Members ask: I want to maximize physician referrals. How can I make sure the relationship starts out on the right foot?

Topics: Physician Issues, Referral Management

June 19, 2013

We're expanding our physician liaison function, and we are going to be calling on many doctors for the first time. However, many members of my outreach staff have little or no physician sales experience. How can I make sure the relationship starts out on the right foot?

Hospitals must provide training to ensure that liaisons have the tools to do their jobs well. For instance, liaisons with sales experience need initial and ongoing training in hospital services and products. In this case, liaisons with clinical backgrounds require training in sales strategies, including the essentials of conducting an effective first visit.

First visit basics

This scripting playbook from Crimson Market Advantage offers sample physician outreach conversations to help outreach staff in maximizing the impact of their visits. The playbook covers basic talking points when meeting a physician for the first time. For instance, liaisons should:

  • Provide an agenda at the beginning of the meeting;
  • Ask questions related to the physician's clinical background, priorities, and plans for the future;
  • Actively listen to all information the physician shares and ask clarifying questions;
  • Take notes, but maintain eye contact as much as possible; and
  • Always re-iterate next steps and timelines for follow-up when leaving.

The playbook also provides tips for how liaisons can respond to physicians' negative feedback by identifying the root problem and offering a solution. For example:

  • If a physician shows a lack of knowledge about services at your hospital, offer a service leader ride-along, meet-and-greets, or an educational series;
  • If a physician is unwilling to share feedback, present internal statistics to support the visit;
  • If a physician's referral patterns or volumes have recently changed, ask questions to identify why volumes are dropping;
  • If a physician asks questions that go beyond your clinical depth, offer to bring an expert on the next visit to ensure his or her questions are addressed appropriately.

But keep in mind: strategy is key

In terms of structuring your physician marketing efforts, data from the Marketing and Planning Leadership Council can be helpful here—they show that some of the most effective programs are those that adopt a customized sales strategy.

The three key components of a successful physician sales program involve:

  1. Adopting a sales approach, including sales-focused staff recruitment, high-performance training, and performance-based incentives.
  2. Targeting key physicians based on analyses of practice patterns and payer mix data, expert insight from a business development roundtable, and contributions from clinical managers.
  3. Ensuring exceptional service by establishing minimum performance thresholds in areas heavily impacting physician loyalty and responding to physician complaints.

Finally, whether it's for your cardiovascular, oncology, imaging, or neurosurgery program, the Council's resource on next-generation physician marketing offers solutions for optimizing program staffing and productivity.

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