Healthcare Consultation: How to ask questions that reveal why people buy

Why do people buy elective healthcare services?

They are buying it because they hope to gain something, or to avoid continued pain.

Most people are in strong agreement that the reasons we listed are very powerful emotional motivators in our last post, and the reasons why people buy elective health services. Wouldn’t you agree?

These are what we call dominant buying motives. Dominant Buying Motives are considerably stronger than second-level preferences, and astronomically more powerful than first-level needs.

Well, if you can agree that people are buying for Dominant Buying Motives, you may want to ask yourself: how much time am I or my staff spending asking first level (fact-based, need-based) questions in a consultation?

Questions like:

  • “Have you read our literature?
  • Did you see us on the TV?
  • Are you familiar with the procedure?
  • Have you tried wearing contact lenses?
  • Do you like to golf or swim?
  • And so on…

I’ve listened to hours and hours of recorded sales consultations and have heard only one question that started with the word “why” – often a clue that there is about to be a Dominant Buying Motive question asked.

If we only ask first-level questions, how do get to the emotional reasons that people would buy our product? If we don’t get to the Dominant Buying Motives, it’s just a crapshoot whether we figure out if they would buy.

That is why it is so imperative that we understand this distinction. We need to comprehend that people are indeed buying for dominant buying motives.

If you’d like more proof, read your testimonials. Skip the parts where they congratulate you for your bedside manner and your well-appointed amenities, and seek out the emotional reasons your patients cite as to WHY they had the procedure.

A major goal of the discovery then, is to not only get to the first-level, or even the second-level, but the third-level, Dominant Buying Motive. So how do we get there?

What are the four distinct methods for making sure we get to people’s emotional desires for purchasing?

1. To get the Dominant Buying Motive of our prospects we need to ask more “Why” questions in a consultation

When we say “Why do you dislike your glasses?”, we are most likely eliciting an emotional response.

When they say: “Well, I dislike my glasses because they remind me of when a school mate nicknamed me Zoom Lens and said that I looked like I had two coke bottles on my face.” The Dominant Buying Motive would be “self-esteem”.

Or “They make me unproductive at work, it’s all I can do to just make it through to day without tossing them across the room.” The Dominant Buying Motive there would be “convenience”.

We may want to ask questions like: “why haven’t you had surgery sooner?”

We shouldn’t just ask first-level and second-level questions, but once we get a response, ask “Why?” Ask “Why?” every time you can during the discovery process. Be like a two-year-old child: Why are there stars? Why is there a sun? Why are there people there? Why is that a dog? Why, Why, Why?

2. Just listen

All too often, we ask a question in the consultation and never really let our clients finish their train of thought. We’re too busy thinking about what we’re going to say next or jumping to the next first-level question instead of listening, and that’s one of the biggest mistake salespeople make.

We’ll ask something like: “How long have you felt you had this problem?” And just as the prospect answers the question, we’ll jump straight to “Have you heard of the latest advancements in XYZ treatments?” Instead of truly letting them speak.

It is when we truly let our prospect’s speak and finish their train of though, that they feel safe enough and comfortable enough with us, to tell us more.

Have you noticed that when we’re with a friend, that the more that friend listens, the more we end up telling them? Some people never interrupt; they just listen, and listen, and listen. It is amazing some of the things you may tell someone like that, because they’re just always there listening.

The same is true for our prospects and consultations. In fact, very often we will ask the prospect a question and if there is a long pause, we feel uncomfortable, so we quickly ask another question. But it’s very often after that long “pregnant” pause that the prospect tells us their dominant buying motives.

All too often the prospect is just using small talk, and when that pause happens, she has nowhere to go but the truth, and so she reaches deep and says something very valuable.

For instance, we may say to a prospect: “Do you do a lot of sports?” They might say: “No…” If we just quickly move on the next question without pausing, they might have continued by saying something like: “No… not since I’ve had to get these specs that are always getting in my way.”

The best way to realise how much we don’t listen in life is, just to realize how much we don’t listen in life. You’ll probably catch yourself, now that you have this distinction, in conversation with customers, friends and associates. You’ll catch yourself cutting them off or pushing on the next question, without really listening. You may even catch yourself saying “uh-huh”, “right”, or “yes” repeatedly after their every utterance – but are you really hearing and agreeing with everything they’re saying, or are you just rushing them along?

3. To use expressions like: “Tell me more” ask deeper and deeper questions about the same initial question

A series of questions like: “Do you wear glasses?”; “Do you like or dislike your glasses?”; and “Why do you dislike your glasses?” is all asking deeper and deeper questions about the same subject.

This is a great role-play exercise to get in the habit of asking deeper questions. Give me two-minutes with one of your staff, and I’ll reveal their deepest motivations behind working at your clinic. And it’s all just by using progressively deeper and deeper questions. Like peeling an onion.

“When selling… lead with the right (brain); follow with the left (brain).”

As a side note, if a prospect brings up an objection in the consultation, we do want to answer it at that moment. We need to get all the information we can from the prospect in the discovery, so he’s not scared to give us even more information. If we were to answer questions right away in the consultation, the prospect may be concerned we’ll use all his information against him. Careful: Don’t ever sell in the discovery.

Secondly, don’t make the questions sound like an interrogation. Remember, make the discovery questions conversational and don’t interrogate your prospects.

In the next section we’ll be discussing all the questions that we use in the discovery to get good first-level, second-level, and third-level responses from our prospects.

I’ll leave you with this last statement regarding appealing to our prospects emotional brain centres, before justifying their purchase with logical reasons: When selling… lead with the right; follow with the left.

(NOTE: Want to see how your practice marketing measures up against the best in class? Take this 5-minute quiz to see how you stack up in the 9 areas of practice marketing and get specific tips and advice on how you can improve your weak points and better leverage your strengths).

About the author


LiveseySolar’s mission is to double the size of 150 cataract and refractive surgery practices. Using our proven marketing frameworks and deep market knowledge, our customers can predictably and sustainably grow their practices so that they can enjoy a healthy balance between both worlds – a successful private practice and a happy life.

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Erik Chotiner, MD, FACS, Ophthalmologist

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Meet our Founders

We’re passionate about helping leaders of high-quality, growth-minded practice owners double their practice revenue

Rod Solar

Founder & Scalable Business Advisor

Rod co-founded LiveseySolar and acts as a Fractional CMO and Scalable Business Advisor for our customers. He’s on a mission to help transform the lives of 10,000 people with vision correction surgery by 2024. To achieve that, he inspires his customers to make confident decisions that will help 50,000 people take the first step towards vision correction.

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LiveseySolar completely transformed the way we were approaching this… We’ve gone from having just the dream of having a practice to having a practice up and running with people making inquiries and booking for procedures… It’s extremely pleasing. We feel lucky we connected with LiveseySolar.

— Dr Matthew Russell, MBChB, FRANZCO, specialist ophthalmic surgeon and founder of VSON and OKKO

Laura Livesey

Founder & CEO

Laura Livesey is the co-founder & CEO of LiveseySolar. She has developed powerful refractive surgery marketing systems that increase patient volumes and profits for doctors, clinics, and hospitals, since 1997.

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Rod and Laura know as much about marketing surgery to patients as I know about performing it. They are an expert in the field of laser eye surgery marketing. They know this industry inside out. I believe that they could help many companies in a variety of areas including marketing materials, sales training and marketing support for doctors.

— Prof. Dan Reinstein, MD MA FRSC DABO, founder of the London Vision Clinic, UK