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Issue: 57 - Sep 15, 2013
Schmoozing for Fun and Profit
By: Peter Weinstein, DVM, MBA
Veterinary Success Services

“It’s not what you know or who you know, but who knows you.”—Susan RoAne

Now more than ever, the building of relationships is the key to a successful business.  As people are forced to make more and more decisions with their pocket book at the expense of their heart or relationships, they are more often choosing to leave long standing businesses with whom they did frequent business for a less costly option.  This is not just at the local Starbucks or hair salon, this is with healthcare providers as well.

Veterinary medicine is a healthcare profession by education.  We are a service industry by necessity.  As much as many of us would like to think we could survive without the animal owners, the only animals that I know that have pockets or purses are marsupials and they don’t carry a wallet in their pouch.  We need the owners to be willing to pay for the necessary care and thus we MUST build a relationship with them.  No people…No pets.  No pets…No Business.  No Business…No Income.  Etc.

Everyday we are in contact with people.  Actually, we need and want to be in contact with people.  We are a caring profession.  We care for pets and all animals.  We need to care for people, too.  Caring for people is what Schmoozing is all about.

From the Yiddish term meaning ‘to chat or converse idly’, schmoozing has come to be a form of relationship building or networking through conversation.  Not just any conversation, but genuine, caring, concerned and interested conversation.  Learning how to schmooze in practice and in life will strengthen all of the relationships in which you are involved. 

Bottom line: If you are ‘closer’ to your clients than your colleagues are, you will be successful!!  And since most of client compliance is dependent upon TRUST and a strong relationship reinforces TRUST, doesn’t it make sense that learning how to schmooze will increase client compliance? 

It is much easier to make a sale or get a treatment plan accepted with people that you already know rather than with people that you just met.  How can you use schmoozing to build a relationship with your existing clients and garner new clients? 

  1. Great schmoozers want to know what they can do for YOU, not what you can do for them. Darcy Rezac defines schmoozing as: "discovering what you can do for someone else".
    1. Practical application: Too often in practice we tell clients what we know without asking them their concerns, their needs, and their relationship with their pet. Spend time learning about the client and their family. Learn where their pet fits into the picture. Ask questions such as: where does Fluffy sleep at night? Do you buy Fluffy birthday presents? What are the concerns that you have about Fluffy today? What concerns do you have in general when it comes to Fluffy? Listen for answers such as pain, happiness, quality of life, etc.
  2. You can't schmooze from a cubicle, desk or enclosed office. Schmoozing is a contact sport. It requires getting in front of or next to or beside people. The phone is not a good schmooze tool.
    1. Practical application: Go out into the reception area and greet clients even when you are busy. Walk around the community and greet clients at the grocery store, bank, coffee shop. Wear logo-wear with your hospital identified. Shake hands. Make eye contact.
  3. Ask good questions and listen more than speaking. People like to talk about themselves and their pets. Many times all clients want to do is talk about their pets. Listen. People like people that listen to them. If you can get your clients to talk and you can listen, you will gather lots of information to use to strengthen your relationship and bond.
    1. Practical application: besides the pet, look for commonalities, common interests, etc. The Welcome to the Practice Form is a great source for information to use to schmooze. Where a client lives or works can open discussions. If they bring in kids, talk soccer or little league. It is not wrong to ask Mrs. Smith and "what do you do?" "are there any other little Smiths at home?" "How long have you lived in this area? Where did you move from?" Asking these questions indicates that you care about them as more than a source of income for your practice, you care about them as a person. And it allows you to find commonalities.
  4. Keep an eye on the local paper. It is amazing what you will find out about clients in the local paper. Google client's names and find out what you can about them. The more information that you have the more you can touch them by sending them a note or an e-mail letting them know you read about them in the paper, etc
    1. Practical application: read the local paper and cut out articles on clients or articles on areas of interests that clients have and send them a quick handwritten note such as, "I just noticed this article about you in the paper, congratulations!" or "I remember us talking about model trains and thought you would be interested in this article that I found". How far would this little step go to letting a client know you care more about them than their checkbook?
  5. Never go anywhere without business cards. Wherever you are, you have the potential of meeting new clients. The movies, bowling alley, soccer game, restaurant, etc. are all potential client catchers. Either people might overhear YOUR conversation about a case you saw that day or you might overhear a pet owner's discussion of their recent negative experience at a groomer or a colleague's office. A quick hello and offering business card can be an ice-breaker in even the most awkward situation. People are social beings. Take part in the conversation.
    1. Practical application: print business cards with all the pertinent information on the front and with the back blank to write a note or create a 'coupon' or offering. Print individual business cards for ALL of your staff and encourage them to give them out to their pet owning friends.
  6. If you run into somebody and they ask, who are you and what do you do, do you have an answer besides: My name is James Dean and I'm a veterinarian? Take some time to create a 10 second introduction (a one story elevator speech) about you, who you are and what you do. Creating a story creates credibility and opportunity for conversation.
    1. Practical application: create your 10 second introduction and have each staff member do so also. This can be used in the exam room, the reception area, the grocery store, the little league game, etc. "My name is Dr. Peter Weinstein, I OWN a veterinary practice in ABC. We offer Nordstrom's levels of client service and a Mayo clinic level of care."
  7. Teach your team to schmooze. Schmoozing isn't just at the top. In fact, your client service team should probably be your best schmoozers!!
    1. Practical application: talk with your team about client retention and its importance. As noted above, print business cards for the entire team. Put up pictures of your team and their pets so that clients can relate to them as pet owners also. Create Schmoozing Contests to see which staff member can 'close the most appointments' or meet and invite in the most new clients.

In life to be successful, you will always be schmoozing.  You do it with your spouse or significant and with your kids.  You do it with your staff and with your clients.  Schmoozing is all about letting people know how much you care about them and how much you want to help them out.  Schmoozing is about reaching out and touching someone who you haven’t heard from or been in touch with for a while but you just want to let them know that you are there for them. Schmoozing is following up just to say hi.  Schmoozing is giving more than you get.

To succeed today, tomorrow and the future means keeping the clients that you have and having them send in their friends, family, co-workers, etc.  The cost of client acquisition is too high and too risky when you can easily focus on your existing clientele.  Learning how to schmooze is an investment in the success of your business but more importantly is an investment in having fun and creating a network of people just like you!!

You schmooze you win.

You snooze you lose!!

Peter Weinstein, DVM, MBA