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  • Writer's pictureSieske Valk

Reimagining the Sales Process: Why I said goodbye to the Cone of Shame in my veterinary business

A Dalmatian dog wearing a post-surgery cone, sat on the pavement in an urban environment.
Cone of shame - photo credits by Mike Kilcoyne on Unsplash

Last year, whilst working hard to grow the Autumn Animals brand I read a hilarious book written by a social media influencer who was going to be able to help you make a six-figure income within a year. Taking these proclamations with a pinch of salt, I shrugged and paid for the postage fee to receive the free book. Although lots of what he wrote was boring and “basic marketing”, I had always winced at the idea of marketing, so this was a whole new field of interest for me.


The cone of shame of every non-marketeer: the sales funnel

My biggest takeaway was the power of the sales funnel. Until then, I had never realised I was an almost daily subscriber to this marketing gem. I never really understood the use for collecting data and was happy to sign up for a 10 per cent discount if it “only” meant giving a company my email address.


So, not wanting to be left behind, I created a sales funnel. But me being me, the aim was not to sell a product or service but to inform the recipient on how they could improve their pet’s welfare and their own.


I quickly ditched the funnel as quick as a recently neutered non-tom-cat would ditch their cone of shame. The Autumn Animals way just doesn’t compute with this trick and I have yet to find out what use I have for someone’s email address, especially after their pet has passed away. But that doesn’t mean the information should not be used.

So, here are some snippets of the good stuff, for free! No data entry required.

“Unfortunately, most primary veterinarians do not have the time to take you through this often difficult stage in life, so that’s why I’m here for you.

Here you’ll find a link to a DIY Quality of Life assessment for your pet. It’s as easy as 1,2,3…Literally! Because all you have to do is rate parts of their life on a scale of 1 to 10; 1 being ‘It can’t get any worse!’ and 10 being ‘Who is this sprightly young thing!?’

The first time you do this assessment, we’ll call it the baseline. If your relationship with your primary vet is peachy, I’d recommend sharing it with them. If it’s not, just keep it on file for yourself, or better yet, share it with me.

I’d recommend doing a quality-of-life assessment on a regular basis so that you can see whether anything changes over time or whether one aspect of your pet’s life is getting so bad, that it drags all the other scores down too. This way, you create your own “file of wisdom” for their health situation and can take action when that’s needed - before they crash and end up at emergency care. Your furry friend wins, you win and your vet wins.

So, without further ado, click on the link for the DIY Quality of life assessment and get this show on the road!


I’m 100% sure you’ll be able to do this. Maybe tonight, sit down for dinner, either with your family or partner or on your own, and take the time to discuss and answer these questions in all honesty. Neither you nor your pet are helped if you’re grading their quality of life higher than it actually is.

If you do get stuck, just give me a shout by replying to this email and I’ll help you through it. Or you can book a FREE chat with me here.”

A sales funnel isn’t a funnel if it stays with one email. So, here are some snippets of the next one: 

“Did you take some time to do the quality-of-life assessment for your furry friend? How did it make you feel?

I can imagine it might have been eye-opening, surprising, and difficult all at the same time…

I often get asked: “How do you know when it’s time?” for a very old or sick animal.

I’m sure you have wondered that once before for your pet or another animal. It’s thé most difficult question vets and vet nurses get asked and one that we haven’t been trained properly to answer, so we mumble something about “Well, if it was my pet…”

The answer is of course very complex. Like human medicine, veterinary medicine has come a long way, and we can do a lot to keep our beloved friends comfortable for a long time. So, unless your pet is very ill and they are suffering because pain relief doesn’t cut it anymore or your bank account has been depleted, there is often no ‘one moment’ where you can say “The time has come to say goodbye”.

What also happens is that your reference of what is normal changes over time. Maybe currently your pet has one accident per month in their sleep, no biggie. You clean it up with all the love in the world. It’s not like it happens every night, right? 

Flash forward to it happening three times per week and you exhaust yourself because you wake up in the middle of the night to let them do a quick pee outside and clean up the accident that did happen. But you love them to bits so it’s just a small thing to do!

Until a few months later you’ll find them sleeping in their accidents on an almost daily basis and you don’t remember at which point it got this bad. 

This is why I’d love for you to sit down again with that quality-of-life assessment tonight and start thinking about each score and what your “line in the sand” for them is. When would you say enough is enough, for both you and your pet? 

I know this is very difficult to do, but it will be helpful to you in the future. Future You will thank Past You for having the clarity back then to prepare!

So, sit down and take a deep breath….


Look at the quality-of-life assessment again and start to think about what your line in the sand is for each score. Let’s say your pet scored a 7 on 'Moving with Ease'; they’re having issues getting up, but once they’re moving it’s all good. At what grade would you say: They are just not enjoying life anymore because they can’t get to the kitchen anymore to get their favourite snack… Would that be at 2 or perhaps 5?

Also, ask friends and family for their input. They can often give insights about your pet’s life and what they love the most that might be surprising to you. I find it’s always very helpful to get other people who love them involved in this process.

You can do this, I’m sure about it! As always, if you do get stuck, just give me a shout and I’ll help you get through it. 

Looking forward to hearing how you got on!”

And another one… 

“That was a tough one, wasn’t it? Looking ahead to the time when you actively have to say goodbye to your best friend...

When I do this for my cat, Lewis, it still gets me.

Every. Single. Time.

Before I continue with some useful tips to improve your pet’s quality of life that won’t cost the earth, I’d like to stop and honour you.

Yes, you!

That amazing creature who has taken and is continuing to take such good care of their pet. They know it, they feel it, all that love and hard work you’re giving them. But it’s hard and from experience, I can tell it can feel quite overwhelming at times.

That’s why I’m going to teach you a little trick I use myself when things just get a bit too much. It’s a simple breathing exercise that centres your mind and calms down your nervous system. It also helps you to focus on what is right in front of you. That beautiful animal, that is still present in your life.

We humans tend to not live in this moment. We obsess about what happened before and dream of what may come. But we can learn a thing or two from our furry housemates! So, let’s take a breath together, and start focussing on being here, now. Click on the link to start your self-care journey now.”

A few more emails followed this one, giving free advice on how to make environmental adjustments for ageing pets and how impactful proper pain management can be.

A lot of information about this can be found for free on our socials and Medium pages as well, but I have found that most information is best shared in person during a 1-on-1 conversation. I offer a free exploratory call with people who need support caring for their ageing or chronically ill pet and I tend to give a lot of advice during these chats for free. It’s not making me a living, but I am living my truth, which is that this kind of knowledge should be freely available. So, instead of only sharing it with the few people who can afford consulting fees, I am sharing it with everybody who knows how to use Google or access podcasts. I have accepted I will not make a six-figure income in one year, now or in the future*.



*If you are a marketeer reading this and thinking you can make a quick buck by emailing me to offer consultancy on the matter; there are no bucks to be made here. Your advice is welcome if it is in line with the Autumn Animals values.

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