A Classic – ’63 Corvette
Do docs have time to see you? Unfortunately “No” is often the answer. This lament is familiar from patients – and we’re certainly hearing it from sales people selling in the medical space.
The problem is greater today than in the past. Medical specialists often combat falling fees by doing more procedures; primary-care doctors get paid by the office visit, so all they could do is cram more appointments into a day and increase their panel size—the number of patients in their practices. It’s no wonder sales people often hear from docs, “I’m too busy to talk right now.”
The concern about time is expressed in various ways. When observing calls, we hear docs say – “Respect my time” and “Drop off the literature and samples at the desk” and “I don’t want to go off schedule, that’s why we do lunch and learns” along with a host of similar comments. Underpinning all of them is the central concern – time.
So what do you do? Cornering a doc and spewing a quick pitch of products features and benefits – a strategy still promoted in some quarters – rarely will work. Under those conditions, physicians really don’t listen – they are thinking: How long will this take and how can I cut this conversation short? In other words, you’ve lost the doc’s attention and probably have lowered your chances of a second conversation.
But what if sales reps took a different tact and instead of immediately jumping into a product pitch, they asked right up front for a minute of the physician’s time to share a message about a topic they knew the doc had an interest? From the doc’s point of view, it’s a quick message and will only take a minute – so it’s manageable. Most importantly the minute will be devoted to a challenge of interest to the doc rather than a product pitch.
The key to this approach is the sales rep is not only being mindful of the physician’s time, there’s a second piece to the story – having something of value to share with the doc. Docs are overwhelmed so it’s nearly impossible for a physician to keep current on everything relevant to their practice and patients. Providing useful, relevant information not only is the best way to gain physician attention, it also earns the sales person credibility and sometimes the right for a longer conversation. Will this alternative always work – no, but it’s always a better bet if you start with the customer versus your products – today in the medical world this differences is particularly tellingly.
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