Get Past the Gatekeepers

By: Susan Boydell

It’s not that physicians don’t want to meet with you; it’s that they have too many competing priorities. The only way to get to the top of the list is to provide value.

Lately, when I talk with physician liaisons about the most difficult part of selling, the consistent response is “getting time with physicians.” In the past I expected that response from new liaisons in the early stages of building relationships and establishing trust with physicians.  However, today, I hear that response frequently from well-established field reps (who may not have had that issue in the past). What’s changed?  Well, you can probably answer that in two words: Employment and Productivity. Think about it. Because more physicians are being employed, referral patterns are more closely monitored and staying in-network is becoming a requirement.  On top of that, physicians are expected to hit productivity expectations. The last thing an office manager wants is a sales person distracting a physician.  The days of catching doctors between patients are gone. To keep productivity high, good office managers know that they need to manage everything physicians do every second of the day.

How can you get past even the most ferocious gatekeeper?  Deliver value. When gatekeepers, office managers and physicians see you at the sliding glass window, they’re all thinking one thing: Why let him or her in? If you want to be greeted with a warm welcome, here are some thoughts to help you prove your value at the get-go.

  1. Check your introduction.  When you state the purpose for your visit, do you make the value immediately clear?  Do you explain the benefits to the physician or describe the features of your offer? If, for example, you plan to talk about your new orthopedic surgeon, be sure to focus on how he or she can help a referring physician.
  2. Re-think lunch. When you have a new physician to introduce, they expect you to bring lunch. To make the meeting memorable, do something unexpected.  Can you position the get-together as something other than a lunch introduction?  Perhaps you can pitch it as “an opportunity” for the new orthopedic physician to learn about the referring physician’s patients.
  3. Build the relationship.  Superficial relationships don’t get you in the door.  Take the time to learn about the referring physician’s practice.  Think about what you haven’t discussed and what would be interesting to know. Remember, they have to see the benefit in sitting down and having a conversation with you.

It’s not that physicians don’t want to meet with you; it’s that they have too many competing priorities. The only way to get to the top of the list is to provide value. If you can’t answer the question “What benefit will I provide?” then re-think your visit strategy. Yes, gatekeepers can be tough, but it’s your challenge to make it worth their while.