Doctors are salespeople. There, I said it. Now, let me explain myself. If you own your practice, you do so for profit. This is not a bad thing, nor does it take away from the fact that most doctors do want to help people.

For decades, the word “sales” was taboo in the medical community, and “advertising” was what many in the community thought less reputable doctors did due to a dearth of referrals.

But times have changed, particularly in the cosmetic surgery arena. Things like web development, patient advisors (or salespeople), public relations, marketing, sales, closing, and all the “forbidden fruit” have gone from taboo to indispensable, and from avoided to inevitable. In 2012 and beyond, doctors who learn to sell best will sell most.

So how can you sell better? Start by incorporating these three expert-approved, tried-and-true tips into your standard consultation process.

1) BUILD RAPPORT PROPERLY

Patients do not purchase surgery just because they like you. They will, however, choose not to purchase surgery just because they don’t like you. One of many studies conducted on this subject nationally, by the Pennsylvania Medical Society Liability Insurance Co and the Physician Insurers Association of America, found that over a 6-year period, “Failure to communicate during the initial interview or in the evaluation of patients was the No. 1 reason why Pennsylvania physicians were sued for malpractice.” Indeed, rapport and connection matters for legal reasons, but for much more than that as well.

Patients do not wish to select a doctor who has no other patients, but they also don’t wish to be rushed, either. Sound like a catch-22? It isn’t. Spending about 3 to 6 minutes building rapport by talking about the patient’s life (spouse, travel, hobbies, work, people known in common, etc) is the appropriate time to build a warm relationship.

2) KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF

Before approaching the patient, take a few minutes to learn about their aesthetic goals. Ask open-ended questions like, “What are you hoping I can do for you?” and “What do you like about your nose, and what do you wish I could change?” Once you have gathered the information, ask if he or she has any other concerns.

Next, explain what you are about to do—this is called “patient insulation.” Explaining what you do, then doing it, and then explaining what you did, creates comfort. Patients often think a simple inspection of their body part may be painful, and they are nervous. Take a moment to say, “Let me review your goals to ensure I understand you completely.” Once you two are in agreement, say, “With your permission, the next step is for me to take a look at you up close and tell you what is possible.”

3) BE DIRECTIVE

You have now built a relationship, understood the patient’s concerns, and made the patient comfortable with medical examination. You have also clearly outlined your recommendations. At this stage, be “directive” with your recommendation. Top doctors know that it is their medical duty to explain multiple options if there are several available. It is still important to direct the patient to the option you feel is superlative. They want an opinion and direction. Choices can be confusing. Begin by saying, “The option is clear. I would strongly recommend XYZ, based on your goals …” or “I do see three options. All are good. I will outline each of them for you, but if you were my relative, I’d pick option 2 …”

As the consultation draws to an end, ask your patient if they have any remaining unanswered questions. Let them know that you and your staff are available to answer any questions they may have at any time. Also wrap up by saying something like, “I know your patient advisor will get you pricing and other details, and take good care of you. The schedule is quite full, but I know he can work something out for you, assuming you’d like me to perform your procedure.”

You will notice none of these three sales tips includes mentioning price, asking the patient to schedule their surgery, or even discussing dates. Leave that to the patient advisor, and focus your efforts on selling yourself and your expertise.


Jon Hoffenberg is the executive vice president of YellowTelescope Medical, which provides training, staffing, and practice management for practices, hospitals, and businesses throughout the country. Learn more at www.yellowtelescope.com He can be reached via [email protected]