When you became a medical provider, you likely did not envision yourself acting as a salesperson. But owners and managers of medical aesthetic practices must become comfortable with selling themselves, their providers and their products if they want to keep their doors open.
The good news is sales and patient care are not in-congruous. Every time you educate a patient about the services and products you offer, you are not only helping them achieve their aesthetic goals, you are also selling.
If you would like to attract more patients, increase your conversion rates or build your retail business, understanding the sales cycle can help improve your comfort level with selling and assist you in developing protocols that support practice revenue. The sales cycle consists of five steps:
- Establish a Relationship
- Identify the Need
- Form a Solution
- Close the Sale
- Follow-Up and Retention
Step 1: Establish a Relationship
The first step—sometimes referred to as Prospecting or Who Should I Sell To?—involves identifying your target consumer base and reaching out to them to develop a connection. Consider the procedures you offer and the type of patients you would like to serve. Then investigate advertising and marketing avenues that will help you reach that consumer base. As prospective patients reach out to your practice, establish a connection using relationship selling. Relationship selling refers to the rapport one develops during interactions between the buyer (the patient) and the salesperson (the patient coordinator or physician) rather than the price or details of the product.
A positive relationship increases consumer loyalty and sales because people want to do business with people they like. Therefore, it is integral to invest the time and energy necessary to create a positive patient experience at each interaction. This includes: smiling and greeting patients by name as soon as they enter your practice; making eye contact with them during consultations; creating a relaxed, friendly environment; and ensuring patients feel like you and your staff are happy to see them by treating each patient as a valued acquaintance, not a number or potential procedure.
In order to develop rapport and trust with your patients, listen carefully to them during consultations. This will help you identify their needs, i.e., why they came to your practice as well as their concerns. Make sure you understand the outcomes they are seeking and why these outcomes are important to them. Observe whether the patient seems engaged in the consult—if not, ask questions to determine why not. For example, are you using terms they don’t understand? Are they worried about cost? Are they afraid of the procedure?
Step 2: Identify the Need
Knowledge of the patient’s goals, concerns and lifestyle will help you determine the best treatment options and manage expectations. So listen carefully, then educate the patient on how you can help them achieve their desired objectives. Always remember that patients come to your practice because they believe you can offer solutions to their problems. They want to buy from you; they have a need.
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Step 3: Form a Solution
If you have the tools and expertise to address the patient’s concerns, provide your treatment recommendation and explain why you are the right provider. This may include describing how the procedure works, disclosing how many of these procedures you have performed, sharing before and after images and testimonials from previous patients, and discussing likely outcomes.
Step 4: Close the Sale
The manner in which you present solutions can impact your closing success rate. Utilize a choice-making strategy by offering two or three treatment options based on budget, downtime and number of sessions required. Providing your patients with choices lets them know that you understand their monetary and lifestyle concerns, which motivates them to emotionally engage and increases the probability of a booking. In comparison, offering a single option forces a yes/no decision and only gives you a 50% chance of a successful sale.
You also need to identify and remove potential obstacles during the consultation. Common issues include fear of the procedure or adverse events, cost, downtime or pain. Be prepared to address these concerns as they arise.
The single biggest mistake practitioners make is neglecting to ask the patients to “buy” or agree to the recommended solution. This can be as simple as saying: “We can schedule you for Procedure X either next Thursday or the following Tuesday; which fits better with your schedule?” If the patient raises objections or concerns, be prepared to address them. Once their concerns have been discussed, close the sale by asking for a schedule commitment once again. If the patient again stops you or tells you no, respect their decision and discuss scheduling a follow-up communication.
Step 5: Follow-Up and Retention
Patient follow-up helps cement the relationship by paving the way to future interactions. Information gathered during follow-ups can also provide valuable feedback, which helps you fine-tune practice protocols. Failing to execute this simple yet vital step can siphon thousands of dollars per patient per month from the practice’s bottom line. Patients want to feel valued, and they appreciate it when a provider cares enough to have someone follow up with them.
As the consult is concluding, ask the patient their preferred method of communication—email, phone or text message—verify the contact information, and set a time and date to follow up. Provide the patient with the name and contact number of the staff member who will reach out to them. Even if the patient chooses not to move forward with the procedure, contact them to reconnect.
Follow-up can be simple: a post-treatment phone call or a thank you postcard following merchandise purchases. Beyond thanking patients for their business, these post-appointment calls provide you an opportunity to view the practice through your patients’ eyes, so do inquire about each patient’s experience and ask for suggestions on how you can improve care. Develop a phone script and train staff to ensure this critical information is gathered.
Understanding the five-step sales cycle can help improve sales and revenue; it is also a valuable guide to ensuring that you are offering top-notch patient care. Each step provides an opportunity to review your practice expenditures, protocols and training programs so you target the right patients for your skills and provide the best possible outcomes, all while strengthening your bottom line.
Cheryl Whitman is the CEO of aesthetic business consulting firm Beautiful Forever and author of Beautifully Profitable/Forever Profitable. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo copyright Getty Images.