Doctor visits: Three strikes and I'm out?

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Q. I've called on the same doctor three times during the past two months and haven't been able to get in to see him. How many times should I call on a prospect before giving up?

A. Some sales managers will tell you to give it three tries and move on. There are lots of doctors to call on and time is precious. I'm not convinced there is a definite formula for every situation that you can use to determine how many calls to make before moving on. A lot depends on the reasons the doctor won't see you.
If the practice has a firm policy that they do not see sales people, it's probably safe to focus your efforts elsewhere. On the other hand, if you've been told at various times that the doctor is satisfied with his current homecare provider, he's at a meeting or he's with a patient, keep trying.
Responses like these suggest your timing may be off. However, continued persistence is likely to pay off. A recent article in Selling Power magazine indicated that many companies keep records on the number of calls it takes before making a sale. The chances of success increase dramatically starting with the fourth or fifth call. If you give up too soon, you could be missing out on a terrific opportunity.
Remember that you are trying to replace another sales representative who may well enjoy a solid reputation with your prospect. His or her company's services are probably satisfactory to the physician. Most people are reluctant to change even if everything isn't going well.
It isn't easy to convince a busy practice to switch to your company. You have to invest time and discipline yourself to be patient. Give the staff time to get to know you and you will begin to build trust. Once you do that, they are more likely to listen to you and evaluate the merits of your case. It's very hard to do that after one or two calls. The bottom line: If they haven't told you to go away, don't!


Len Serafino is vice president, eastern division, of CHAD Therapeutics. Reach him at (615) 708-9548 or