In this series we’ve been talking about facets of referral marketing to consider when deciding whether to hire and manage your own representative to market your practice or to contract with professional medical referral marketers. In parts 1 and 2 we addressed costs and recruiting issues. Here we’ll examine the critical role of training your representative.

While recent evidence1 has proven the increased value of referral marketing, appreciation for interpersonal influence goes all the way back to Aristotle2. It’s now widely recognized that “WOM [word-of-mouth marketing] is more influential than other marketer controlled sources.3 We’ve found through experience that this concept of direct referral marketing with a practice rep can be very effective but only if you have the right person in place and if they’re trained and managed appropriately.

You’ve got to hire the right person with the right skills, experience and credentials, and you’ve got to train them to perform their specific duties. And then you’ve got to manage that person on an on-going basis.

Wikipedia expounds on the definition of training saying it “has specific goals of improving one’s capability, capacity and performance.”4They point out the “need to continue training beyond qualifications”5 and cite professional development as including coaching, mentoring and reflective supervision.6 We essentially employ all these techniques.

We train in basics sales skills like needs-satisfaction-selling, and so on. We teach reps how to ask the right questions to determine what’s important to the client. Training for our reps includes: basic follow-up, practice management, practice marketing, and territory management. Beyond these we focus on areas critical to the job at hand such as: territory strategy, identifying decision makers, and accessing physicians (for their specialist).

Territory strategy includes classifying a potential client/referral source in terms of how often to follow up. This is key to gaining the best return on investment of time, effort and energy within a territory.

It’s also important for reps to identify which people in an office actually make the referral decisions. It may be a physician, a referral nurse, someone on the front desk, or maybe even a clerk in the back. Many un-trained reps waste valuable resources trying to influence the wrong person in an office.

Some reps don’t understand the skills and tools used to get in front of a decision maker. We know how to get in the front door, to get in front of right people, how often to go in, the sales skills effective in that environment, and how to classify the prospective client/referral source.

This is a different kind of sales. Many doctors are surprised to learn that marketing their specialty is very different than selling medical devices or representing pharmaceutical companies. Pharma-reps tend to be process oriented. That is, they’re focused on delivering samples, getting signatures, being polite, repeating phrases, and so on. You need someone results oriented. A results orientation is key to successfully changing the referral habits for a practice. You need a rep trained to get in and get results – not just go through a rehearsed process. Good reps ask the right questions, they’re empathetic, and they know how to create value that leads to a change in referral patterns.

We know what to teach your practice reps. We use creative ways to convey it and effective ways to apply the techniques. Here’s an example. We have a rep in a certain geography where she routinely gains the highest percentage of decision maker access of all our reps. Close to 70% of her daily calls result in direct access to practice decision makers. She’s skilled in working with staffs; she knows when to push, how to be politely persistent, when to wait or plan to return, and so on. We now have her training all our reps in this process and as a result we’ve increased our decision maker access rate to near 60% across the board.

These and other sales skills are not easily taught by physicians, administrators or medical office staffers because they’re not normally trained in this type of marketing. Some employees will claim they can sell your practice, but it’s unlikely they have the knowledge and experience to back-up such claims. Many assume the position can be filled with anyone experienced in sales and marketing, but its unique nature makes it difficult to fill as well as to teach. And, as yet, there’s no book on how to train your practice rep.

From over 30 years of experience with fortune 200 companies we’ve learned how to effectively engage individuals in practices large and small across the nation. We are uniquely qualified in the industry. In this relatively new specialty in its own right, there are no others that have done as much for as long as Practice-Reps. We know how to market your practice as well as how to build sales and marketing teams with those goals.

Until we arrived, clinicians, physician liaisons and nurses were trying to do the work of sales professionals for hospitals and few specialties. We recognized this as an ineffective scenario. At Practice-Reps we know that if you start with good sales people, you train them in medical practice management and referral marketing, and you monitor, manage and motivate them on a continuous basis, you will improve the bottom line for your medical specialty. We can help you achieve those goals.

Call us today at 610-323-4793 to discuss how we can you improve your bottom line.


1 Philipp Schmitt, Berd Skiera and Christophe Van den Bulte (2010), “Referral Programs and Customer Value,” Journal of Marketing Article Postprint, 15 July 2010, pp.. 25.

2 Francis A. Buttle (1998), “Word of mouth: understanding and managing referral marketing,” Journal of Strategic Marketing 6, 1998, pp.242.

3 Ibid.

4 Wikipedia: the free encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Training

5 Ibid.

6 Idem, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Professional_development

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