By Lori Waltz
Director of Training
A little good-natured kidding comes up around the office about how much traveling I do. Of course, that’s only when I’m actually in the office and not on the road visiting clients throughout the nation. (Well…every state except for one.)
With the non-stop changes that are happening in healthcare, I love being shoulder-to-shoulder with clients, providers and staff, and keeping close to the day-to-day business of people helping people.
In the course of my travels, I’ve discovered one remarkable insight…an important characteristic that distinguishes the highly successful practices from others. That is: “Everyone in healthcare is in sales.” And that’s a good thing.
Yea, I know. “Sales” is a “four-letter-word” (five, actually), but the point is that most people in the healthcare delivery cycle are uncomfortable with the word, shun the concept, and even avoid the topic. But “sales” isn’t what it used to be.
Forget the “pin-your-ears-back” used car salesman of the past. In retail, the customer is king, and no less so in healthcare, with patient-centered care. In any given practice situation–and in addition to delivering skilled clinical care–doctors, medical staff, office staff are a team of contributors to success in outcomes, patient satisfaction, case acceptance, treatment compliance and winning patient and professional referrals.
Sales is a universal ingredient, and everyone needs to sharpen their sales and interpersonal communications skills. Ultimately it’s a win-win environment that benefits the patient and the business.
Here’s why everyone benefits when you take the higher road.
Each day, when you spend time “persuading, influencing, and convincing others,” as bestselling business author Daniel Pink points out, “you’re in sales.” Consider how often this happens in any medical practice…some examples in no particular order:
- Convincing a “phone shopper” prospective patient that this practice can help
- Converting an uncertain prospect to a committed appointment
- Demonstrating a medical regimen; how it works and how it helps the patient
- Discussing care, treatment or surgical options with patient, family, caregivers
- Encouraging patient follow-up visits or to make appointment with a referred professional
- Establishing and maintaining a professional referral relationship with other practices
- Explaining financial and affordability options
- Informing a patient about the nature, benefits or consequences of their health matter
- Introducing a service, product or procedure that satisfies a patient’s health need
- Proactive leadership in motivating colleagues, staff and patients
- Winning patient acceptance of lifestyle changes for healthier living
- Communicating the value of a short term and/or long term treatment plan
- Providing guidance about various care options
Of course the particulars differ among a primary care office, a specialist practice and/or a fee-for-service environment. Maybe you want to call it “non-sales selling,” but what virtually all practices have in common is that effective sales (by whatever word you prefer) is not quietly stifled as something negative.
It’s about informing and helping people with their healthcare decisions. An expression that we like is to say that sales is a “personal and purposeful service.” How front-and-center is “sales” in your business?
Successful practices grow their business when…
- The top-to-bottom office culture is focused on discovering, understanding and answering the needs of the individual; and
- The practice works, individually and collectively, to provide a path to the benefits the patients seek.
Better outcomes follow when patients understand, buy into and adhere to care instructions. Prospective patients benefit when it’s clear that your practice can provide an answer to their need as they have for others.
Developing a business-minded, success-oriented culture is a process that often requires hiring the right people and training and developing the skills of both doctors and staff. It’s the kind of help that I often provide to practices, so let me know if you’d like to talk about your needs.
Healthcare is the day-to-day business of people helping people. And, it is a business, and it’s sales…in the kindest sense of the word.
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