As Co-Founder and Chairman of Orange & Gray, Phil has worked with hearing care practitioners across the globe for close to a decade. Having now also worked closely with Inner Circle members since 2018, he has seen close up how the words we choose are critical to making conversations count when we communicate with patients and potential patients.
With a special edition of Exactly What To Say for hearing care on its way, this interview hones in on specific examples of how his “Magic Words” can be applied to your practice, including some new sets of words to apply straight away.
In this interview, Oli asked Phil some really in depth questions and got to the heart of what will make a real impact in 2021.
Here are some key highlights:
The best way to start something new – how do you drive a change in pricing structure?
Phil starts by getting us to think about the potential pay-off of making a change. Get complete clarity in your mind of “why am I doing it?” and get as many reasons as you can to help you communicate and push through when motivation wanes.
Then give yourself 3 levels of success that you can plan action towards – worst case, uniformed approach and utopia. Starting small also enables you to get momentum, test concepts and be more likely to go the distance.
Turning resistance to change into enjoyment of the process
The key to approaching a team of providers who are resistant to change and enjoy it as opposed to resist it, is to talk to their interests and present the benefit to them. This can impact on the likelihood of people following through on actions, especially around examples like asking for reviews.
How can you as a leader best tackle complex conversations?
The 3 ingredients you need to tackle difficult conversations was illustrated by Phil in the form of a diagram.
Empathy – A definition of empathy from Jon Acuff is “Caring about what the people you care about, care about.” If you want to someone to become better at asking for reviews, you’ve got to be able to see the world through their lens.
Courage – The courage to ask the powerful questions – if you do not ask you do not get. Having the courage to ask someone to take action is key. “How many conversations have you had this week where you’ve asked for a review?”
When you tackle these in order, in a cyclical fashion, you do everything from a position of trust, which is what you want to earn if you want to change the behavior of others.
Helping your team to have better conversations by keeping it simple
The ask isn’t the hard part. The permission to ask is the hard part. So there is a simple set of words that Phil shares to almost guarantee that somebody will give you a review.
“Could you do me a small favor?”
But when can you ask this question? At the point at which the other person is grateful. The trigger words here are “thank you”. When they feel indebted, this is the best time to ask. You have earned your window to ask for the referral.
Encouraging people to follow through on their promise to refer
What you want to ensure is that people actually now follow through on the favor. Most often this comes in the form of a shared frustration or “elevator rant” to create some common ground. For example:
“One of the things I find really frustrating in this world right now is that people are regularly checking their blood pressure, their eyesight, their cholesterol, but they fail to regularly check their hearing. Resulting in people coming to me only when it’s too late.”
“Could you maybe think of one or two people you care about?”
“Yes” (that part is easy)
“Are there any of those folks you care about that maybe haven’t had a regular hearing test? Will you ask them a simple question for me?”
“Will you simply ask them when was the last time they had a hearing evaluation? And if they answer with anything other than within the last 12 months, will you hand them one of these cards?”
Magic Words for front office staff
Phil introduces a set of words that are being added to the new edition of Exactly What To Say. Here’s a set of words that helps approach the “how much” question:
What do you understand about…?
“What do you understand about the difference of working with a professional hearing care clinic as opposed to just buying hearing aids?”
“What do you understand about our comprehensive testing process?”
More often than not you will get a response of “I don’t know much”.
This leads to a second set of words where you’re asking permission again:
Would it help if…?
“Would it help if I walked you through some of those differences so that you could make a more informed decision?”
“Would it help if I walked you through some of that information so that you came to your appointment better prepared?”
The combination of those sets of words will put your front desk staff into a position of strength when faced with this type of question.
Making stronger recommendations by understanding patients better
The more about your patients’ circumstances you can understand, the easier it is to make better recommendations. The context comes from their case history and background, so Phil recommends a set up of words:
“Help me understand…”
“When was the last time…”
“For how long has this existed?”
This sets you up to find a real problem to solve and your solution becomes much more powerful, plus the permission to deliver a treatment plan. Staying curious at the front end, earns us the tight to make the recommendation later in the conversation.
Dealing with cancellations – a role play
In this part of the interview, Oli plays the role of a patient who calls to change their appointment due to their Grandson recommending that it’s currently unsafe. Phil answers the phone. The key sets of words we hear are:
“Why do you say that?” (when they say they feel it’s unsafe to visit their practice)
“What difference would it make if…” (when addressing their worries about safety)
“If a concern comes up, here’s what we would do” (if they say they have no immediate issues)
The key here is to create confidence and reassurance, but show empathy towards their concerns.
(If you want to see why Oli never made it as an actor, listen to the full recording…)
How do you make this stick?
Creating a graphic as a formula for people to refer to is a great idea, but the best approach is through repetition. And Phil recommends that the best way to do this as a leader is to say “let me show you” and show some vulnerability. Why not have a go at the next few calls? Why not run a micro session before you open and demonstrate and make a game of it, but by leading it by example.
If you show enough people that an improved result is possible, they will figure out a way of achieving that improved result using any resources you make available. If you push them using processes, they’ll push back and find reasons why it won’t work.
The key changes you will see in the new edition of Exactly What To Say
Phil announced that Exactly What To Say for Hearing Care will be available by the end of March 2021. This is a fully customized version for all front desk and providers in all areas of hearing care conversations, with scenarios directly from the hearing care world.
The business you’re running and the business you’re growing
Phil tells us how his 20 years in business has been a permanent process of reinvention. He encourages us to see ourselves as having 2 businesses – the business you are running and the business you are growing.
What happens if you dedicate 20% of your time and resources to a new area of business? Once that area grows to become the main area of business, you repeat the process of finding a new business to grow. This is where you achieve continual reinvention and have permission to play.
It could be as simple as the business you are running is your current body of patients. The business you are growing is the potential patients who don’t yet know you exist.
Building your success squad (see page 66 of Exactly Where To Start)
Phil talks about how having the right people around you in the right roles is a real key to success. In Exactly Where To Start he shares a list of roles you should seek to fill or define who fits where:
Cheerleaders – people who want to see you win
Role Models – people ahead of you on the journey
Mentors – people who help you make better decisions
Coaches – people who ask the questions you haven’t yet asked yourself
Trainers – people who teach you what you need to know
Resources – people with the skills you don’t have
Advisors – people to talk over ideas with
Aspirational Peers – people on a similar journey
Completing a life laundry to eliminate the wrong people from your life is a powerful activity to ensure you have only positive influences in your life.
A powerful formula for making better decisions for how you spend your time
Phil’s final piece of advice gets us to look how we spend and prioritise our time. This comes down to a formula that ends up with giving us a figure for what an hour of our time is worth. The formula is:
How much do you want to earn personally over the next 12 months? (Divide by)
How many weeks of the year would you be happy to work? (Divide by)
How many hours do you want to work in those weeks?
Divide the first number by the second number and then by the third number, you have your hourly rate. And now you can make more informed decisions about whether your activities are high pay off or not. You can then apply this approach to your pricing.
These are just some of the key notes from a 60-minute interview with Phil M Jones. The full interview is only available to “Inner Circle” members, but you can view the highlights below.