Has this happened to you? You’re told to take a physician on a referral visit. But, this particular physician is dry… rarely talks… and doesn’t want to be there. So, instead of helping your physician outreach efforts, you feel like they actually made things worse—ruining any chance of getting referrals.
While doctors receive a lot of training in medical school, they get little to no education on how to market their own practices. Thankfully, this is an area where you can add a lot of value.
As “people persons,” liaisons have a lot we can share with physicians to help them grow their social IQ. Here are my 5 essential tips for coaching physician outreach based on the 11 years I spent as a physician liaison.
1. Do Your R&D
- Get to know your doctor before taking them on visits—Review their onboarding questionnaire to learn about their education and experience. And have them complete a new physician referral form to learn about their personal interests, marketing acumen and ideas/expectations for growing their practice.
- Study referral volume data—Leverage a PRM to know, in advance, what a provider’s referral volume is to your doctor and their specialty. (Note: Marketware has a fantastic Provider Volume Assessment & Plan that I used when I was a physician liaison.) Eliminate “cold calls” by understanding patient pipelines, zoning in on key markets and leveraging internal and external data trends.
- Tailor your conversation—Identify whether you’re seeking a 1st referral, or if you’re looking to grow existing referrals. Then, skew your conversation to support each case. Also, go through each provider’s profile to see if there are any connection points—maybe they went to the same school or have similar interests with your physician.
2. Set the Stage
- Invest in preplanning—If at all possible, try to meet with your doctor before heading out for visits. Even if it’s just for 5 minutes. Find out what their personality is like, what they’re comfortable talking about and what you’ll need to cover. Going into a meeting cold is the worst-case scenario and lowers your odds for getting referrals.
- Set a common goal—If you’re lucky enough to get an accompanying physician who’s a “talker”, make it clear that you’re not there to debate medical practices or beliefs. Instead, your goal is to make a good impression. Leave providers thinking, “That guy is smart, he knows what he’s doing and I can trust him with my patients… he’s a nice guy.”
- Remove any sales pressure—For “quieter” doctors, or those who don’t want to participate, acknowledge that you know they’re not sales or marketing people… and they don’t have to be! Explain that you’ll do most of the talking. And suggest they only cover their school and accomplishments or a procedure they love. Their sole job is to be themselves (put a face with the name) for an end goal of building trust.
3. Coach in the Moment
- Use windshield time wisely—Especially if it’s a doctor’s first time accompanying you. While you’re driving, “coach them up” by discussing who they’re meeting next, any commonalities and their referral volumes—or reviewing the same about a previous visit.
- Bring a strong wingman—If your physician is very shy or introspective, consider bringing someone else, instead, who can speak on their behalf. Maybe their nurse or another rep.
- Prep for objections—Inevitably, some providers will say they’re not open to giving new referrals because they already have a go-to relationship. This can upset your accompanying doctor, seeing the visit as a waste of time. Manage this scenario by discussing ways to handle this and other objections. For example, suggesting your doctor serve as a backup for referrals that need to be seen faster or have non-compliant insurance.
4. Hardwire Your Next Steps
- Call after 1st referral—If you have a specialist you’re referring out to primary care doctors, encourage them topersonally call these physicians the first time they see a referral. Have your specialist say something like, “I saw your patient. Thank you so much for sending them to me. Just so you know, I did this or recommended this.” Primary care providers love this!
- Add a thank you box to all reports—It can contain something as simple as, “Thank you for your referral”—whether it’s the 1st or the 100th. Even electronic reports are editable, and it makes a real difference.
- Return within 4-6 weeks of initial outreach—Let your doctor know that you’ll do it on their behalf, and you’ll return any feedback.
5. Monitor & Act on Results
- Track your activities—To ensure you get the best results from your outreach, you should create an actionable follow up plan and track each step in a PRM (such as 1st visit, 1st referral follow up call, 2nd and 3rd follow up visits, etc.) This ensures you’re taking every step possible to grow your doctor’s practice and makes it much easier to prove your efforts’ value.
- Share your results—By connecting all of your physician outreach activities to 1st referral data, you can provide tangible results. For example, “After my 1st outreach visits with Dr. Smith, we saw 1st referrals from these 3 providers. And after my 3rd follow up visit with this provider, we grew existing referrals by 30%.” Make sure to share this data with your physicians to prove that their time in the field yields results, and with your C-Suite and service line directors who love this kind of data-centric information.
For an example on how Tampa General Hospital used Marketware technology to document, prioritize and monitor their ROV (return on visits), watch this webinar.
Other Tips for Coaching Physician Outreach?
Do you have other strategies that you’ve used to coach up your physicians on growing their practices? I’d love to hear them and add them to a future post! Please email me at: email@example.com.