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Do you have money to throw away?

Kasewurm, Gyl A.

doi: 10.1097/01.HJ.0000373452.06322.92
Gyl's Guide to Managing for Success

Gyl A. Kasewurm, AuD, is Founder, President, and Owner of Professional Hearing Services in St. Joseph, MI, which receives more than 16,000 patient visits a year. Readers may contact Dr. Kasewurm at

I think I have a pretty good handle on what's going on in my business, so imagine how shocked I was to learn I had potentially thrown away more than $35,000 in October and November last year! During those 2 months, 26 new patients who needed hearing help didn't get it. If even half of those patients had been convinced to get help, the business would have realized an additional $35,000 in net revenue!

As I analyzed the numbers, I had to wonder,

“How would business grow if we did just a LITTLE better job of convincing patients to take our advice?”

Diagnosing a hearing loss is just the first step in helping a patient. The fact is that the ability to “sell” a patient on the idea of obtaining help in the form of hearing aids directly relates to the bottom line.

On a basic level, selling is simply listening and understanding what a patient needs to do to improve their quality of life. The probable consequences of doing a poor job of convincing patients to get hearing help are that they will become more socially isolated, their quality of life will deteriorate, and, according to MarkeTrak, their earning potential will shrink. From this perspective, it seems that it's our professional responsibility not only to sell our solutions, but to be very good at it as well.

Let's talk about some common objections that we hear everyday:

“My hearing isn't bad enough.” The patient called to make an appointment, took time out of his schedule, drove to the office, endured a test in a soundproof booth, recounted many situations in which he experienced difficulty, and was embarrassed about not being able to hear well. And yet, he says his hearing isn't bad enough to get help. Really?

Perhaps what the patient is actually saying is that he's not convinced he should spend the money and time to get hearing aids. In this situation, think back to the case history and remind the patient of the original reason he made the appointment. For instance, “You mentioned that you didn't hear your wife calling you when she fell down the stairs, Mr. Jones. It seems divorce is a more expensive option than obtaining hearing aids.”

“I want to think about it.” In this situation, you may not have answered all the patient's questions and some objection still exists. Perhaps you could say, “Ms. Jones, obviously I would like you to get the help you need. Is there some information I can give you today that would help you make your decision?” Or, on a lighter note, “You told me you have noticed this problem for the past 5 years and you are 85 years old. How much longer will you need to think about it?”

“I can't afford it.” This may be a legitimate objection. However, don't take it at face value. Many of us can recall at least one patient who didn't look as if he could afford help and said he couldn't afford help only to discover he was a multi-millionaire. Or the patient who claimed she couldn't afford help and then went to a less qualified competitor who did convince her to purchase aids.

“I need to talk with my spouse.” This is often a legitimate objection. Most patients won't make a purchase decision of such magnitude without discussing it with their spouse. However, the spouse probably knew of the appointment and in fact, even encouraged the visit. In this scenario, the first option is to suggest that the spouse accompany the patient when the appointment is made. I have read that patients are 80% more likely to take action when an influencer comes to the appointment with them.

If the patient comes alone, you can say, “I have identified a significant hearing problem in our testing, Mr. Jones. Obviously, this is affecting communication between you and your wife, so I would like to make another appointment when she can accompany you and we can discuss this problem together.”

“Hearing aids don't work.” Most of us have heard patients talk of the “friend” who has aids sitting in a drawer. In such cases, it's futile to speculate why the friend doesn't like his or her aids. Instead, say, “It's true there are patients who don't wear their hearing aids, but in your situation...” And then explain why your patient is an excellent candidate for help.

Don't take a patient's first objection as a final “no.” Try to determine what is actually holding the patient back and return to the reasons he or she made the appointment in the first place—missing important information at work, feeling left out of conversations with loved ones, avoiding social situations, etc. Never try to manipulate a patient into buying. You may get someone to take action in the short run, but in the end the patient may return the aids or let them sit in a drawer.

The best way to get patients to heed our advice is by understanding their particular needs, asking the right questions, and setting realistic expectations. Convincing more people to get help will result in greater patient satisfaction, not to mention a better bottom line for the practice.

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.