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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.