By now you’ve probably figured out that the secret to long-term, loyal clients is relationships. But what about if you’re an introvert? In other words, what happens when making a personal connection with people doesn’t come natural to you?
Believe it or not, this is fairly common in the veterinary industry. After all, most of us entered the field to work with animals, not humans. The good news is, with a little effort, connecting with your clients doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, over time, you might just come to enjoy it.
If you’re shy or introverted and are struggling to break out of your shell, here are a few tried and true conversation starters to kick things off.
- How did you come up with the name [pet’s name]?
- How long have you owned [pet’s name]?
- What’s the story of his/her adoption?
- What made you choose this particular species/breed?
- What does a typical day look like for [pet’s name]?
- Do you own any other pets? If so, what kind and what are their names?
- Does [pet’s name] have any human siblings? What are their ages? How do they typically get along and interact?
- Does [pet’s name] have any quirky habits or unique behaviors?
- What’s the funniest thing [pet’s name] has ever done?
- Did you have a lot of pets growing up?
- What kinds of activities do you like to do with [pet’s name]?
- Is there anything you’d like to know about me?
These questions are really just the tip of the iceberg, but should at least give you something to work with. Keep in mind that the goal here is to start a two-way conversation and make a connection wherever possible, so be sure to listen closely to the client’s responses.
When you find common ground, seize the opportunity to explore further and let the conversation flow naturally from there. For instance, let’s say the client mentions going on long runs with their dog. If you happen to run in your spare time, exploring that topic might be a great way to connect on a more personal level. You might then ask whether the client has ever run any races or which brand of running shoe he or she prefers. Again, let things flow naturally.
5 Tips for Building a Rapport
Don’t forget to greet the pet. This should go without saying, but it’s pretty important so it’s worth mentioning, just in case.
Make eye contact. This one may not come as naturally to some as it does to others, but it’s essential so if you’re not comfortable with it, it’s something you’ll need to consciously work on.
Ask open-ended questions. As mentioned above, the goal of asking questions is to start a conversation. You won’t accomplish that with yes or no questions. Instead focus on inquiries that will elicit a thoughtful response and then look for ways you can connect through the client’s answers.
Listen! You may be intent on treating the patient, but it’s the client who is keeping you in business. When you ask questions, make sure you’re listening carefully to the answers. Not being heard is one of the biggest reasons a client will leave a vet practice so pay attention!
Be honest. If you’re not genuine, your clients will see through it immediately, and it’ll probably rub them the wrong way. Don’t force conversation or try to make connections where they don’t exist. When you’re honest, you’ll make a much better impression and it’ll go a long way toward establishing trust.
Building client relationships is fundamental to the ongoing success of your practice. If doing so doesn’t come easily or naturally to you, don’t sweat it. The tips above, along with a willingness to get out of your comfort zone, should set you on the path toward developing strong connections that will drive your business forward.