Lab Diagnostics

The rep’s job is to match each customer’s goals with the right diagnostic equipment.

What does lab diagnostics mean to you? At first glance, it may suggest a battery of tests and blood work. But, add to that radiography, x-rays, sonograms and ultrasounds, and veterinarians have the ability to become astute pet sleuths. For distributor reps, lab diagnostics should mean nothing less than a means of helping their customers diagnose and solve their patients’ problems. And, reps who understand their customers’ needs, and the type of care their practice seeks to deliver, can help them maximize their investment in the right solutions and equipment.

Bang for the buck

Without chemistry and hematology results, veterinarians have little means of determining what’s bothering an animal, note experts. And, acute issues can go undetected without the aid of radiography and ultrasound, they point out. But whether a practice needs to add radiography (one of the fastest growing segments of diagnostics) or new chemistries depends on its goals.

Especially in a tight economy, veterinarians seek to provide the best patient care at the best value, and sales reps who recommend diagnostic solutions and high-end technology without understanding the goals of a particular practice risk becoming product-pushers in their customers’ eyes. When selling lab diagnostics, reps should begin by exploring what it is a practice wants to do. Is it focused on providing good medicine to low-income clients? Or is it working to become a high-level provider?

Once the rep establishes the clinic’s patient care protocol, he or she should focus on diagnostics solutions that help maximize the customer’s investment. So, when clients bring in their sick pets, the veterinarian must be able to diagnose the illness at hand. At the same time, a patient may be due for other tests as well. Or, a pet with a broken bone may require X-rays, blood work and follow-up dye treatment. A comprehensive exam means better patient care, and it’s more economical and convenient for the client, who gets more answers in one visit. And, the veterinarian can retain business and enhance his or her reputation as a top-notch provider.

Indeed, some experts believe that distributor reps who assume a consultative role for their customers have discovered more success in the current economy than those who simply promote deals. Veterinarians can’t afford to tie up their money in a lot of inventory, they point out, and they count on the advice of reps who know the difference between a dollar saved and a wise investment.

A winning approach

Generally, lab diagnostics comprise between 15 to 20 percent of a clinic’s revenue, according to experts. But, some practices do not have the resources to hire a dedicated staff to run a lot of tests. Or, the clinic’s patient care protocol may be built around 15-to-20-minute well visits. However, on average, reps should find that about half of their customers prefer keeping these services in-house. Even those customers who continue to refer tests and X-rays to outside labs need to run some tests in-house. And if the typical practice generates between 15 to 20 percent of its revenue from lab diagnostics, it stands to reason that the sales rep is doing the same, experts say.

Distributor reps should approach their veterinarian customers with open-ended questions, such as the following:

• “Doctor, where would you like your business to be in three to five years?”

• “Are you trying to maximize the growth of your practice?”

• “What type of real-time care would you like to provide for your patients?”

While veterinarians may appreciate literature and handouts, little compares with a rep’s honest referral to other practices that have had success with different diagnostic solutions and equipment. In addition, sales reps can be a resource with regard to their customers’ financial concerns by providing direction on which banks or manufacturers are offering good lending terms on equipment purchases.

Regardless of the varying needs and objectives of one veterinary practice to the next, experts point out that every clinic needs to provide some measure of in-house diagnostics to meet the needs of their patients and clients. For the sales rep, it comes down to understanding what their customers’ want to do, and why.