Physician Relations: Why is the Gatekeeper “That Way” with Me?

By: Kriss Barlow, RN, MBA | kbarlow@barlowmccarthy.com

No doubt about it. Today’s gatekeepers are more impenetrable than ever. We can blame it on pressures in the practice, or more “office visitors” than they can manage. But, let’s face it, their issues become our issue. Most field staff need to get past a gatekeeper to get to the right audience, so it is part of the job. Take a minute to consider your track record in the last six months.

What’s a Rep to Do?

Step one is to recognize that getting through is your obligation. Your organization has hired you for meaningful conversations with doctors. If you are working on leakage, referral growth or market softening, the physician is the pivotal decision maker, so meaningful connection with them is key. Easier said than done.

Make sure you have something of value when you do meet with the doctor. Value for them is rarely a pitch about your products and services. The pre-call plan should define your approach for involving them, understanding their needs and making sure they feel the time spent with you is worth it.

Earning Entry

There is no magic script or approach that works every time but, here’s a short list of ideas to try if you’re getting stalled out by gatekeepers more than you’d like.

  1. Professional warmth. Be kind and interested in them, but make sure they understand you are a professional representing the hospital and that you have a job to do. First impressions count so prepare for your meeting with them and work to find that right position of interest and involvement with the entire office, but with clear lines of expectation.
  2. Positioning is crucial. Use your organization and its stakeholders to position your role and differentiate your position. For example, “Dr. Smith our chief of cardiology suggested I should meet with your new family medicine doctor, Dr. Doe.” This, of course, requires that you have permission to name drop. But, when you can, it paints a very different picture.
  3. Never bait and switch. You know this, but if you go into a practice to learn insights from a doctor then that’s what you do. Don’t say that your visit is to follow up on a patient or learn their needs and then use the time to pitch your products.
  4. Ask for what you need, not what you think might be suggested. The goal is to meet with the doctor, so request a few minutes with the doctor, not with the office manager. Yes, I know that 90 percent of the time the suggestion will be to meet with the office manager and that works, but if we ultimately want a conversation with the doctor why not ask for that.
  5. Respect. If you ask for five minutes, stay for five minutes. If you see the lobby is full you might offer to come at a better time. Office rapport is a forever need and they remember those are sensitive to their realities beyond the doctor’s agenda. Show it every chance you get.
  6. Less is more. The longer we talk, the more likely we are to say too much. Keep your message short, easy to understand and focused on them.
  7. Remember your ultimate goal. If at first you don’t succeed try, try again. Find another resource in the practice, use one doctor to get you to another one, use outside meetings to stage the visit, just stay at this and you will almost always have luck.

My list should get this conversation started. What’s on your list of successful techniques to effectively get face time with doctors? Everyone is in the same boat with this issue so if you have a technique that works for you, please let us know.

P.S. B/Mc is sponsoring a Destination Sales Training in Amelia Island, Florida on September 14th. In addition to gatekeepers, the content will include the full relationship selling cycle and the opportunity to exchange ideas with your colleagues. CLICK for details and to join us get your registration in by August 10, 2017.

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