Before Covid-19 sales representative visits across the UK were already in decline. Pressing workloads also meant shorter visit times were in demand. Considering our current global climate, sales reps will have to work even harder to get the attention of vets.
But it is not only about getting attention. Earlier this year, our Syndicated UK Sales Rep Tracker showed that there is now a stronger link between frequency of visits and manufacturer opinion than in previous years, yet the effect of each visit has on opinion is becoming weaker. Sales reps now do not only have the challenge of time with vets but will also have to work even harder to impress them.
Thankfully, it is not all doom and gloom. In fact, the study also found length of visit to have an insignificant role in driving manufacturer opinion. So, shorter visits should not be holding sales reps back from delighting veterinarians.
Thus, it is not so much about frequency of visits nor visit length, but rather the quality of the interaction. But ‘normal’ clinical practice is not expected to return anytime soon. So, what is the solution? Knowing how to support veterinarians the right way and through the right channels is key.
The Solution: Show what your commitment means at their time of need.
The CM Research Sales Rep Tracker has been tracking the performance of the top animal health companies in the UK since 2011. The tracker surveys 500 veterinarians in the UK annually, with the last wave fielding pre-Covid-19 outbreak (Feb ’20).
Our latest data indicates that there are fewer opportunities to leverage in 2020 or beyond. Yet, there is still one key opportunity for all. Building strong partnerships with veterinarians should be at the top of the agenda.
A partnership comes with commitment. Veterinarians want to feel supported 24/7, meaning manufacturers need to make them feel they are both in it together. This means having vets’ commercial, as well as professional, interests in mind.
Unlike last year, veterinarians now want manufacturers to provide them with seamless support. In fact, the top driver of manufacturer opinion is now “ease of working”. Remember, vets do not have the time for any mishaps. Thus, showcasing commitment will come from making sure manufacturers are instantly available at their time of need. This means that manufacturers always need to be easy to contact and easy to work with.
The latest wave of our Covid-19 tracker, which has been running since the outbreak started, also supports this finding. UK veterinarians have expected an increased customer support level during the Corona Virus pandemic; and this is higher now than at the beginning of the pandemic.
Yet, whilst 3 in 10 UK vets expect greater customer support, only 1 in 10 say they have received it. In fact, most vets cannot name a manufacturer that has supported them well during this epidemic. Manufacturers must work harder to work up to veterinarian expectations.
Now here is the real challenge. Most vets have entirely stopped in-person sales rep visits, and they are unlikely to be on their agenda anytime soon.
So, how can manufacturers build or sustain these crucial partnerships?
We already know that the role of technical support lines, websites and virtual communication tools are key. The question really is…are these channels currently being utilised to drive strong partnerships and showcase commitment to veterinary practice?
To equip manufacturers with the right tools to provide instant support to veterinarians, we fielded another wave of our Covid-19 tracker. This latest wave asked vets about their preferred communication channels with manufacturers.
We found that on average half of the vets have been in contact with manufacturers through technical support lines. We also found that a similar number want to continue doing so. Therefore, this is an area where current efforts should be maintained.
Likewise, delivery of virtual training using online communication tools should also be maintained. Online pre-recorded training is by far the preferred method of contact with manufacturers, and the expectations of veterinary professionals on what online webinars they would get access to were also met.
So, if vets are happy with the level of access they have with manufacturers and the training they are receiving, what support is missing from the mix?
The biggest gaps lie in commercial support. More than anything, vets wants total transparency on stock availability, advice on dealing with shortages and evolving cost of treatments. Yet, these are areas where needs are not being met. Whilst it may not be possible to cap price hikes or offer veterinarians financial support in other ways, it is possible to ensure communications on these topics are honest and accessible to all.
There’s a level of empathy that is required at these difficult times. The weight all veterinarians carry on their shoulders is significant, and Covid-19 has further impacted this strain. By simply showing an understanding of their financial challenges, it is possible to bridge this support gap.
Commitment must be holistic in a post-pandemic world. To ensure vets feel supported by service providers or manufacturers like you, make sure your support goes above and beyond the accessibility of your support lines or your training offer.
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CM Research is an independent Market Research agency specialising in the veterinary and pet owner sector. We have been advising the world`s largest pharmaceutical and pet care brands on their brand/product development, positioning and future facing strategy for over 10 years. To find out how we can help you with your future facing strategy, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.