Don’t Tell Doctors and Other Healthcare Experts What They Should Know or Should Do

It amazes me when I’m with salespeople who try to tell a doctor or other healthcare expert what he should know or should do. It’s intuitive for salespeople to do this, but they need to realize that too often, they’re just pissing off the customer. Let’s put this in perspective so you understand the dynamic that’s present.

You have a doctor or other healthcare professional. This person has gone through years of education and training. In the case of a physician, this is 12 or more years. Then there are the years of experience just practicing medicine. This person is “an expert” and perceives himself or herself as “an expert.”

Consider now, how this healthcare professional perceives a sales representative who is providing “advice.” Firstly, they see the salesperson as someone who benefits only when a sale is made. Therefore, they often believe that a salesperson will do or say anything to make a sale. Yes, the term “conflict of interest” comes to mind.

Even more glaring though, is the expertise gap. Doctors know that medical reps have not gone through 12 or more years of training to learn how to sell their products. The perception is that they went to company training for a few weeks, were handed a presentation binder or an iPad, and were given a script to present. In a healthcare provider’s mind, sales representatives might be experts on their products, but that’s about it. In other words, sales reps have neither the education, training, nor experience to tell an “expert” what they should be doing.

So, don’t! Healthcare experts doubt much of what salespeople tell them. However, those same healthcare experts believe everything that they say themselves. So stop telling doctors what you want them to know. Instead, ask questions, where their answers reveal what you want them to know.  You can also share case studies and stories about their colleagues that impart information. The key thing is that the information isn’t perceived as your opinion. You might be a nice person. You might be well-trained. But in the eyes of the experts, you’re not one of them—you’re not qualified to tell them what to do.

Good selling is about helping customers to recognize your product or service as a solution. It often starts with helping them to see problems and opportunities that they may not recognize.  Just stop rendering your opinions and using words like “should” when talking to experts. They don’t want to hear it from you. In fact, they resent it. But they don’t mind it when you position them as experts by asking focused, intelligent questions. Experts like it when people ask them good questions that make them feel like experts.

While all this seems intuitive as you read it, I encourage managers to ride along with their sales reps and observe what they’re doing. You’ll find that they’re telling a lot of experts what to do. Change this approach and you’ll start building better relationships with your customer-experts. Oh yeah…you’ll start seeing more sales as well.