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Hospice agencies rely on their marketers to grow their business by generating referrals.

It’s the marketers job to connect with referral sources, present their agencies truthfully, professionally, and as the agency best suited to handle the referral sources’ hospice appropriate patients.

If you approach sales as a numbers game and get your face in front of enough people enough times you will get referrals. But – a numbers game attitude means you’re still missing out on a lot of potential referrals. Worse, it’s difficult to consistently get face to face encounters with potential sources, and even existing referral sources, especially during a pandemic.

To succeed in sales, and even more so in service sales where there is no clear matrix of product comparisons, hospice marketers need to refine their skill set.

One of the most important skills to develop is Objection Handling.

Objections are one of the most common obstacles that marketers face. In all industries, but especially in sales for service industries and even more so in hospice with the growing competition and intense level of 24/7 service by a multi-disciplinary team that is required and interactions with numerous care participants; objections are encountered daily.

Further, because of the account-based nature of referral sources, where to be effective one must connect with multiple people with different responsibilities, focus, and perspectives within a facility, salespeople must be prepared to handle a wide range of type specific objections.

To make it even more difficult, getting the referral isn’t actually the end of the sale. In many agencies the marketers also often handle consent meetings and you will face and need to overcome more objections from the patient, family, POA, and caregivers. If the patients referred to you don’t ‘close’ with you, your sources will stop referring to you.

What separates an average hospice marketer from a star is how they hear and overcome objections.

5 Tips for Handling Objections

1. Stop:

Take a breath and don’t say anything for 2 seconds.

If you respond immediately after hearing an objection – or even worse, before the person even finished stating their objection, you haven’t actually heard the objection and certainly have not processed the stated objection or considered what’s going on behind this objection.

Stopping and taking a moment to digest the information lets the speaker know you’ve actually heard them; you’re listening to what they are expressing. And it gives you time to consider your response rather than repeating a canned talking point.

2. Slow Down:

After a 2 second pause, when you respond, slow down the rate – the speed of your speech.

If you rush your tempo and speak fast, you’re just talking to talk to talk and hoping you stumble on the answer or steamroll them with words. You haven’t heard and aren’t having a conversation, you’re executing a monologue.

Your response should be slow and considered. Speaking slowly will minimize any nervousness you feel, gather your thoughts and corral your emotions, and compliments the initial pause. Further, a slow tempo shows the person you take their concerns seriously while providing more time to articulate a response to their objection and their implied points.

3. Avoid canned responses:

Pausing and speaking slowly won’t cover up the fact that you’re not addressing the objection when your response is the same to every objection. Many reps are fantastic at repeating how wonderful their team is, how amazing their care is, how deeply everyone cares. But the SNF admin asked about scheduling or how this helps their facility and those canned talking points don’t actually address the problem.

Not all objections are created equally. You may be speaking with a new DON who is asking what you might think is a basic question. However, if you respond immediately with a pat answer, you haven’t considered the person asking. Service sales must have an empathetic and relationship building attitude to succeed. Quick pat responses shut down the opportunity to connect.

If you pause, speak slowly, but then rattle off a knee-jerk pre-packaged response, you haven’t heard what the other person has said. Or worse, you’ve made your prospect feel like you haven’t heard them. And if your potential referral source doesn’t feel heard they will see you as another transactional salesperson, not interested in their needs or not knowledgeable enough to address their concerns. Neither is a good look for your agency.

 4. Ask questions:

After you pause, and as you respond slowly, your 1st response should always be to ask questions. Some easy questions that generally apply to many objections:

Can you run that by me again?

Can you give me an example?

Can you explain that to me a bit more?

Can you clarify what you meant by….?

What does that look like to you?

Has this been an issue before?

How would you like this type of situation to be handled?

When you don’t know what to ask remember the WH questions, who, what, why, when, when, and how. Keep that list in your mind, pick one and use it to ask a question. Whatever your questions are, asking will help clarify the objection, your understanding of the issue, and help you formulate a tailored response. Even better, responding with questions will often uncover issues underlying their spoken objection.

5. Respond:

After you’ve listened, heard, and asked questions about the objections.

A. Don’t fake it: If you don’t know the answer: I’ll get back to you isn’t an embarrassing phrase that shows you don’t know your stuff. It’s a phrase that shows you take the other person seriously. Finding out the answer and getting back to the person creates another touch point that continues the conversation and reflects on your professionalism and follow through, which are important attributes to project.

B. Don’t rush through it: You know the answer to the objection you think you heard, are you sure you heard an understood the objection? Clarify, take your time to respond. Provide the answer you have to that objection, and follow up with a question that confirms the answer dealt with the objection such as:

  • Does that make sense?
  • How does that sound to you?

Or even ask for the sale:

  • Is there a patient who is appropriate that you can refer to us so we can show you that what I said will actually translate to… better care, or smooth operations, or lower bed hold days or whatever the objection and answer was.
Bonus Tip:

Even though you responded and handled the objection, use the answered objection as an opportunity to create another touch point. Reach back out the next day to follow up that you double checked internally and are confirming, and hopefully build on your previous response. This will also  show your resource that you really did hear them and took their concerns seriously.

When planning for objections it’s important to remember that each type of discipline and location has different priorities. On a high level, everyone wants great patient care. Focusing on that alone as your catch-all will not address the daily concerns that are a person’s direct responsibility. For example, an admin or SNF owner must be focused on finances and organization. That is their primary responsibility within the overarching umbrella of providing great patient care. A DON and other directors must focus on organization, scheduling, patient family issues, and other managerial type responsibilities.

It’s your job to meet people where they are; to understand their responsibilities, the nature of their focus, and speak to their issues rather than your issues. Every hospice marketer claims their agency’s care is the best. And referral source decision makers aren’t as invested in your hospice care as you are. The default is, with few exceptions, all hospices are going to deliver pretty good care. Delivering great patient care is a point that will help you keep a referral source, it is not the issue that will get you a referral source. How you handle objections will be the difference between growing your relationships with referral sources, or not.

Keep an eye out for Overcoming Objections Part II where we will dive into examples of objections our network of hospice marketers regularly deal with and how they are overcome.

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