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Lateral Thinking

By Charles Brennan

Arecent survey of directors of training asked, “What is the percentage of healthcare provider (HCP) sales calls that are conducted by your representatives that achieve a level of critical thinking?” Their answers ranged from a low of 5 percent to a high of 20 percent. The average was slightly below 15 percent.

Why Should This Be Concerning?

To change the outcome of a sales call, the topic of lateral thinking can be a solution. Lateral thinking is loosely defined as solving a problem by an indirect and creative approach, typically through viewing the problem in a new and unusual light. It is taking a problem and addressing it with the rearrangement of information or responses.

In the book Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono, the author states that individuals speak with patterns and codes, they say the same things day in and out. He also suggests that people with short attention spans, resort to preset patterns or biases. What is the likelihood of comes to speaking with a representative?

DeBono goes on to explain, technically, when people have a limited attention span, they only activate a limited amount of their memory surface during short interactions; therefore, they maintain their preset memories or biases.

Why Is This Important?

According to the principles of lateral thinking, if a conversation between two individuals does not obtain a level of critical thought, the chance for getting that person to do something different is limited. In other words, the HCP’s mindset, protocols, algorithms or prescribing habits will not change. In addition, if the doctor does not find the conversation relevant or stimulating, the time spent is considered wasted, access will be diminished and value is reduced.

Are only 15 percent of typical sales calls effective? In baseball, a player who hits over 30 percent of the time is considered a star. A player who hits only 15 percent is unemployed!

Vertical vs. Lateral

Most HCPs are vertical thinkers. They seek the correct answer every step of the way. Of course, that makes total sense. They don’t want to make a mistake. They follow the patterns they have learned throughout their career. However, if you rearrange the way information or questions are presented, you can get them to think differently.You could be on the road to breaking their patterns, habits and memories.

If you ask a friend, family member or colleague, the following question, what do you think their response would be? For example, “If your middle child or last born was of a different sex, what would you have named that child? “How would that have changed your life? “Or, “If you relocated to a different city when you were younger or attended a different school, how do you think that would have impacted your life and what you are doing now?”

These questions are getting the person to reconsider their choices in a non-threatening way. Getting the HCP to reconsider what they do in a hectic and regulated environment can be a challenge. Changing their viewpoints and perspectives is essential to initiate lateral thinking.

Getting the additional 15 percent requires a different approach, presenting things in a different way, asking questions in a more engaging, less predictable fashion. _____________________________________________________________________

Charles Brennan is president of Brennan Sales Institute. Email Charles at cbrennan@brennantraining.com.

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