This is the sixth of a 9-part series of articles intended to walk you through all the ins-and-outs of purchasing capital equipment for a veterinary practice. Far too often important steps/factors are glossed over during the sales process, items that may not be clearly defined on product literature. Missed information can lead to confusion prior to purchase, other information gaps can lead to more serious issues down the line, when there is no turning back.
In this series, we cover the details and importance of:
- Evaluating Your Practice
- Assessing Your Needs
- Evaluating the Market
- Pre-Demo Homework
- Scheduling a Demo
- Post Demo
- Final Decision Time
- The Waiting Game
- Post-Install Support
You’ve done your homework to evaluate your practice’s needs and what the market had to offer. You scheduled and attended the demo armed with all the information and questions. Now what? This is the last article in Phase 2 of the Buyer’s Journey that gets you all the way up to Pulling the Trigger (next article). Let’s cover:
- Reasonable follow-up timeline
- How to request and compare “apples-to-apples” quotes
- Understanding lab/equipment contracts/incentives/rebates (good and bad)
- Asking about installation, training, education, support, warranty
But a primary theme for this article teaches how to you to hold your equipment specialist accountable by delivering on everything that has been discussed.
The follow-up time for an equipment specialist is a direct reflection on the product and company he/she represents. If these salespeople were prepared in their demo, there should not be much left for them to prove to you. That said, fewer and fewer companies are printing their materials, so most of the content is shared digitally. So first of all, within 24 hours you should have an email with all the digital material detailing the equipment you were presented.
If you had a virtual demo, then you probably saw (in real-time) most of that material but you would benefit from receiving a copy to review/dissect at your leisure. Sometimes a salesperson glosses over a given piece of literature because their time is better spent showing you the equipment (either in person or virtually via software emulator, e.g.), but that piece should be provided to you in short order afterwards.
But you, being such a sharp and informed consumer, may have had some tougher questions that required the salesperson to defer your questions to their available internal company resources to be addressed. A “good” company (i.e. one that you’d want to partner with) has product managers and support specialists that have anticipated or experienced even the hardest pre-sale questions, and so whether it is a sub-set of specific DICOM images to review or more involved install/training/warranty/technology questions, your follow-up time should not need to extend past 2-3 business days.
If you don’t hear from them (shame on them), either press them for an answer or write them off for not having the answers to your questions in a timely manner.
Requesting “apples-to-apples” Quotes
Demo’ing only one piece of equipment from one provider is virtually ALWAYS a no-no. So you will inevitably need to compare more than one quote. But there is some serious danger in making decisions without very carefully reading through quotes, line-by-line.
Companies often run promotions (or at least pricing/packages that are meant to look like promotions) and so sometimes you are not able to fully deconstruct a quote to find out what you are paying for what. For example, it may be difficult for you to see what you are paying for your Ultrasound system (the equipment itself) from Company A if it comes with 2 probes, an extra 1.5 days of on-site training and 2 years of extra warranty. If Company B simply quotes you their equivalent system of Company A’s system but lists the probes, training, warranty “ala carte”, you will find it difficult (and rightfully so) to determine whose system is a better value. Remember, nothing is free, so to determine whether the all-inclusive package is truly a promotional incentive, request pricing ala cart to confirm.
With each modality there are particular areas to pay attention to when trying to make an apples-to-apples comparison. With Ultrasound, some factors are:
- Console versus Mobile
- Entry level versus advanced level product features
- Image Processing capabilities after a patient is off the table
- Types of Probes and frequencies
- Onsite versus remote training
- Training by a sonographer versus a salesperson
- Warranty and Support Options
In Digital Radiography, some factors are:
- Scintillator material (to learn more about the differences in Gadox vs Cesium, read more here: https://soundvet.com/the-scintillator-question-gadox-vs-cesium/)
- Image Processing Software
- Plate Size
- X-Ray Table Integration Hardware
- Extended Warranty/Service Contracts
- Inclusion of PACS servers
- DICOM Viewers
- Practice Management Integration Options/Packages/Fees
- Data Migration Processes/Fees
Even in something as simple as Therapy Lasers there are various warranty packages/terms (and whether or not you get a loaner or a new unit if yours fails), treatment heads to target all of what you may come across, travel cases, goggles, and other accessories.
With any modality, beyond the “main unit” there are lots of bells and whistles that salespeople can use as “closing tools”. Leverage these items to your advantage, whether you need/want them (to get them included at a discount or no charge) or if you don’t (so you can whittle down the cost to the bare-bones). But in any case, be AWARE of them so you know the true cost of the system you are buying.
“Getting the Lab to Pay”
A few of the veterinary equipment companies are “sisters” to diagnostic lab companies (whether they work under the same umbrella name or not) and so often you will be propositioned with “cash” incentives to sign lab contracts that can be used to fund equipment. This can be a great option for your clinic BUT you need to be AWARE of what terms are being offered for the full package.
Some key points for you to consider when entertaining a combined package for lab services and imaging modalities:
- The Term: how long is it and in the fine print, are they able to extend it without you really knowing?
- Lab Test Pricing: are you paying more for lab tests because they are including an imaging modality in the package?
- Rebates: do you need to achieve certain dollar amount minimums in lab testing to get a Rebate to cover the lease payment for the equipment?
- Cash: are they giving you cash to buy what equipment you want because they do not provide it? If so, will you be responsible for income tax on this amount?
- Vouchers: what can they be used for and are they valued the same as cash?
The take-away is to fully understand how the package works and to analyze the pros and cons. Don’t forget about all the work you have invested in your journey to identify what is important to your clinic with a purchase of a new modality and then “settle” for something because it comes in the package.
Demand Explicit Proof of Everything
Like we talked about earlier in this article and this series, there is more to the purchase than just the equipment. Things like installation, training, education, support, and warranty are absolutely critical to the success of your purchase. As such it is vital that you see these words on your quote, with explicit details of each. There are a few places to look:
- System line-item description: sometimes you’ll see a “XYZ Ultrasound system with 1-day On-site Application Training” but beware of line-items that just say “XYZ Ultrasound with Training”.
- Dedicated line-item: sometimes you will see line-items dedicated to Extended Warranty or Training or Education; again make sure they are explicit with the length of term or details of what’s actually included.
- Special Instructions: there is often a place on a quote (usually on the signature page) where special notes can be written, sometimes to include things that aren’t on the line-item list; whatever is written here IS still legally binding, so make sure it is explicit.
- Dedicated pages within the Terms & Conditions (T&Cs): sometimes you will have standard T&Cs of the sale, then a separate summary of the T&Cs of your warranty or education packages; this is a good thing (in that the company is thorough) but still beware of the fine print to see what is/isn’t included.
Last little tidbit is about what the warranty/extended service contract includes: make sure to check what is excluded from the warranty (accessories, etc.) as well as if service, labor, off-hours phone support would cost you extra.
At this point of the Buyer’s Journey, you are in the driver’s seat. You’ve gathered all your information and put the salespeople’s feet to the fire with educated questions. Now it’s simply time to carefully review all of the materials and do some basic math. You should NOT be waiting very long for any follow-up materials from the people you allowed to demo; they should be waiting on you at this point. But remember, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. There is the cheap way to do things, and the right way to do things. Refer to the list of your needs (both budgetary and technical) and keep the focus on the long-term success of the equipment implementation and utilization.