Tame the receptionist who won’t let you see the doctor
Every time you try to schedule an appointment with the practice owner, Donna blocks your access, claiming the doctor is performing an emergency surgery or simply too busy to see sales representatives. Besides hurting your sales, the gatekeeper receptionist is limiting the practice’s growth potential. How can you get past Donna the Dragon and see the decision-maker? Try these approaches:
Learn receptionists’ names. To establish rapport, know receptionists’ names and greet them personally when you visit the hospital. A simple and genuine inquiry of “Good morning, Donna. How is your day going?” could begin a relationship. Your effort to learn names communicates that you care about the entire team – not just the veterinarian.
Explain why you need to see the doctor. Be inclusive and share details with the receptionist so she will understand the opportunity for the practice. Say, “Donna, I need to talk with Dr. Smith for 15 minutes to explain our new product with special savings that will expire at the end of this month. This product could benefit your patients and generate healthy income for the hospital. Could you ask Dr. Smith if he is available? I promise to respect his time.”
Leave a personal note. If Donna blocks access, leave a hand-written note requesting a meeting, your business card and product literature. Indicate when you will follow up.
Give a small gift. Go to your local grocery store and ask the bakery to make a dozen donuts with icing and sprinkles in your company logo colors. Tape your business card and a personal note to the box of donuts, and then deliver it to the hospital.
Ask when the next staff meeting is scheduled and find out the team’s favorite kind of pizza. Explain that you’ll have pizzas delivered and would appreciate a brief meeting with the doctor before the staff meeting starts.
Send a follow-up email. Attach the product detailer and request an appointment. Sending the message to the doctor’s email is best because you can bypass the gatekeeper. If you don’t have the doctor’s email, send it to the practice manager and/or hospital’s general email address.
Mail a letter. Address the envelope to the veterinarian. Chances are the business owner reads his snail mail. Send a one-page letter with an overview of the information you want to discuss and enclose your business card and product detailer. Explain that you will call or visit next week to set a meeting. When you call and Donna the Dragon tries to block you again, explain, “I have been corresponding with Dr. Smith by mail, and I need to follow up with him this week.”
Schedule an appointment. If Donna says you need an appointment to see the doctor, say, “Great, I’ve got my calendar with me. I can see Dr. Smith on Wednesday at 2 p.m. or Friday at 9 a.m. Which choice fits his schedule?” Use the two-yes-options technique to lead the receptionist to schedule the appointment. If either choice doesn’t work, ask when Dr. Smith is available.
Be persistent. If Donna still shuts you down, visit the hospital so you can have a face-to-face conversation with her. Ask, “How can we work together so Dr. Smith can get the information he needs?” Make her feel part of the solution. If she refuses to help, send a letter to Dr. Smith explaining that you have tried to reach him. Use benefit statements to explain why you need to meet.
Wendy S. Myers owns Communication Solutions for Veterinarians in Castle Pines, Colo. She helps teams improve client service, communication skills and compliance through consulting, seminars and monthly CE credit webinars. Her latest book is 101 Communication Skills for Veterinary Teams. Wendy’s new “Callers Into New Clients Course” will teach receptionists how to turn more price shoppers into lifetime clients. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.csvets.com.