The Art and Science of Selling in a Healthcare Practice

The physical therapy industry loves marketing and often, they’re pretty good at it. But then they don’t do any of the rest of the work to take care of the patients in order to retain them. 

This is a problem and a big waste of time, money, and resources.

Why go through the work of marketing just to stumble at rapport-building and retention?

Healthcare practices and physical therapy offices are afraid of sales, or don’t understand how to apply best practices, or don’t feel it’s necessary to focus on retention since they have a steady influx of new patients, or maybe they avoid sales because it is challenging.

What healthcare practices don’t understand is that they are in business and any successful business requires more than just marketing. Growing a successful, sustainable business is a multi-faceted process and marketing is just one step. You can’t stop at marketing and expect everything to magically fall into place.

The Process of Building a Successful Business Looks Like This:

And each of these steps, on their own, is ineffective and gives no value. Together, though, they are the quickest path to sustainable patient AND business success.

And yet, so many healthcare practices fall apart after the first move. 

I’m going to show you the nuances of selling in a healthcare practice so that you can actually market LESS because you’re realizing higher retention and referral rates.

Everything here has been done before by successful people in the business – we’re not reinventing the wheel. These methods are tried, tested, and true. All you have to do is follow them.

Let’s Redefine Selling

The history of selling started as listening – asking people what they needed or wanted from you first and then making those things a reality.

Now it’s become some sort of backward ‘me first’ kind of thing where businesses make a product or service and then have to convince people to want it.  This takes a lot more work on the part of the salesperson, doesn’t deliver value to your clients, and is, ultimately, a waste of time. The healthcare industry is no different.

On top of this, certain steps in the selling process make the staff and front desk team uncomfortable, so they refuse to do them. 

This isn’t a ‘choose your own adventure’ type deal where you pick what you want and avoid what you don’t want. This sales process is a proven methodology that works as long as you follow all the steps. 

So suck it up and do the work.

Selling means LEARNING MORE ABOUT SOMEONE AND THEIR DESIRED OUTCOMES to see IF you and your product can help them achieve what they’re looking for.

It’s not about forcing someone to work with you or trying to compete on pricing – there will always be someone who is willing to undercut you. Don’t be that person.

Selling Has a Mindset

Because of the way some businesses have been selling for so long, the process gets a bad rap. People view sales as sleazy and slimy and manipulative.

What it should actually be about is CARING, CONFIDENCE, PERSISTENCE, and PATIENCE.

You need to be speaking to the clients’ mindset and needs, embracing their concerns.

It’s not about you

Be aware of the language you use when speaking with the client – if you are using the word ‘me’ or ‘us’ or ‘we’ more often than ‘you’, then you’re doing it wrong. 

A Proper Sales Mindset:

  • Start a relationship that will last throughout their entire lifecycle with your business.    
  • Be a problem solver.
  • Set the providers up for success.

If you ask people at the front desk what their goal is when they interact with a patient for the first time on the phone their answer is often to get people scheduled. 

This is the wrong approach. 

You want to know how that client got to you in the first place, you want to understand where they’re coming from and listen to what they need and want from you. 

Your front desk people should be able to answer this important question: What are we selling here? What are we doing here? What are we producing for people? 

Ask around and see what answers come up. Ask the providers, billing office, etc. 

If your people don’t understand what they’re selling, that says something.

Is your front desk commoditizing people? 

The most common question a front desk asks the potential patient before anything else is about insurance. 

Now, many people believe this question is geared toward finding out the cost of service and if that’s how you approach it, you’re commoditizing.

You make things about price and payment, not about the patient. 

So what is this question actually about?


I don’t have a crystal ball, I can’t tell you what they want beyond what they’re asking for. YOU need to do the work to find out what matters most to the potential patients who call your office looking for a physical therapy provider.

What your front desk needs to do is ask questions and learn more about where the patients are being referred from, why they are calling, what they are looking for, and what matters most to them.

When you know the answers to these questions, you can make the conversation about them, decrease their uncertainty, and set expectations that you can deliver on.  You can make your services catered to each patient and deliver a higher value.

Which will make them feel happy and cared for.

Which will get them to buy into and complete a plan of care..

Which will give them more reasons to refer their friends and family to your practice.

Which will keep the Business Process moving on its own accord – without you putting any extra effort into marketing.

Caring About Your Patients is Not Enough 

The default in healthcare is to say ‘we care about our patients’. 

You tell me that first because it’s all you have! Those who do not understand their patient’s lifecycle are those who can only say one thing – we care about our patients – because they don’t know what else to care about! 

People are eventually going to buy you as the brand, but they need social proof first. They don’t need to know that ‘you care about your patients’ – this should be a given!

Instead, focus on testimonials and word-of-mouth marketing. The best practices have the best testimonials.

The homepage of your website should talk about how you helped one smiling person with their specific issue – the issue you learned the majority of your clients come to you to fix when you asked all those questions over the phone the first time they called.

If you don’t know what they’re looking for, you don’t know how to best serve them. Ask the damn questions.

Without this knowledge, you’re shifting the responsibility of sales to providers when it should be on the salespeople.

Not Understanding Your Patient’s Lifecycle Puts ALL the Pressure on Providers

Providers should primarily do what they went to school for – helping the patient address the issue they called about – and also to participate in the sales and rapport-building. Although they will move the patient relationship forward, providers should not be forced to do ALL of the sales and rapport-building. It should be a group effort where everyone in the practice helps make the process easier for the next staff member in line.

There are three Sales Cycles in business and each one builds into the next, making the following one easier.

First Cycle – Front desk: Get patient arrived and set provider up for success.

Second Cycle – Provider: Responsible for listening and making sure they know whats going on, giving the plan of care, and getting the patient’s approval on the plan of care. 

Third Cycle – Follow Up: Nurture the relationship and stay in touch. Periodically, you should be sending touches by the provider or email until you re-engage the patient.

Without the first cycle and the help of the front desk, providers have all the responsibility of building relationships, learning a patient’s story, why they chose your office, how you’re supposed to serve them, AND what they expect from you in addition to all their regular duties of, like, healing the pain and fixing the issue – you know, their original job.

You HAVE TO prioritize the First Cycle in order to give your providers the best possible chance to succeed in the second cycle.

What’s Best for the Patient IS Best for the Business

In the physio world, I’ve often heard before that “what’s best for business is NOT always best for the patient” and this concept infuriates me.

If you don’t put the patient first, your business will fail.

It’s all about the person on the other end of the phone. All great salespeople will make the person know they’re being heard and that their concerns matter. 

You need to make sure that from the first contact, the patient feels like their needs and wants are the center of the conversation.

For example, when I’m working with a new client, one of my favorite things to do is conduct a Secret Caller experience. I don the name of one of the Beastie Boys and call the office’s front desk to set up an appointment.

During that initial phone call, I go down a list of indicators I’ve created to determine if the call is patient-focused or not. It’s probably no surprise that most offices do not have a patient-centric process and are instead more selfishly business-focused. 

Define Your Selling Process if You Want to be Successful

A well-defined SELLING process can help you and your TEAM deliver greater PATIENT and BUSINESS success.

I can’t tell you how to best serve your community – that’s your job.

Each community is different and they need different things from their providers.

What I can do is help you refine and define your selling process once you’ve done the work to figure out what your patients want and need from your office.

To get started TODAY, click here to download a 10-point checklist to get that First Sales Cycle – The FRONT DESK – started today.

It’s time to stop worrying about negative reviews, a bad reputation, or a failing business.

The 10 Steps To A Successful New Patient Phone Call

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