wild and crazyYou can’t sell enough $100 products in a year to replace one patient lost in a day

Here’s a brief, but absolutely real-life, patient-experience story. The venue is the office of a general dentist, but the “how-not-to-do-something” message applies to many other provider settings. Picture yourself as the patient and you’ll have no trouble reading between the lines.

Our hero—or should we say “victim”—is a marketing and sales person with a high dental-IQ. The occasion was a routine visit for a routine cleaning. The story of the visit was anything but routine:

Within the first minute I sensed something unusual. A departing patient had a [brand name dental appliance] under his arm. Another was paying for the same [brand item] at the check-out desk.

To their credit, there’s never any waiting at this office, but in the 15-steps between the reception desk and operatory, I overheard the [brand name] in conversation…twice. The [brand name] seemed to be in the air. It was [brand name] day! There’s a counter card and a poster on the wall immediately in front of the dental chair.

I was relieved that the hygienist was not wearing a big “ask me about…” lapel button. Unfortunately, the conversation moved from casual/friendly with “good-flossing-tips” to a recital of the features and benefits of…you guessed it… [brand/product]. What a surprise.

Hey, I admire good sales work. This was a good pitch for the floor of a trade show maybe, but way overdone for the dentist’s office. Plus-I’m a captive audience, with tools, suction and who-knows-what in my mouth-it’s impossible to change the channel. I’m stuck.

Eventually-about 30-minutes later-I was asked if I wanted to buy the $100 [brand product]. I politely declined. My arm and my ear had been twisted. This is a good dentist, and the hygiene care is good. I’d hate to find another dentist, but at this point, I’m reluctant to go back in that chair soon.

We don’t know how or why things got to be up-side-down, but there’s more to be lost than gained in this situation. It’s far more common for us to work with groups, hospitals or organizations that are entirely too low key about “selling” in the office. Please don’t think of this anecdote as an excuse to avoid selling–there are really good ways to do it right.

Lessons to Be Learned and Doing What’s Right Instead

  1. The patient experience is everything. No matter what your profession, the patient knows you by the experience that was delivered. Not the diagnosis, not the treatment, not the products as much as the experience itself that delivered the diagnosis, treatment or whatever. The patient experience is the delivery point for thebusiness, your branding and your success. Hold focus.
  2. You cannot sell enough $100 products to make up for 1 lost patient. Who knows why the office in this story got carried away? Maybe the product manufacturer offered an incentive-filled, commission-packed special and the rep inspired the staff to a sell-a-thon frenzy. Do the math: It takes a ton of $100 products to replace a single lost patient.
  3. Presenting solutions to a patient’s needs works. Selling from YOUR need does not work. Helping patients get the benefits THEY need is professionally satisfying and rewarding. When you concentrate on achieving the patient’s goals, it will be a win-win arrangement.
  4. Avoid “too little” and “too much.” Moderation works just fine. The challenge is in knowing what’s “just right,” and not crossing the line. How do you know? First, have a specific plan for you and your staff. Know what and how information is to be presented. Rehearse and role-play. Hire your cousin-in-law as a “secret-shopper” if you need. Better yet, get feedback directly from patients. Ask questions. Encourage service and satisfaction surveys. The praise and “good stuff” is nice, but finding and fixing a problem is far more rewarding.
  5. Raising patient awareness about your own services inspires referrals. It’s called cross-selling your own services–it’s low key and highly effective. Consider item #1 above. You’re only as good as the patient’s memory of his or her last visit. And generally, the ONLY thing they know about your healthcare business is what you have done for them.

So, let your patient base know about what other service or care you provide and the benefits that it can offer someone they love. Education and awareness about the range and depth of your practice helps the patients see the big picture of your capabilities. If you help them refer to you, they’ll be doing a favor for someone else and helping your practice as well.

No matter what your professional calling or the nature of the patient’s need…the key ingredient that brings you together is trust. An environment of trust is a primary service goal for the practice, and it’s an excellent barometer of how, what and when to talk with patients about products and services.

We would be pleased to talk with you directly and confidentially about your profession, specialty or hospital situation.

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Stewart Gandolf

Stewart Gandolf

Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder at Healthcare Success Strategies
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is CEO of Healthcare Success, a medical marketing and health care advertising agency. He is also a frequent writer and speaker. Most importantly, he is happily married and a "rock-n-roll daddy" to two wonderful girls.
Stewart Gandolf
Stewart Gandolf


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