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Doctors – Rethink Selling!

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Are You Averting Success?

[By Vicki Rackner MD]

vickiAs a Doctor – Does your aversion to selling get in the way of your success?

It did for me!  Here are some “heal thyself” lessons that might help you get better business outcomes.

My old beliefs about selling

When I entered medical school thirty years ago, I believed, “Doctors shouldn’t sell; it’s unprofessional.”

Further, I believed that I didn’t have to sell.  If I just took good care of patients, my practice would grow.

It was a different story when I traded my scalpel for a pen and a microphone and launched a career writing and speaking and consulting. I had to sell.

And almost every day as an entrepreneur I said to myself, “I hate selling!”

My new beliefs about selling

Here’s how I made peace with selling.

I reframed marketing as the process of engaging a prospect in a conversation; I reframed selling as the process of inspiring someone to take action.

Selling is the process of inspiring someone to take action.

You sell every day.  You sell when you persuade your kids to practice the piano, help a colleague see things your way or get the raise you want and deserve.

To generate revenue, you must persuade your prospects to take a very specific action step: exchange their hard-earned dollars for your value.  You generate more revenue when more prospects make more purchasing choices.

Two ways to inspire prospects to make purchasing choices

Imagine the late Billy Mays doing an infomercial for a surgeon who wanted to remove more gallbladders.

“Are you tired of getting pain every time you eat a French fry? Do you dread another gallbladder attack that’s worse than the pain of childbirth? Leave your gallbladder worries behind you! Come on in and have your gallbladder removed. Take advantage of our special promotional offer. Bring your mother and we’ll remove two gallbladders for the price of one. But, wait; there’s more.  Schedule your procedure this week and we’ll throw in a free appendectomy.”

As silly as this sounds, you may have a picture like this in your head when you think about selling.

That’s not how I helped patients say yes to a surgical procedure.  I created an experience of “facilitated buying.”  

If you’ve ever had an operation, you made a choice at the end of a process called informed consent.   Your doctors with whom you establish a relationship:

  • Gather information
  • Make a diagnosis
  • Make treatment recommendations.

Then your doctors fulfill a duty to help you understand what the treatment involves, the likely benefit you would enjoy and the risks. You were given alternatives, including the option of doing nothing.

Then out of respect for your autonomy, you were asked to make the choice that worked best for you. Many patients chose to delegate the decision to the doctor.

Could you reproduce this informed consent process in your business?  Could you engage a prospect in a conversation, build a relationship, understand where it hurts, render a diagnosis and offer a treatment plan?

My experience with tens of thousands of patients leads me to conclude that most people make good choices once they understand the risks, benefits and alternatives.

My selling lessons

Here are the lessons I learned:

  • Think of your sales funnel as a series of small “yeses” that guide prospects to the facilitated buying conversation.
  • The first yes is the hardest.  Make it easy.  Ask your prospects to accept a free sample of the result you deliver.  Invite them to sign up to get something they want.  Then think about how you can engage more prospects in conversations, and inspire more of them to take that first step.
  • The first sale is the hardest.  Can you go back to your existing clients with a second, third or fourth purchasing option?
  • Respect your buyers’ autonomy.  Don’t push; offer your prospects the opportunity to buy.  If you have correctly identified and clearly explained your value, the right clients will say yes.  If they don’t say yes, consider changing your value proposition to align with something the buyer really wants, or tweaking the way you frame your offer.
  • You can enhance your power to persuade.  This is a skill that can be developed.  You will see a significant ROI whether you want to generate more revenue, inspire more patients to take medication as prescribed or get more of what you want in your relationships.




Changing my mindset about selling was transformative. I recognized that the doctor-patient relationship could be a model guiding my interactions with prospects and clients.  All I had to do as an entrepreneur was conduct myself like a doctor.  I was selling all along, even in my surgical practice!

You may not have attended medical school, but you know how you like to be treated by your doctor. What if you treated your prospects and clients the same way you wanted to be treated as a patient?

Prospecting is much easier–and much more fun–when you see yourself like the doctor reaching out to the clients who value the result you help them get. That translates to better business outcomes.


Rethinking selling worked for me and for my clients.  It can work for you, too.

What do you think?


Vicki Rackner MD is an author, speaker and consultant who offers a bridge between the world of medicine and the world of business. She helps businesses acquire physician clients, and she helps physicians run more successful practices. Contact her at (425) 451-3777.


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