Through the month of June, we enjoyed multiple webinars, interviews and training sessions on the all-important topic of communication. Fantastic, extraordinary and above-average communication skills are essential in our businesses; they impart understanding in our work with patients and clients, they help us attract clients through astute marketing, and they make it possible for us to work productively within a multidisciplinary team. 

In order for our communication to be effective, we really need to get our mindsets right about a number of areas:

  • marketing and sales, for instance, must be valued, planned, and targeted;
  • our attitudes towards our patients and their owners must be steeped in compassion and patience, with a real desire to understand their needs;
  • we must desire to connect with our network of referring professionals in a way that meets their needs, shows our value, and leads to the best outcomes for our patients.

All of this is a tall order, but do-able, with a clear head and a desire to become the best we possibly can be.

Let’s start by looking at how to build excellent referral relationships.

Building referral relationships

‘We also have the owner as a part of the multi-disciplinary team, and we often forget these guys: dog walkers, groomers, day care, pet sitter, trainer, behaviourist. There is method in my madness – these people are huge influencers in our patients lives.’ Hannah Capon

In a webinar with Dr Hannah Capon in the Small Animal membership, Hannah shares with us ‘how to work well with the referral vet’ – something we all are challenged with from our first days in practice.

These referral relationships are often made more difficult by restrictive legislation, making the process of referral and working as a team challenging, fraught with uncertainty, paperwork and risk.

Hannah suggests we focus on four key areas within ourselves when working to strengthen these relationships:

Legal

Be familiar with the legislation regarding you, your profession, veterinarians and referrals. Make it clear that you understand and adhere to the legislation.

Regulatory

Highlight that you are registered with a regulatory body, what their requirements are, and how you meet them.

Workplace

Model your work place and staff members to a high standard, and adhere to minimum standards of practice and cleanliness.  

Professionalism

Be professional in your conduct, dress, and work ethic, and present an evidence-based practice.

The members of the MDT mentioned in the quote above are people who are often forgotten about or ignored. However, they have a huge influence on the owner, and can empower case progression through their advice, observations and encouragement. We should be targeting these professionals in our marketing and communication.

Are you able to sell your service?

‘If you shy away from selling something to someone that they need, just because you feel uncomfortable doing so, then whose interests are you putting first?’ Francisco Maia.

I always considered myself bad at selling anything, myself and my service included. I am not a natural sales person, and neither are many of us! Francisco has a no-nonsense approach to this: Marketing is not a choice; we need to become proficient at it, which may mean changing our mindset about marketing. Our clients need us to share our services with them.

So what is holding you back from having those marketing conversations? For most of us, it is a fear of rejection. We don’t want to feel defeated, rejected or inferior to others.  So we keep quiet.

Recognising your ideal client

‘We need to define our target audience, and we need to understand that we can’t help everyone. Then we need to define and create our perfect client – this will direct the tone of all our messaging, conversations, and many of our decisions.’ Francisco Maia.

Understanding the fears, needs, motivations and situations of our ideal clients helps us to connect with them and helps them to connect with us. It also helps us to identify our ideal client, and to speak to them more confidently. Understanding that not everyone is our ideal client also helps us to understand that some people will say no and walk away. And we can be OK with that.

A marketing message done right is about becoming the exact solution to someone’s problem.

How are you connecting?

‘Most sales occur between the 5th and 8th touchpoint – most of us don’t have that many points of connection with our potential clients.’ Francisco Maia.

How are you connecting with your potential clients, and turning them into customers? For Francisco, this is all about getting to know them and building a relationship, which means someone calls them, speaks to them on the phone for long enough to get to know them, manages some of their objections, and then follows up again with another call a few days later.

The goal of these phone calls – the first one especially – is not to book an appointment, but to connect with and start to build a relationship with that person.

How are you connecting with and building relationships with potential clients?

Is your mindset abundant?

‘I don’t see anyone as a competitor, and I get picked on a lot for this, but I just don’t see other businesses as competitors. I am working towards true unity and collaboration within our field. I truly believe that everyone brings something to the table that they can contribute to our patients and our clients best interests.’ Francisco Maia.

Having an abundance mindset is something I have spoken about before on this site. For many of us, it is a huge shift.

If we feel that we are just not making it, the referrals are not coming in, from month to month we just aren’t covering our overheads, part of the solution may be to change our mindset and our approach to the problem.

Are we referring patients and building relationships with the other members of the multidisciplinary team – trainers, groomers, walkers, etc? Ask yourself, ‘What can I give, what can I share, and where can I help to grow and uplift others?’

From these actions of abundance, we will see our own increase.

Conclusion

‘We have a moral and ethical obligation to sell our services to our clients, because that is what their pet needs for the best possible outcomes.’ Francisco Maia.

Let’s change our mindset about marketing, about our competitors, about the other members of the multi-disciplinary team and about owners. Let's start helping them by sharing our knowledge and our services, and finding ways in which we can serve one another.

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