Does Your Office Staff Know That It’s All About a Sale?

For reasons that appear to rooted in our sub-conscious, the phrase “to sell” evokes a negative emotion.  In an attempt to make it more palatable in our profession we refer to the process as “a consultation”, “an evaluation” or any number of other equally and occasionally interesting terms.

If your objective is charity work, then give hearing aids away for free. However if you aren’t independently wealthy as a hearing healthcare professional you typically have to sell hearing aids to make money.  You can have the best marketing program on the planet, but if 8 out of 10 people who come through your door leave with out buying anything, you won’t be in business very long.

To sell, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, means to persuade another to recognize the worth or desirability of something.   Too often the belief is that the product, whatever the product is and the attributes of the product should be all it takes to buy the product.

Wrong, customers buy with their emotions long before the rational part of their brain kicks in.  While that’s easy to understand when it comes to some products (clothing, cars, weight loss programs and creams that remove wrinkles), it’s true of everything that you buy.

The sales process for any product can be very complicated. Many factors are involved. But more often than not its because everyone from the person who answers the phone to the person who checks you out understands that they are selling the patient.  They are persuading the patient to choose your office for their hearing healthcare needs.

  • Yes it was a great idea to call us.
  • Yes, we’re so happy you came for your appointment today.
  • Yes, we’re on time and happy to see you.
  • We’re sad you’re leaving today but you’ll be back to see us again in a few weeks.

Every so often really listen to and watch how your staff interacts with your patients.  Do they really grasp that the patient is the customer and the customer is the reason they have a job?  Or do they act annoyed because the customer interrupted whatever task they were in the middle of?

It may sound corny, but from a patient’s perspective this is going to go one of two ways.  I’m sold or I walk.  It makes more sense to make sure that every step along the way gives the patient one more reason to say yes instead of one more reason to say no.

Marketing Doctors for Referrals, It Isn’t as Difficult as You Think

Forget everything you’ve read about the best way to market doctors.

Educating doctors about audiology, hearing aids and hearing loss is a nice idea that has little basis in the reality of both you and the doctor’s busy day.

You are marketing the doctor for referrals and that’s ok.  He knows it and you know it.  Marketing should solve a problem.  If your plan is to educate the physician about hearing loss then you are assuming that the doctor lacks the information you’re providing.

We don’t suggest this approach for two reasons.

The assumption if wrong makes you look like an idiot.

The assumption if correct makes the doctor feel like an idiot.

I don’t know about you, but neither outcome works for me.

The problem that you are trying to solve is that you aren’t getting enough patients from the doctor.  (By the way, if you are getting enough patients, then drop off lunch, say thank you and leave them to enjoy their lunch).



How do you get more referrals?

By figuring out what the doctors problems are and providing a solution. (The staff’s problems count too.)

          1. The referral process should be as simple as possible.  Everything the doctor’s office and the patient needs should be located in one envelope.
          2. It’s ok to ask questions.  But they need to be the right questions
            1. Do you refer out for audiology? It’s a good idea to see what the starting point might be.
            2. What do you expect from your referral sources?  They may not have an answer so be ready with an example.  Do you prefer to have reports emailed, faxed or mailed to your office?
            3. Is there something in particular that we should never do?  If they had a hard time coming up with a response to the previous question, trust me they won’t be shy answering this one.
          3. I know I annoyed some of you by stating that educating the physician about hearing loss and hearing aids had no basis in reality.  What , I should have said was education needs to come much later in the relationship.  Once you establish that you are interested in solving problems for the doctor.  He may be open to more.  There is a time and a place for everything.  And the first few visits to any new referal source should be all about them, not you about you.

Marketing referral sources is just like developing any other relationship.  Remember these 3 things and your referral base should flourish!

      1. Someone has to make the first move and typically that’s whoever wants the relationship in the first place. (Doctors aren’t going to just start knocking on your door, you actually have to go to their office.)
      2. Both sides have to get something out of the relationship on an ongoing basis otherwise why should either side bother?  (You get referrals, they get fed.)
      3. You need to make sure the relationship is a priority.  Don’t take it for granted and stop visiting or sending reports or making sure that everything between your offices is problem free or the inevitable will occur and the relationship will end.

Reasons to Track Your Return on Investment

Here’s how the conversation went, “Have you tried any direct mail or newspaper inserts lately?”  The answer, “We tried both, they didn’t work.”  Next question, “What was the (return on investment) ROI for each?”  The answer?  “I don’t know.”

If you don’t know where your patients are coming from and how much it cost you to get them in your door, then you have no idea if your advertising and marketing campaigns are worth repeating.

Advertising and Marketing tend to be costly items in everyone’s P&L. Ideally you want to spend as little as possible to get the number of patients needed on a monthly basis.  Too often you run ads, inserts, email campaigns, open houses, etc. with little thought as to why a prior ad piece or event was or wasn’t successful.

Experience may teach you how to better manage the event, but tracking the results in as many ways as possible will allow you to make better decisions about where to put your marketing dollars.

A minor change to an ad piece can significantly impact the ROI of any ad.   For example, the same ad run on a Monday may have a better or worse response from the public than an identical ad run on a Friday. Another example might be an ad that you ran in color.  You may end up with a lower cost per lead even though the ad was more expensive.

Investing time in establishing a tracking system will pay dividends in the long run in other ways.  Each month when you start putting your advertising and marketing plan together you’ll have historical information that will make planning your marketing and advertising strategies quicker without sacrificing quality.

Patterns will develop if you carefully cultivate and store information from the patients who respond to your advertising and marketing, particularly those who purchase.  After all, they’re the ones you want to make sure keep coming in your door.

Buying and selling a hearing aid is an emotional experience

We’re interrupting the Customer Service blogs for an important message.

Buying and selling a hearing aid is an emotional experience.

For every new patient with a hearing loss who walks through your door you’ll hear a few versions of the same story.  I can’t hear, I don’t want to admit I can’t hear. I don’t want to be here.  I’ve heard horror stories about hearing aids.  I have access to the Internet which has provided me with half-truths, innuendos and unrealistic price expectations.  Now let’s get started with this appointment so I can ruin your day, by telling you at the end of this visit that I want to “think about” buying a hearing aid!

Buying a hearing aid is an emotional experience, but so is selling one.  And many times the seller’s lack of joining in the emotion of the experience is what kills the sale.  I’m an Audiologist…and have been since 1986.  Grasping the concept that what I did for a large part of my day was selling was the hardest lesson for me to learn.  Too often we expect the results of the test and our recommendations to be enough.  It isn’t.

Your job is to uncover the emotional impact the hearing loss is having on the quality of life of your patient.  You need to connect to the patient and a piece of paper with X’s and O’s is not the way to do it.  That doesn’t mean the audiogram has no importance, it most certainly does.  It tells you, the highly trained professional that most of what will be coming out of the mouth of your patient in the few moments after you complete the test will be a glossy version of their reality.

For example, when you ask a patient with a relatively flat 50dBHL sensorineural hearing loss “Mr. Jones, where do you have the most problem hearing.”  And he answers you with the following. “I don’t really notice a problem.”  Your first response should not be to pull out a speech banana to show him what sounds he’s missing.  Your first response should be.  “Mr. Jones, I’ve been doing this for a long time, I know exactly what you can and can’t hear.”  Your next response should be. “Let me ask you a question.”

You’ve taken a detailed medical history, now is the time to take a detailed quality of life history.  By asking questions about the patient’s real world experience you’ll begin to make an emotional connection.

“Quality of Life History”

  1. Mr. Jones, What do you do for fun?
  2. How many grandkids do you have?
  3. Where do you go on vacation?
  4. What are your favorite TV shows?
  5. What was the last movie you saw in the theater?
  6. How often do you go out to dinner?
  7. Do you have any hobbies?

The point of this is in how you respond to Mr. Jones when he answers your question.  For example, “Mr. Jones, how many grandkids do you have?”  When he says, “three”, ask another question because how many is not important…how he interacts with them is.  Keeping asking questions…”What do you do with them when you see them?” “What do you wish you could do?”  “How does it make you feel when you know you didn’t hear what your grandson said?”  You are looking for the proverbial “button to push” and everyone has one.  Mr. Jones has one and so do you.  (Please refer back to, the first paragraph and remember how you feel when a patient says, “I want to think about it.”)

You aren’t being heartless; the goal isn’t to bring the patient to tears.  The goal is to create a compelling reason for the patient to want to solve the problem.  Because if you don’t get him to do something about his problem now, he’s likely to wait a few more months or years to try again.He has a problem that’s why he’s in your office.   What he doesn’t realize is that you are interested in what that problem is.  More than likely he’s anticipating that you want to “fix” his hearing loss.

Hearing loss (AND THIS IS IMPORTANT) is not his problem.  His problem is that his favorite grandson no longer wants to be with Grandpa because Grandpa doesn’t understand what he’s saying.  Yes, I realize it’s because of his hearing loss, but the difference between, “I have a hearing loss.” and “My grandson doesn’t want to spend time with me anymore.” is huge. Recognize this, understand the problem, solve the problem and you’ll have a patient for life.

The Waiting Room, What Is Its’ Purpose?

The Waiting Room – What Is Its’ Purpose

Seems like a simple question with an equally simple answer.  If you think it’s only a place for patients to wait their turn until you call them into the back rooms, you’re only partially correct.  The waiting room should be the place where ONE, you continue to validate the patients decision to pick up the phone and call YOUR office and TWO continue the sale process.  Remember marketing your patient into your practice is part of the hearing aid sales process.  Calling your office is part of the sales process.  Checking in and sitting down to wait should also be part of the sales process.

We covered the look and the feel of everything up to your front door in “High End Customer Service, Why Bother?” In this article we’re exploring the next step in the process… the waiting room.  Your patient is at home getting ready to come to your office.  Their anxiety level is beginning to ratchet up slowly but surely.  They’re entering uncharted waters.  What’s in your waiting room will do one of two things, increase their anxiety level or ideally decrease their anxiety level.

Let’s start with the look and the feel.  We left off in the “High End Customer Service, Why Bother?” article with the importance of patients being able to see into the waiting room, before they enter the waiting room. The patient is opening your front door what will their experience be? It’s time to evaluate your waiting room.

The top ten things to evaluate in your waiting room.

  1. Replace worn or stained carpeting. If any part of your floor is tile, cover it with an area rug that does not move.
  2. Your waiting room chairs should be sturdy, coordinated and stain free. Make sure you have a sufficient number of waiting room chairs so that everyone has a seat.  Standing room only makes it appear that you are overbooked, not a good technique to ease the anxious patient.
  3. Reading material should be easily accessible and current.
  4. Provide an umbrella stand and a secure location for coats and jackets.
  5. Your “success stories” should be visible.
    1. Please remember not to violate HIPAA guidelines when displaying patient success stories.
    2. Do not date the stories.  A success from 2006, may only indicate to a current patient that it’s been an awfully long time since you had a happy patient.
  6. Display the gift basket you give for patient referrals prominently. Patients like to know that other patients refer their friends and family to you.
  7. TV/Video – It is enticing to want to bombard your patients with information. Remember your demographic. They are hearing impaired and often visually impaired.  Any information you provide via Video, should also be available in print format.  The video experience will not be the same for a healthy young adult without a hearing loss as it will be for your average patient.
  8. Beverage carts are all the rage.  They aren’t necessary.  A water cooler is a nice touch.  However, the average patient does not want to think they’ll be the waiting room long enough for a cup of coffee and possibly a small snack!
  9. Vendor posters.  Avoid displaying anything you don’t intend to sell to every patient.  Or at a minimum have one of every vendor you represent.  Prominently displaying Vendor A and selling the patient Vendor B will always cause a patient to question why?  They may not express it, it may even register subconsciously, but what it says it that you think enough of Vendor A to sacrifice valuable wall space to display their products, but you don’t think enough of me, the patient, to sell me that product.
  10. And finally, your staff, they are an integral part of the “waiting room”.  Make sure they immediately make eye contact with and greet whoever enters that room.

A pleasant waiting room experience is a crucial step in the entire process.  Selling hearing aids is already a difficult process.  There’s no need to add to the challenges you’ll face by starting off on the wrong foot with the patient before you’ve had a chance to say hello.