Why chiropractic assistants resist sales.
Are front desk chiropractic assistants in the sales business? You bet they are. But if you ask a group of them, you’ll probably get responses like:
“That’s not my job.”
“I’m not comfortable pushing things on people.”
“Selling feels icky.”
“I don’t have time for that.”
Like many DCs, CAs understandably focus on chiropractic healing but often ignore the fact that the practice is still a business that needs income to survive. At best, a CA may see his or her contribution to the financial strength of the practice as being limited to billing and collections. Although these are essential functions, without new sales, increasing expenses mean that a chiropractic practice won’t be breaking even—it will be slowly losing ground.
Close to home
New sales could mean brand-new faces walking in the door. But it’s smarter to maximize opportunities with the patients you already have. That doesn’t mean urging them to book more frequent adjustments than they actually need. But it does mean increased engagement from the front desk to the exam room, and putting a strong focus on building relationships. When you know more about your patients and they know more about the practice, sales opportunities come about organically, to the benefit of both practice and patient.
When CAs have a strong negative response to the idea of selling, it’s likely that they’re envisioning the fast-talking, hard-sell tactics used by late-night TV commercials and sweaty used-car salesmen, which hearken back to the days of self-proclaimed “doctors” pitching cocaine-laced “tonics”—the proverbial snake oil.
In fact, when many chiropractic assistants hear the “s” word, they simply shut down altogether. Not going to do that, no-way, nope. This is understandable, because there’s a good chance you feel the same way, too. But if you reframe “sales” as “education” in your mind, you’re likely to feel differently about it.
Learning leads to earning
You’re in the business of educating your patients every day and, much of the time, that includes recommendations
for treatment, products, or therapies you know will improve their functionality, health, and well-being.
If you explain it this way to your front-desk CA, odds are good he or she will get it, too.
Imagine the following interaction in your office:
CA: Headache feeling a little better after your adjustment, Mrs. Smith?
Smith: Yes, thanks. But wow, I feel really wiped out now. The doctor told me to use ice when I get home.
CA: [handing patient a bottle or cup of water] Make sure you stay hydrated while your body processes the adjustment. Do you have a comfortable ice pack you can use?
Smith: Not really. I probably have a bag of frozen peas or something.
CA: That could work, but let me show you this hot-cold pack. You can put it on your neck even while you’re driving home, and then refresh it in the freezer as needed over the course of the evening. You can also microwave it when the doctor recommends heat.
Smith: Oh, that’s cool.
CA: Would you like to add that to your total today?
Smith: Yes, thanks. That would be great.
CA: OK, wonderful.
Smith: You know, my son suffers terrible migraines. Would this cold pack help him, too?
CA: It sure could. Is the doctor seeing your son for those migraines?
Smith: No, he just tries to manage them on his own.
CA: Chiropractic adjustments can really help alleviate migraine pain. Would you like to get your son on the doctor’s schedule?
Smith: That’s actually a pretty good idea. Sure.
CA: Awesome. Let’s find a good opening. And you can take this new patient paperwork home with you so when he comes in, we’re all set and ready to go.
In this scenario, the CA just sold the patient a hot-cold pack and booked a new patient visit just by listening, asking the right questions, and offering educational answers that led organically to the sale. The above conversation can easily take place while processing the patient’s co-pay. No high-pressure language, no sweat and sleaze, and no extra time involved.
Familiarity breeds competence
A well-trained, highly informed CA is someone who will feel more comfort- able talking, under your direction, about lumbar pillows, nutraceuticals, essential oils, and any other items that are profit centers in your practice.
Everyone on staff should be using (or at least have tried) as many of these products as possible, so they can talk about them with genuine confidence.
That will feel more educational and like a friendly recommendation than a sale, taking the “ick factor” out of the equation. Familiarity with the doctor’s techniques and the products offered by the practice is critical to CA training.
Imagine going to a restaurant and asking the waiter how the salmon is, only to hear, “Oh, I don’t know, I haven’t tried it yet. I guess I’m not that crazy about salmon. But I’m sure it’s good.”
Are you going to order the salmon? Probably not.
Translate that same interaction for your practice: A patient notices a bottle of Echinacea for sale behind the counter. The patient asks what it’s good for. The CA says, “Oh, I think that’s for your immune system or something, I’m not sure. I don’t really like the taste of those drops, so I don’t use them.”
Is the patient going to buy a bottle? No way.
Your training should also go beyond familiarizing your CAs with your products and therapies. Consider training them on language cues to pick up on, like the first example where the patient mentioned her son’s migraines. During the course of friendly conversation before and after seeing the doctor, the front desk CA has the opportunity to hear a treasure trove of information that can translate quite naturally into a potential sale.
Repetition makes perfect
Many CAs (and other team members) are resistant to scripting. One reason is that many scripts are poorly written. If you’ve ever gotten a cold call from someone trying to sell you something—especially just as you’re sitting down to dinner—you know what that’s like.
When most people hear the awkward, stilted language of a badly written sales script, they put their shields up and tune out, assuming they don’t hang up right then and there.
The same is true for awkward scripting in your practice. A good script is pleasant and to the point, friendly without being overly chummy. Having scripts in a binder, laminated at the front desk, or on note cards is a great idea while team members are getting used to them, but the goal should be complete memorization.
After all, your front desk CA will not be able to predict what patients will ask or when they’ll have questions. Imagine the impression a CA would make by rifling through a binder of scripts before responding.
When you frame sales as helpful education, when you train your staff well, and when you provide good baseline scripting to support their success, you won’t even have to ask your front desk CAs to sell. They’ll simply be doing it naturally, comfortably, and organically.
Kathy Mills Chang, MCS-P, CCPC, is a certified medical compliance specialist and, since 1983, has been providing chiropractors with reimbursement and compliance training, advice, and tools to improve the financial performance of their practices. She leads a team of 16 at KMC University and is known as one of the profession’s foremost experts on Medicare. She or any of her team members can be contacted at 855-832-6562, firstname.lastname@example.org, or through kmcuniversity.com.