Sales Rx

Attitude for the Game

From my perspective as both a health care provider and health care vendor, being the vendor is definitely tougher. Health care sales are not for those who value acceptance over results. Successful health care sales professionals require persistence and stamina to overcome rejection — lots of rejection. But it is not all vendor doom and gloom — vendors generally eat better lunches.

Consumer-Driven Health Care has a flawed premise: The consumer of health care is the patient. This is not correct. While the end-user of health care is the patient, the consumer of health care is most assuredly the physician. Without a physician’s signature, nothing in health care is sold. Admission orders to a hospital, prescriptions for home oxygen or CPAP, and requests for a CBC all need the signature of a physician to execute. Even if the physician isn’t directly involved in the selection of the product/service, absence of a physician’s signature is supreme veto power.

There is awesome power in the pen of a physician. This power will ultimately determine success or failure in health care sales. Learning how to sell to and through physicians more effectively will accelerate your successes and allow you to recognize productive rejection. Rejection is not failure. Rejection simply means, for whatever reason, your offering wasn’t accepted today. Move on. Sometimes you can do everything right and you still don’t close the sale. Accept it. There are a multitude of factors that enter into a successful closing of a sale. Not only do you have no control over most of them, but most of the time it’s impossible to understand how all the elements of the sales process assemble in the game of physician sales.

There is a large element of gamesmanship in successful health care sales, as in any sales business, of getting a prospective buyer to recognize the value you offer and then accept it. But the big difference in health care is working with physician buyers and having the right attitude. Avoiding a sales rah-rah discourse on attitude, rah-rah or not, your attitude of confidence is the single-most effective tool to close health care sales to or through a physician. Physicians have attitude. Some, like surgeons, have attitude to spare. Your attitude is not to spar, but to balance with physician attitude.

The attitude respectfully expresses the following sentiment: “I am here to introduce you to something valuable you need to know about. Once you appreciate and want the value I offer, I’ll work very hard to get this value to you and your patients. If you’ve got other concerns on your mind today, I’ll come back again and again to help you understand this value, if you’re at all interested. If you are not interested, I’ll respect your professional decision and keep in touch if you change your mind or if I have a new offering, but I will spend most of my time with other physicians who already understand the value I offer and want me to continue to provide this value to them and their patients.”

Techniques aside, confidence in your product/service and ability to sell that product/service gets you into the game. It is the attitude you project to a physician, an attitude based on knowledge and belief of your product/service, that allows you to be perceived by a physician as someone with self-assuredness and self-awareness. “Self” is the key phrase for both “assuredness” and “awareness.” In the face of rejection, your “self” must understand that you offer a valuable proposition for physicians, physician office staff, hospitals and patients, and that proposition, when understood, will be ultimately accepted. And if you are new to health care sales and feel like you don’t yet have the confidence to believe in yourself and your ability to sell, pretend like you do until you really do.

This article originally appeared in the Respiratory Management May/June 2007 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

Dr. Tray Dunaway is a consultant to health care businesses who want to sell more to and though physicians and an award-winning health care keynote physician speaker. To connect with Dunaway, contact Healthcare Value Inc. at (803) 425.8555 or For more of his musings, visit his blog at

HME Business Podcast

Latest Podcasts