Pharmacy U

Can pharmacists help patients lead healthier lives? Hint: you already are

Jen Baker

Who here has ever purchased something that they didn’t originally want because of a particularly persuasive sales pitch? Perhaps it was a timeshare in Mexico, an upgrade on your computer or a supplementary life insurance policy, but you made the purchase despite the fact that you originally had no intention of buying.  The salesperson was polite but persistent, they listened to why you initially said “no” and had solid counterpoints that eventually changed your mind and made you open your wallet.


by Jen Baker B.Sc. Phm.

Now think about the way you interact with your patients – are you as persistent and persuasive with your health-improving recommendations as that salesperson was in promoting their product?  If not, you are likely missing opportunities to help your patients live their healthiest lives.


We often hear our patients say “no” (in some way, shape or form) in our pharmacies when we are making a health recommendation or offering a service.  How many of your patients have rejected a medication review or a flu immunization, or have told you that they take their medications every day when in fact their refill history tells another story? When your patient objects to whatever it is that you’re pitching, do you politely thank them for their time, or do you (also politely) question why they are refusing?


Overcoming objections is one of the most important skills a good salesperson possesses.  The majority of sales interactions will hear the buyer say “no” at some point, and a skilled salesperson sees this as a gift.  That “no” is an opportunity to listen to your customer, gather more information about what is really important to them, and better position your pitch to show your customer how your product or service really does meet their needs. In a different light, think of an objection as merely a request for more information, rather than an outright refusal. Since contextualizing and personalizing health information is so much of what we do as pharmacists, knowing what a patient’s true concern is allows us to be far more targeted and relevant with our answers.


As pharmacists, we may find it challenging to respond to objections with additional questions, as we may feel that they are being “too pushy.”  Or, sometimes we are left feeling that the patient has rejected us, rather than the service or recommendation. It’s important to recognize early on that an objection or refusal is not a rejection of the person offering the product or service, but more an expression of doubt in the value or personal applicability of the offering.  Pharmacists should endeavor to not take these “rejections” personally or let it dissuade you from probing further.


Improving on sales skills is something that any healthcare professional can do – and it can dramatically improve the way you coach your patients in making their health decisions.  Consider investing the time in sales training for yourself and your staff – it will absolutely pay off with improved outcomes as patients take more of your recommendations and feel that they trust you more. In addition, a confident, well-trained support staff person who knows how to qualify patients and overcome objections will free up a lot of time for the pharmacist to have that quality interaction with the patient.  Enhanced sales skills across a team usually results in a more positive and consistent customer service experience for the patient.  A happy, healthy patient is a loyal patient, which is increasingly important in today’s competitive landscape.


#1 Invest the time and money in sales training for you and your staff.

#2 Deploy your support staff to help qualify patients and overcome objections.

#3. Focus on your customer service skills as well as your professional skills.


Jen Baker B.Sc.Phm. is a 2013 graduate from the University of Toronto and the current Director of Pharmacy Excellence for Whole Health Pharmacy Partners.  After graduating, she started her career in both hospital and community pharmacy, and holds her Certificate in Travel Health from the International Society of Travel Medicine. She was honoured as the 2015 OPA Outstanding New Practitioner and 2018 CPhA New Practitioner Award winner.  Jen has represented Eastern Ontario on the Ontario Pharmacists Association Board of Directors since 2015, and is currently serving as Chair of the Board.