The Simple Secret of “Selling Softly.” For Doctors Who Hate to Sell

By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer

In a completely unscientific estimate, roughly nine out of 10 doctors would probably say they hate “selling” in healthcare.

At a minimum, it’s not what doctors are trained to do. And, more critically, they believe that sales is a sleazy, manipulative and difficult process intended to strong-arm people into paying for something they don’t need or want. (And as a bonus, the hapless buyer/victim will be filled with regret, if not outright anger.)

Older female patient sitting in office with male doctor having a discussion, both smiling

It’s a common perception, and the degree of distain varies by individual. For that matter, we know many doctors who are skilled at “selling,” although that’s not how the best of them think about the process.

The difference is largely a matter of your mindset and attitude. In fact, one of the best and most successful sales people I know—a professional colleague in healthcare marketing and advertising—doesn’t like selling either.

Her secret? She simply looks for opportunities that people are open to that matchup with services she can provide. There’s no pressure. She’s trained herself to identify an individual’s needs and introduces an answer that fills the need.

There’s far more mutual satisfaction in finding people who are looking for products or services—and delivering a solution—than in convincing someone to “buy something” that they didn’t want. It’s simple enough; and in many respects, it’s a fairly obvious concept. Selling is helping.

And doctors have a head start advantage…

Doctors are in the business of helping people. Dozens of individuals with problems present themselves each day to physicians and surgeons. This parade of patients is anxiously seeking, and totally open to, an answer to their need. Focus on identifying their essential and human needs. (Hint: They’re not there to buy a procedure or device. That’s process, not benefit.)

“Sales” is not a matter of getting patients to “buy,” but rather it is presenting a product or service that delivers what they want. And ultimately, the one and only reason that people buy healthcare is they want a solution. People “shop” for some greater wellbeing for themselves.

They may need your guidance and direction. You may have to interpret how a medical procedure or medication will provide benefits. But what the patient is buying is happiness, and you are showing them the means.

Let go of your mental image of a used car salesman’s hardcore hustle—and pushing what he wants to sell. Discover opportunities to present solutions.

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Stewart Gandolf, MBA

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.

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