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Embracing Your Inner Salesperson: Why Selling is Intensely Human in Healthcare

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Doctor HeartSome of the best salespeople we know are also dedicated and successful healthcare professionals.

On the surface, it seems like an unlikely combination of skills. After all, physicians and surgeons think of themselves as helping others and providing a service…certainly not “selling” something.

It’s largely a matter of mindset: An essential principle of sales, according to author Daniel Pink, is “personal and purposeful service.”

In our experience, healthcare delivery and “selling” are kindred souls, not adversaries. Independent of clinical proficiency and experience, sales skills—for doctors and staff members—are major contributors to success in patient satisfaction, case acceptance, treatment compliance and winning patient and professional referrals.

But mental barriers to accepting this affinity concept include the fact that many practitioners actively resist “appearing to be needy or greedy,” or out of a hyper-concern for what their professional peers might think. The task of “asking for the sale” is often delegated to someone (anyone) else in the office.

Like it or not, we’re all in sales.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has it that one in nine Americans works in sales. “But when you dig deeper,” Dan Pink reminds us, “a startling truth emerges. Yes, one in nine Americans works in sales. But so do the other eight. Whether we’re employees pitching colleagues on a new idea, entrepreneurs enticing funders to invest, or parents and teachers cajoling children to study, we spend our days trying to move others.”

The same is true within the walls of every medical practice. Doctors, administrators, nurses, technicians and staff continuously interact with patients, working to compassionately understand their needs, empathize, communicate, educate and to provide an acceptable (and agreeable) solution.

Much of this process, to use Mr. Pink’s term, is “non-sales selling.” But “we devote upward of 40 percent of our time on the job to moving others.” Daniel Pink’s book, To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, is about shifting your perspective from sales-as-a-necessary-evil, to using it as a means to make the world a better place.

That’s a lofty goal perhaps, but healthcare providers can relate to it readily. His perspective is that in sales, “honesty, fairness and transparency are often the only viable path.”

For further reading on this topic, see our previous post: Learning to Love Sales From the Caring Side of Medical Practice Marketing, and Everyone Is Selling Something: The Easy, 4-Step Sales Course for Doctors.

Lonnie Hirsch

Daniel H. Pink is a respected business thinker and widely read author who takes a fresh look at the art and science of selling. We have no business connection with Mr. Pink or his books, but we appreciate their value and application in healthcare marketing.

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