How to Have Conversations About Money With Your Clients

Talking to clients about money is one of the most stressful tasks that veterinarians with private practices need to do—specifically, talking about why they should invest in a particular diagnostics test to help their pet. These conversations can be stressful when you feel like you have to convince the client to follow your recommendation or the client rejects your recommendation outright and the pet doesn't receive the care they need.

In some cases, a customer's openness to comply with recommended testing and services is more influenced by the mindsets, values, and beliefs of those involved in the financial transaction than the actual amount in their bank account. Let's take a closer look at some of the psychological elements of money and strategies for communicating with your clients.

Psychology of Money

Did you know that if you have a belief in the scarcity of funds, you're more likely to attract clients with similar beliefs? This is not intentional, but it still happens. Before discussing how to communicate the value of your services to clients, you have to examine your own beliefs and mindsets surrounding finances as a whole. Money can be a sensitive topic, especially depending on how you and your clients were raised to think about finances. Interestingly enough, according to a survey by Insider and Morning Consult, younger generations are more willing to talk about finances than older ones.

In order to have more productive conversations about finances with your clients in general, you have to flip the script on any negative internal dialogue. For example, if you find yourself saying "spending is stressful," flip it to something like, "Spending can make daily tasks easier and improve my quality of life." If you have negative views about finances, then this may take some practice. Still, with time and intention, you can switch your own beliefs and mindset, and then everything around you may change, too.

5 Communication Strategies

Now that you're actively working to shift your mindset, here are some tried-and-true tips to make your financial conversations with clients go more smoothly:

  1. Switch up your wording. Instead of using the phrase "I recommend," consider saying "your pet needs" or "we need to." When you say that you recommend something, it may make your recommendations sound optional. Stronger statements are refused less often, and they help clients understand the importance of what's being done.
  2. Ask questions. If a client prefers not to have a specific test done, ask for clarity. Many veterinarians are afraid to ask why their clients are ignoring recommendations. However, if you approach this question with openness and curiosity, many clients will share their "why" with you—which often has to do with fear or misconception—and it opens the door to further communication. You may consider saying something along these lines of: "I noticed we aren't doing 'X' test for Fluffy today. That's no problem at all, but can you please tell me why so that I can advise you better moving forward?"
  3. Show empathy. Remember that these conversations about finances may be as embarrassing and difficult for the client as they are for you. Empathize with financial constraints.
  4. Provide options. If the client declines services due to financial constraints but wants to provide the best care for their pet, give them options. You could offer to space services out. For instance, you may be in a situation where you say this: "OK, we aren't doing 'X' testing today, but how about rescheduling for a month from now?" If you get an affirmative response, then make sure that the practice software system sends them a reminder to come back in a month, or better yet, book the appointment then and there for a month later. Don't forget to document your recommendations. Also, utilize other finance options whenever possible, such as in-house financing, payment plans, or other lines of credit.
  5. Stay positive. If you get a "no," understand that you may be only planting a seed for that day. Even if a client rejects the recommended care, they still heard what you have to say, and it will positively influence their choices for their pets in the future. Shrug it off, keep doing your best, and go on to the next patient.

In the end, although conversations about finances can be difficult to navigate, you can take steps to minimize the negative impact they have on your daily client communications and on your own stress.

Sarah Wooten
DVM, CVJ

A 2002 graduate of UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Sarah Wooten is a well known influencer in the veterinary and animal health care spaces. She has over 10 years experience in public speaking and media work, and writes for a large number of online and print animal health publications. Dr. Wooten has spoken in the veterinary education space since 2015, and speaks on leadership, client communication, and personal development. Dr. Wooten is also a certified veterinary journalist, a member of the AVMA, and has 16 years experience in small animal veterinary practice. She is also a co-creator of the wildly popular card game ‘Vets Against Insanity’. When it is time to play, she can be found skiing in Colorado or diving with sharks in the Caribbean. Go big...or go home. To learn more, visit drsarahwooten.com.


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