3 Lessons Doctors Can Teach You About Selling Your Proposals

Doctors spend years in school and training so they can learn as much as possible about the incredibly complex human body. They get no training in sales. Only recently have med schools realized that teaching good “bedside manner” might be a good idea. Yet a lot of sales professionals could learn a thing or two about sales from doctors.

Lesson #1: It’s all about the patient

This might seem absurd in our convoluted, patient-unfriendly system, but when you’re in the doctor’s office, it’s about you. The doctor doesn’t start with a long list of their credentials. They ask about you. Your medical history, your medical problems, allergies, symptoms, etc. They take your blood pressure, weigh you and measure you. It may not be fun, but a lot of companies train their sales reps to talk about themselves and their companies. It would be like a doctor getting on the scale and showing your their weight.

Proposal tip: stay focused on the customer and their problems, not on yourself.

Lesson #2: It’s all about the benefits

Suppose for some reason the doctor determines that you need an X-Ray. Do you know what company makes the X-Ray machine? Do you know what generation of technology the machine uses? Does the doctor talk about it? Do you care? No. You (and the doctor) just want to find out if you have a fracture. That’s the benefit, because then you can treat the problem appropriately. All the technological and medical lingo is irrelevant.

And the doctor doesn’t start by discussing prices (in many cases, they never discuss price, which is a whole different story). They discuss the problems, approaches, and benefits. Then they talk about cost. In response to uncertainty, they can suggest an escalating series of diagnostics and remedies. Note they never say “I am the cheapest doctor in town”, or “we’re doing a special on surgeries through the end of the month if you sign now.”

Proposal tip: spell out the impact of the problem and the solution, then use that context to frame the price. You can show how you will save them a lot of money, but don’t lead with how cheap you are.

Lesson #3: It’s all about trust

Part of the reason doctors don’t have to talk about themselves so much is that people generally trust them to solve their problems. They have the years of training and a wall full of diplomas. The have a lab coat and stethoscope. They may have a shelf full of impressive looking books. Most importantly, they can talk knowledgeably about your problems. Even when they don’t know what’s wrong, they usually have an intelligent plan for finding out. If your prospects trust that you can solve their problem, you have a much easier time winning the business. You can’t win this trust easily, but you can earn it by following the lessons above and focusing on the benefits for the prospect, understanding their business, often better than they do themselves. Does this sound hard? It is, but it’s not impossible. Remember, your prospect spends a lot of time in their business, but you get to see lots of businesses, just like a doctor gets to see lots of patients.

A lot of the problems buyers have with sales reps boil down to trust. If they feel like you are just there to get your commission and get out, it’s hard for them to believe your claims. Many companies exacerbate this by setting up incentive plans that discourage long term involvement with customers. In a small business, this will be less of a problem. In many cases, the person selling will be the one delivering.

Proposal tip: start with the end. Clearly define what the prospect will have achieved by the end of the project. Then work backwards through the steps they need to take to get there. This often includes follow-up, acceptance testing, training, and other activities that don’t seem like the “core” of the project, but are essential to completing the project. By explicitly defining them in your proposal, you stand out from the competition and show the prospect a clear path to success.

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