How Sales Reps Can Qualify Prospects Like Doctors

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Ryan Neu
Ryan Neu





Salespeople have more in common with doctors than might first meet the eye.

While your doctor spends their career helping people take care of their health, you spend your career helping prospects grow their businesses. And it usually goes unnoticed, but your doctor is actually a terrific salesperson. A good doctor is an active listener, digs deep into pain, and prescribes the next step with confidence. As a result, they're able to help the most amount of people, in the shortest amount of time, with the least amount of error.

Salespeople, take note. Doctors have aced the ability to qualify and disqualify with slim margin of error, and we all have a lot to learn from them.

Let's take a closer look.

Think about the last time you went to your doctor. What is the first thing that the doctor said to you?

Doctors say things like:

  • What brings you in here today?
  • How are you feeling?
  • What's going on?

Doctors don't say things like:

  • I assume you aren't feeling well
  • I'm guessing you have a broken leg
  • You should take this medicine

The doctor's opening line is never an assumption, speculation, or recommendation. It is always open-ended, free of assumptions, and broad in scope.

There are five steps that a sales rep can follow in order to qualify like a doctor. Let's dig into the doctor's qualification process.

1) Demonstrate inherent credibility.

When you walk into a doctor's office, you assume that the doctor is qualified, trustworthy, and has your best interest in mind. A doctor demonstrates credibility through confidence and does not attempt to showcase their credibility because it is already assumed. I call this "inherent credibility."

Enter your sales calls from the position of a trusted advisor and be confident that the prospect came to you because they want help. You are in a position to help solve the prospect's problems.

2) Don't make assumptions.

Your doctor starts every conversation with a blank slate and doesn't make assumptions regarding your health, happiness, lifestyle, etc. You should apply this to your sales process as well.

For example, let's say you sell lead generation software. When doing pre-call research, you notice your prospect does not have any web forms or other opportunities to convert website visitors into leads.

The non-doctor approach would be to assume lead generation is a priority for the company and immediately provide a recommendation: "I noticed that you don't have any opportunities to convert your visitors into leads. This isn't good. My product would help you get more leads on your website."

But if you think like a doctor, you'll start the conversation this way: "What are you hoping to get out of this conversation? I've spent some time on your website and am curious to hear how you are using your website today, and how it's going, but am happy to answer any questions you may have."

Both approaches are an attempt to discover if lead generation is important to the prospect. However, the non-doctor approach is riddled with assumptions that will lead to an disingenuous response because it forces a product on a prospect who hasn't even told you what they want help with yet.

Leading questions result in shallow answers. Keep your questions free of assumptions to gather the most information possible.

3) Practice saying "I don't know."

It sounds counterintuitive, but saying "I don't know" actually helps establish credibility. Oftentimes, you are afraid to say "I don't know" because you believe that you'll lose credibility if you don't have all of the answers. Unfortunately, this has the opposite outcome. Pretending to understand a question and giving an incorrect answer will quickly diminish your established trust and credibility.

When a doctor isn't sure of an answer to a patient's question, they are quick to say so, because they're not going to risk an incorrect diagnosis. Patients know this, which is why we trust doctors.

Admitting that you don't know something demonstrates that you have the prospect's best interest in mind because you're unwilling to make up an answer. Phrases like "I don't know" and "I don't understand" help a salesperson establish credibility and accelerate a sale.

Here's how these phrases sound in a real sales conversation: "I'm actually not sure if our product can solve that specific use case. If it's okay with you, I will check with one of our sales engineers and get back to you after this call. Does that sound good?"

This response builds credibility while helping you avoid going down a rabbit hole on the subject in question.

4) Get mutual buy-in.

After your doctor asks open-ended questions and examines you to understand your pain, they are ready to make a diagnosis. But, before prescribing any medicine, the doctor ensures that you are bought-in to the plan.

In order to gain mutual buy-in, explain the prospect's problem back to them to confirm your understanding, then ask if they're ready to move to the next step, like so: "Alright, so here's what I've heard so far: You have struggled to gain leads on your website and it is causing your business to miss growth goals. You are attempting to solve this problem as quickly as possible and are hoping to see positive results within two months. Did I understand everything correctly? Is there anything that I missed? Are you ready to get help?"

At the mutual buy-in stage, the doctor ends the recommendation with a question. After all, the doctor isn't going to prescribe any medication if you aren't planning on taking it.

5) Prescribe the next step.

After mutual buy-in is received, it is time to prescribe the medicine. Present the prospect with the offering that most closely fits their needs, and explain why it's the best choice for them. Spend a bit of time explaining why you aren't recommending the other options (particularly if you're prescribing a more expensive or customized offering).

Your doctor is in control throughout the diagnostic process and is confident in their prescription. This is the first stage of the sales process that does not involve questions, because there are no more questions to ask -- it is time to act.

When you sell like a doctor, you sell more efficiently.

Doctors run a well-refined inbound sales machine. Your doctor listens, digs deep, understands pain, and prescribes solutions to problems. Leverage this process within your sales process in order to qualify more efficiently and prescribe more accurately.

If you'd like to explore sales qualification strategies in more depth, you can get in touch with me at Closed Lost.

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