Selling Done Well, Should Be a Doctor-Patient Relationship

by | Mar 28, 2018 | Sales Techniques

Now, you will probably be asking:

  • What does a doctor- patient relationship mean in the sales world?
  • Can profit emerge from such a relationship?
  • How should we position ourselves to achieve a doctor-patient relationship with our clients?

OK, for a start, what do I mean by a “doctor-patient” relationship?

Just imagine walking into the office of your favorite family doctor to greet them.

Now, it’s certainly not hard to imagine that the relationship we have with our doctor is primarily that of trust: we trust our doctor to be able to have a balanced conversation with us, to ask the right questions, to care for our well-being, to have immense knowledge that inspires our confidence in the solutions they suggest and, ultimately, to be able to help us get healthier again.

And that should also be the gold standard in sales: being able to build a foundation of trust and to recreate the relationship above with every one of our clients. As for how we can achieve this, below are 6 ways we can go about creating the ideal doctor-patient relationship and reap its benefits.

6 Ways To Create This Relationship

1. Be able to have a balanced conversation with clients

This happens when you walk into a sales meeting and don’t try to talk up or talk down to your client. Often, as sales representatives, we bring our own agenda to our client meetings i.e. we want to sell our product. In many cases, the client clearly knows we’re meeting them for our own benefit, and often we can end up in a deferential relationship towards our clients.

But how do we not end up there? Well, first let me ask you: how many of you calculate how much you can earn before you walk into a prospective sales meeting? How many walk in there with the primary goal of closing or hitting your sales target? However, this means you are just thinking of yourself, of how you can make it work, and unfortunately the clients can tell that.
Instead, we should be stepping into each prospective client meeting with an open mind and a focus on genuinely helping them do what they need to do, better.

From the first conversation, give them the space to really tell you what they need and talk about how you can help instead of simply focusing on selling your product. To really boost their trust in you, you must also be confident enough to let them know, as any good doctor would, when you feel that you are unable to help them. This is a doctor- patient relationship at its best. You are not trying to get the client to do anything that they do not need to do, in order to help them get better at what they do.

READ MORE: Selling Without Sacrifice: 6 Ways to an Ethical Sales Process

2. Be able to ask the right questions and identify the real problem

A doctor has 7 to 12 mins to get to the bottom of your problem. This means he has to know exactly what to ask and how to ask it in order to get the relevant information quickly, and to efficiently identify the root problem. This takes great skill and effort. It’s like being a detective that’s trying to make the culprit feel comfortable enough to open up to you with just a few initial questions.

Furthermore, a doctor doesn’t make any assumptions when the patient walks in. He also knows how to listen actively and he’s equally a master of drilling down multiple layers for each topic or issue mentioned throughout the consultation.

This sounds deceptively easy and most people think they can and believe they are actually doing that with their clients. However, I can assure you that you’ll seldom find anyone that can do this well. In fact, 9 times out of 10, among the numerous role plays I’ve done with salespeople, many ask questions but do not listen, and respond to answers with another what? why? where? etc. Then, once they manage to remember the answers to these basic questions, many simply stop there.

However, the key is our 3 by 3 rule – drill down 3 layers each for 3 different topics about the past, present and future.
For example, what have you done in the past with regards to building your factories? Listen to their 1st response, ask another question about it, listen to the 2nd response, and ask a 3rd question about it. Same drill goes for asking about the present situation e.g. So I am curious about what you are doing nowadays from an IT point of view etc….and finally, third’s the charm. Drilling down on the third topic about the future is always what opens the door e.g. So what are your plans going forward? Etc.

3. Care

Don’t just tell me you care, show me! Show me that you’ve delivered. Show me your happy clients, your servicing model, the articles you’ve shared, the number of times you’ve genuinely asked your clients about how they are.
Show me that they are happy with you, and the number of times you honestly told your prospects that you cannot help them. Show me how you helped your clients for nothing in return. Show me that it’s not just empty words coming out of your mouth.
Tell me the stories of how you showed genuine care and concern and what came of that. That’s when I will believe you really care. Show me your bedside manners. Trust me, this is a game changer.

4. Have immense knowledge

There are two ways to look at this. One way is, you need to know your stuff; you need to be constantly learning; and you need to have the confidence to know when you do know and know when you don’t know.
Another way to see this is to be able to know exactly when you cannot help and when to actually bring another expert in. Admit that you don’t know or can’t help, then take the initiative to bring the client to the right person. They will love and trust you for this.

Let me tell you an example that illustrates this perfectly. I once had a lump on my face and thought it was cancer, which a GP friend of mine said was likely. I went to a formal appointment with another GP and was told it was nothing. My GP friend, who is actually my father-in-law, then said “No, check with a proper specialist. I am not secure in the knowledge that my colleague is right”. I went and sadly he was right, it was a “Basal Cell Carcinoma”. Now, this is not a serious condition and can be dealt with easily, but if left alone, it could have developed into a bigger problem.

Now can you imagine how differently I view my formal GP and my father-in-law in terms of their individual stead as doctors? I don’t think I need to say anything anymore.

5. Instill confidence in the solutions suggested

I am not talking about fake-till-you-make-it pretend-confidence. I am not talking about bragging your way through sales. I am talking about being able to exude and inspire confidence in your own expertise and solutions by being acutely aware about what you know and what you don’t know and being honest about both.
To do so, you have to be learning constantly, and to be able to blog and write articles about what you do. If you can’t, why not try it out? After all, when was the last time you read anything new, wrote about something you discovered, watched an expert video or went on a course? Constant learning is the key to this. Add on a solid dose of honesty and humility towards your clients and you will be well on your way.

6. Be able to help clients get ‘healthier’ and get better at what they do

Does your product do what you say? Does it really work? Will it provide meaningful help to the client? Do you know how to help the client do what they need to do at least 25% more effectively than before they met you?

If the answer to all those questions is ‘Yes!’, then great, please continue to navigate the journey forward with your clients.
If not, tell them the truth. Don’t lie. Don’t brag. Don’t just sell to make money off their backs without helping clients get better at what they need to do.

This simple philosophy will change everything. When you honestly say you cannot help your prospective clients, the level of trust they place in you will change profoundly. Often, the net result is that they try to find another way to do business with you or introduce you to someone else who might actually need your help. In following this process, you and all your clients will benefit from a beautiful and trusted relationship.

In summary, the goal is to

  • Walk in and out of your meetings with a focus on developing trust; on helping your clients do what they do better; on being able to ask the right questions and being able to suggest honest, meaningful solutions.
  • Work at building this ideal doctor-patient relationship, and to continue improving yourself by constantly learning and listening effectively.

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About the author

Fraser Morrison

As the CEO and co-founder of 1000Steps, I apply my 33+ years of sales experience to help professionals excel. Specializing in sales process optimization, I'm committed to driving client success and achieving outstanding outcomes.