nurse speaking to patient

5 reasons physicians need sales training

Many doctors think sales and medicine don’t have much to do with each other. If you are in an insurance based specialty, you are even less inclined to understand how sales psychology can easily be implemented to grow your practice. A lot of times sales gets a bad rap as something evil that is done to you. We believe sales when done in a non-pushy or pressure way, is the best way for a consumer to make an educated decision. There are the obvious sales practices in medicine such as upselling or carrying product lines in your office. I am referring to the process you have in place for normal patient interaction. Below are 5 sales principles that can truly grow your bottom line without upselling anything.

  1. All Doctors have competitors

Every patient has a choice of which doctor to see. Whether you are located in a big city like New York or a tiny town like Dahlonega, Georgia, where you are the only office for 100 miles, patients will go far and wide to find “the best”. You have to sell yourself, your staff, and your offices. Patients want to feel like they are taken care of and that they are in great hands. If you do not do a good job of selling yourself and your practice as the best choice, patients will go elsewhere. Part of that means selling your experience and education. Part of it means creating a comfortable office space. And part of it means training your staff selling you and your abilities in a non-pushy or pressure way, building you up to God-like status.

  1. cartoon of paymentMedicine costs money, even with insurance based specialties as the patient is almost always paying something out of pocket.

Nowadays even procedures paid for by insurance will leave the patient with a portion of the bill. With many people still feeling the pain of the economic downturn, people are choosing which prescriptions they absolutely need to fill. Even if you view a procedure or prescriptions as necessary, the patient may not. It is your job to build the value of the necessary treatment. If the patient doesn’t see the value of a 20% co-pay on a balloon sinuplasty, he/she will simply not have the procedure done. In today’s managed care climate, patients are extremely skeptical of any procedure as they will likely be responsible for a significant portion out of pocket. They need to understand why the money is worth it. Don’t scare the patient, but inform them, hear their fears, ask them questions and actually listen to the answers. There are many ways to accomplish this. One option is training your staff to speak with each patient before coming into the office for their initial appointment. A half hour call upfront could save the doctor a wasted hour from a consult that has no intention of moving forward, as well as set expectations for the interested patient of what the procedure will cost and recovery time. Training your staff to sell the value of treatment and in many cases prepare the patient before they walk in the door, you will be funneling in appropriate and prepared patients.

  1. If the patient leaves your practice without booking you probably won’t see them again. attract,retain,convert

There is an old adage in sales that once a potential client is out the door the sale is gone. For non-salespeople it is hard to wrap one’s brain around the fact that the incredibly sweet and seemingly interested woman who just wants to check with her husband before booking her surgery will likely never call back to book. The national average for patients to book a procedure the day of the consult is about 15-20%. With YellowTelescope our offices boast between a 60-80%+ conversion rate in-office before the patient leaves the office. There are many reasons for this, our proprietary training being a big part of it. But also, think about your own follow-up habits. If you leave your own physical appointment without making a follow-up to draw labs, what is the likelihood you will go back another day to have your blood drawn? I know for myself it is not only unlikely, it won’t happen. As soon as I leave the office my phone is ringing, my emails start dinging, and life takes over.  But if I make my appointment for the lab before I leave the office, the time is already in my calendar and unless I have a conflict I am not going to cancel. And even if I do have to cancel I will likely reschedule because psychologically I have made a commitment. Of course there will be the one off person who calls back to book a procedure or follow-up appointment, but we are talking about a slim minority and to grow your practice you need to focus on grabbing the majority.

  1. Good salespeople ask and listen – find out your patients needs and concerns.

Much of sales training is learning how to understand obstacles and then figuring out how to overcome them. Asking the patient “What brings you here today?” is a start but not nearly enough to understand how to best service that patient and his/her needs. As a doctor, you likely are running from room to room without a second to think. Rest assured I am not suggesting turning your consults into three hour gab fests. Have a patient coordinator or train your staff to do a complete intake asking and listening so they can share the information with the doctor prior to them even meeting the patient in the exam room. If you don’t ask you will never know how many other doctors they have seen for this issue, why they haven’t done anything about it until now, if they have the money to do anything about their issue, etc.

  1. “A confused mind says ‘no’”

You may think that providing your patient with 4 different treatment options is empowering them, but in fact it is simply confusing them. You as the expert understand what the patient really needs. The doctor needs to communicate an opinion so patients understand what needs to be done. For instance, you can tell your patient with psoriasis that they can use topicals to treat plaques, try blue light therapy, or start an immunomodulator. They will be confused about the best course of action and may be frozen in their decision never moving forward with anything. Whereas if you approach the treatment with some sales psychology the decision becomes easier. For instance, “You have the option of either starting with some topicals, using blue light therapy, or using a course of immunomodulators, but if you were my sister, I would tell you blue light is the best thing your type and severity of psoriasis.” All of a sudden, the patient feels taken care of and is guided to the right choice for them. You are still informing them of their options but at the same time taking away much of the confusion of having so many options.


As you can see “selling” the patient is more about understanding their needs and communicating why and how your practice is going to make their life better. To find out more tips on how to grow your practice visit