Value First: Leverage Your Physician Conversations

By: Kriss Barlow, RN, MBA | kbarlow@barlowmccarthy.com

Our culture is all about shallow relationships. But that doesn’t mean we should stop looking each other in the eye and having deep conversations. -Francis Chan

As physician relationship specialists you’ve heard it or maybe even said it: “We are just not getting quality time with our doctors.”  Even the very best field visit might not be one where you get the kind of time that you want. Sometimes it’s because what we’ve been talking about lacks relevancy for the party on the receiving end. Too much telling may mean too little listening and a failure to hear their needs and aspirations. At a time when physicians need to maximize their efficiency, here are five ideas to optimize your visit:

  1. Balanced Conversation. I suspect nobody intends to dominate a conversation or to talk about topics that don’t interest the listener. Yet, all too often, enthusiasm for the product takes over or the field person grabs the opportunity to “make sure they know.” In the busy lives of todays’ doctors, this might happen once or twice, but soon the doctor won’t take the time and opportunities to meet with them just go away. Conversations require that both parties talk and then listen. You need to hear them speak about their needs, their patients, their environment and their expectations. We all know what they say about assumptions! Don’t assume you know which of your services are of interest before you have a chance to hear it from them. Balanced conversations add value for them and they allow you to continue the dialogue.
  1. Earn a Trusted Advisor Role. Credibility techniques can really get this started and include things like: remembering small likes and dislikes in their practice style; reflecting on their patient philosophy; recognizing when it’s not a good time for them and giving them an out; keeping confidential what they ask to be kept that way; and, of course, doing what you say you will.
  1. Be Smart. First off, make sure you know your stuff. Have good clinical knowledge and understand the referral chain for the type of offerings your organization needs to grow. Many doctors become impatient with people who have not taken the time to learn about their practice and their clinical area of expertise before they visit. They expect preparation, they expect you to be able to prove what you say, and they expect that if you don’t know the answer, you will say so.
  1. Add Value. They need to get a little benefit for spending time with you – every single visit. While that value may be information, insights, or a chance to share a concern, it might also be learning about something new that is of interest. Sometimes it is just the chance to share what’s important to them. They need to feel like it was worth it to take time out of their day. Remember, it’s always about their WIIFM – What’s In It For Me (the doctor).
  1. Have a Plan. Doctors don’t spend much time reflecting on their last conversation with us. You’re shocked about that I know! We need to be the planners in this relationship, which means doing your homework, finding ways to advance the relationship, keeping track of likes and dislikes, asking questions that are easy to answer for them and that can progress the conversation for you. It all takes time and starts with a plan.

Staging relevant meetings is no guarantee you will get longer meetings with doctors, but it will certainly increase your odds. And for those you do see, the reward is that sweet spot where the business relationship is mutually enriching and it grows over time.