Ryan Kalef has written for HHTM several times, usually as a guest Blogger for Holly Hosford-Dunn at Hearing Economics. When he submitted his views on selling, we felt it was a better fit for the “Healthy Hearing” section. Both professionals and consumers read this section. As the co-editor (with Bob Martin), I felt it would be very interesting to show how many of us in the profession look at “selling” or “fitting” a hearing aid. Most of us in the field have found something that works for us, and the consumer may be better prepared when they know where we come from. Thank you, Ryan, for your contribution. Judy Huch, AuD
By Ryan Kalef
So John Doe comes through your door and he tells you, “My wife says I’m deaf.” We have all heard it, and right away the mind starts spinning a whole bunch of ideas which basically end up in” here we go again.” Now all clinical and best practice knowledge aside, if you are running your clinic and are dependent on the sale of hearing aids and related services for your business, you need to really be thinking, “How do I approach this patient with the best net positive outcome for my business?”
To the clinical mind the answer is simple: do what is best for the patient. To the business mind it can be simple too, sell this person some hearing aids. But what are relative risks and rewards with your approach?
You can make a few not-so-far-fetched guesses about our John Doe.
1. He is 68 years old and
2. He has no reported history of occupational noise exposure, nor any family history of hearing loss.
3. He has never had a hearing test before.
4. He was referred to your clinic by his wife who saw your advertisement in the local media.
5. After a brief chat, he will willingly proceed with a comprehensive assessment that will reveal a mild to moderate sloping hearing loss that would benefit from hearing aids.
6. He is a private pay patient/client.
His internal motivation is more challenging to discern: Is he ready to take ownership of his problem? Or did he come in with the deep down expectation that he was going to head home to his wife and triumphantly proclaim he has normal hearing? (In fact, the first clue may be that he did come to the appointment on his own and left his wife at home.)
You have been a good audiologist, performed a world class assessment and reviewed his results with him. Now what? The obvious option is to recommend hearing aids, and in line with your personal style offer your best recommendation to convince Mr. Doe to take ownership of his hearing health and purchase hearing aids. How you choose to approach the subject will depend where on a continuum of “applied pressure” you feel works best for this case. Let’s assume there are three main check points on this continuum: The Hard, The Moderate, and The Soft. Let’s see how each of those can turn out…
The Hard Sell: If you are taking the hard sell approach then you are definitely recommending Mr. John Doe goes ahead with HAs at this visit. The likely outcomes are:
#1 the dream scenario. You have chatted, you have tested you recommend and Mr. Doe says “Yes absolutely, let’s go ahead with your recommendation.” You fit him with some hearing aids; he pays; he is happy and touts to the world how great his audiologist is. WIN WIN WIN!
#2 you chat, you recommend, he agrees wholeheartedly, and then somewhere along the line (either before or after the fitting) he leaves the office and thinks “oh, man, I really wasn’t ready for that, they pushed me. I am going to cancel that order.” Or maybe he placates and goes through some motions, shows up for the fitting and comes back next week and returns. Either way the thought process is the same and he is not happy about being “sold” a hearing aid. (You also have the risk of him spreading negative word of mouth regarding your approach and clinic).
#3 you recommend that he goes ahead with some hearing aids and Mr. Doe just decides no, he does not really want to hear any more, and simply leaves the office. (I know that seems a little dramatic, however if he decides no and leaves either angrily or politely he is still not likely to return).
The Moderate: Now let’s say you decided to take a softer approach and instead of pressuring Mr. Doe to purchase hearing aids today, you go the way of offering a “free trial” as many clinics do.
#1 Mr. Doe accepts, you fit him with some hearing aids, and he has a great experience and decides to purchase the same hearing aids. He is happy and touts to the world how great an audiologist you are. (I have no statistic to back this up, but if he is this happy he probably would have purchased them from the beginning, and you likely wasted some valuable clinic time with the free trial.)
#2 Mr. Doe accepts the trial. He gives the hearing aids an honest go and decides they are not worth the money to him at this time. He thanks you for the experience and is happy he had the opportunity to try at no charge. (He likely as well spreads positive word of mouth regarding your clinic and services when asked.)
#3 Mr. Doe accepts the trial, but only to placate you. He returns the HAs without giving them an honest go, and is frankly frustrated that he was convinced to continue the process further in the first place.
#4 Mr. Doe declines the trial, and leaves feeling that you were pushing him towards something he was not interested in (not so dissimilar from the telemarketer trying to set you up with a free insurance program that is free for one month, $16 a month after and you can cancel at any time). Again, it is also possible that Mr. Doe will spread negative word mouth when asked about his experience.
The Soft: You advise him that HAs are an option, and you offer to provide him information (written or spoken) to consider in deciding his next step.
#1 Mr. Doe leaves, possibly in some shock regarding the result. However, he is likely very happy with the detailed information provided without being sold something. He will likely spread good word about your clinic when asked, and when he is ready for hearing aids you may see him come through your door again. If you were a savvy audiologist, you likely scheduled him to return in three to six months for further discussion concerning his hearing loss and how it is affecting him. Or you have jotted him down in the books for an annual retest visit or an auditory rehabilitation session. Maybe it will take him two or three years to develop that intrinsic motivation to get the help he needs. Your job is help guide him there.
Notice that the only guaranteed result is the last one. It does not result in initial monetary gain; however there is no risk of a negative after affect (unless of course his wife beats down your door wondering why you didn’t sell him hearing aids). The right decision for your patient and your clinic may not always be the obvious one. And the decision you make in your approach impacts how the patient will evaluate their position, and how that patient will spread information about you, your clinic and services. Naturally, every clinician has their own approach as to where on the continuum they choose to approach a particular patient, and this was by no means an exhaustive list of scenarios. So I pose the question, how would you approach our Mr. John Doe?
Ryan Kalef is a clinical/dispensing audiologist with Hearing Life Canada. He practices in White Rock, BC. Ryan holds an MSc in Audiology from the University of British Columbia as well as a BSc in Integrated Sciences (Physics and Psychology), also from UBC. He recently was the conference co-chair for the 2012 BCASLPA conference in Richmond, BC, and represents BCASLPA as the private practice audiology representative.