hi Melissa, how are you today”

Mistake two

Me: “I’m fine thank you, I’m returning your phone call?”

Ted: “First of all, happy Friday!”

Mistake three. I will stop pointing them out now as every gaffe is painfully obvious.

Me: “What is this about?”

Ted: “Well, you have come to our attention because we have had a number of inquiries about your company” (Does not qualify whether this is a positive or negative thing. As a business owner, if the BBB contacts me my first thought is that someone has complained. Thanks a lot for not reassuring me that this isn’t the case)

“We did some research on your company and found that you have a great reputation and very good business practices. Congratulations on that!”

Me: “So what is this about?”

Ted: “Well that means that we are inviting you to place your company on our registry which means that consumers can use you with confidence”

Me: “At what expense to me?”

Ted: “Well, uh, what does your company do?”

Some research. I guess they stopped at my phone number.

Me:” We are equine veterinarians”

Ted: “Um, ok, you are veterinarians. How many full time people do you employ?”

Me: “35”

I continue to be amazed by Ted’s detailed preparation for this sales call

Ted: “(blah blah blah, too banal to repeat), and for the first year we offer endorsement for $450, but that goes down the following year to….”

I don’t know what he said after that because I had already hung up.

In summary, Ted has furnished us with a shining example of how not to attract business:

1) Leave me a message with no context  (Is this a complaint? An emergency?)

2) Expect me to call back, at my expense, and make it difficult to reach you

3) Insult my education and take an inappropriately familiar tone

4) Ignore the signals that I want to get down to real conversation and waste my time with trite small talk

5) Offer meaningless and patronizing compliments about my company (his tone suggested that if we met in person, he would have patted my head and given me a lolly)

6) Despite “looking into my company”, reveal that you have done absolutely no homework and expect me to educate you about my business

7) Get evasive when I ask for specific details about your fees, then launch into a ridiculous amateurish sales pitch.

Needless to say, Ted did not close the deal with me. In fact, I was so irritated by this call that I will never consider using their services. Maybe I should make a complaint phone call to the Better Business…. Oops. Goes to show just how effective they are!

In conclusion, the golden rule is clearly in effect in all of your business dealings. Treat any potential customer with respect, honour their time, and don’t make it hard for them to do business with you. One negative experience may drive them away for life, and with the wide reach of social media and people (like me!) willing to blog about their experiences, others may not even give you that first chance. There are too many alternatives out there for people to settle for poor service, so put yourself in their shoes and let that guide your actions and relationships.

Melissa McKee DVM

Melissa McKee DVM and her husband Mike Pownall DVM are the owners of McKee-Pownall Equine Services and Digital Pulse Marketing. She is a graduate of the Ontario Veterinary College and was an equine veterinarian in New Jersey and Alberta before returning home to start McKee-Pownall in 2002. She divides her time between racehorse and sport horse lameness practice, with a particular interest in diagnostic imaging, regenerative therapy, and rehabilitation. Melissa  also writes articles for equine health publications and has responded to over 1800 questions on the popular “Ask The Vet” online forum.

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