So if Patients are Customers, How do you Sell to Them?

So if Patients are Customers, How do you Sell to Them?

Consumerization of sick care is on everyone's lips. I think patient consumerism, i.e. the belief that if given the right information, patient-consumers will make smart sick care choices based on value, is a myth.

However, since the holy grail is changing doctor and patient behavior to move sick care to healthcare, we should learn from other industry sales professionals about the best way to sell disease prevention, chronic disease management and compliance behaviors to patients. We are rapidly moving from telling to selling patients so we need to learn the tools of the trade.

If you go to the next meeting of the Sales Enablement Society, here's what you are going to learn from people with titles that will be strange to you.

Sales enablement is the process of providing the sales organization with the information, content, and tools that help sales people sell more effectively. The foundation of sales enablement is to provide sales people with what they need to successfully engage the buyer throughout the buying process. A big part of sales enablement involves equipping sales people with information they can use in sales cycles. This information might take the form of customer-facing content, sales best practices, and tools to name just a few examples. Regardless of the form the information takes, it needs to be easy to consume and reusable across the sales organization.

One of the sickcare jobs of the future will the be Director of Sales Operations, overseeing patient sales enablement. Here are 5 sales enablement best practices. In the case of sick care. that means you will need:

  1. Clearly defined KPIs e.g. better outcomes, experience and equity at less cost.

  2. Data and analytics to subsegment the market by demographics and psychographics.

  3. Improving the patient buying experience and the sales force selling experience.

  4. Sales force training and development.

  5. Creating high impact content and sales/marketing collateral.

  6. Better marketing-sales integration and handoffs.

  7. Sales operations monitoring the results and making the necessary adjustments.

  8. Measuring the ROI.

  9. Designing appropriate sales people compensation schemes.

  10. Creating the most appropriate sales organizational structure and deciding whether to make or buy sales people.

Like the case in situational leadership, you need to practice situational sales enablement depending on the ability and willingness and confidence of the patient consumer.

Of course, solving every new challenge in sick care requires hiring new managers with many many multiples of the salary of those actually taking care of the patients. Thus, the rise of chief data officers and chief patient officers.

Patient sales will require rethinking the present structure of what we now call healthcare marketing and patient engagement. If we are going to rename patients as customers, then we should treat them like customers and learn how to sell, instead of tell them, what's best for them.

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs.

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  • Mollie Cooper

    Most healthcare providers pursue their careers because they want to help and heal, not sell and deal. Nobody likes to be sold but you gotta learn how to sell to succeed.

  • Eric Walker

    If you understand sales as the art of influencing people to see the value of good products and services, you quickly begin to appreciate that ethical selling in healthcare is about helping people appreciate and value decisions about their health needs and desires for a healthier, happier life that can have a profound, positive impact.

  • Florian Alexandre

    It feels like a genuine desire and motivation to help people understand the value in doing what is in the patient’s own best interest.

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Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA

Former Contributor

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is a professor emeritus of otolaryngology, dentistry, and engineering at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Colorado School of Public Health and President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at He has created several medical device and digital health companies. His primary research centers around biomedical and health innovation and entrepreneurship and life science technology commercialization. He consults for and speaks to companies, governments, colleges and universities around the world who need his expertise and contacts in the areas of bio entrepreneurship, bioscience, healthcare, healthcare IT, medical tourism -- nationally and internationally, new product development, product design, and financing new ventures. He is a former Harvard-Macy fellow and In 2010, he completed a Fulbright at Kings Business, the commercialization office of technology transfer at Kings College in London. He recently published "Building the Case for Biotechnology." "Optical Detection of Cancer", and " The Life Science Innovation Roadmap". He is also an associate editor of the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology and Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship and Editor-in-Chief of Medscape. In addition, He is a faculty member at the University of Colorado Denver Graduate School where he teaches Biomedical Entrepreneurship and is an iCorps participant, trainer and industry mentor. He is the Chief Medical Officer at and and Chairman of the Board at GlobalMindED at, a non-profit at risk student success network. He is honored to be named by Modern Healthcare as one of the 50 Most Influential Physician Executives of 2011 and nominated in 2012 and Best Doctors 2013.

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