Turning Enemies into Friends

Dealing with demanding, intimidating clients can be rough. However, the principles involved in this situation transfer to practically all others. Let's take a look. A subscriber, whose name and state will be withheld, wrote the following:

"Dear Bob, I have a question regarding a client; a doctor who I feel is trying to intimidate me. The company I work for was contacted by a medical facility to help them get out of a mess. The client - a small hospital, was denied Medicare privileges because of poor documentation practices. If the group of doctors will listen and follow our proven advice (we've done this many times) then they can get their privileges back.

"For example (here she explains the details of which I agree with her are simply bureaucratic in nature and serve no worthwhile purpose other than create more paperwork). It's silly, but that's how it works. And the government is strict about it. The doctors think it's silly (which it is) and don't understand why a coder can't just figure it out. One doctor in particular emailed me, "I will not state the obvious! It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out!"

"I wrote him back and nicely explained the situation, but to no avail. Now, he has written back and wants to know what my credentials are, and how much experience I have in this field. I want to get all wordy and tell him how long I have worked in this field and even "taught" in this field. I even want to tell him how many doctor's offices have asked me for advice in my own home town. Part of me just wants to say, 'Ask my supervisor.' And part of me wants to contact *his* supervisor.

"Should I get all wordy and tell him all about my experience, or should I write something simple and to the point? Should I send him my resume'? Should I ignore him?

"If he'll just follow the directions, they'll get their Medicare privileges back."


My response:

Okay, let me give this a try, keeping in mind that I really don't know what I'm talking about regarding coding or any of that other stuff. And, before sending this email that you're going to write to the good doctor, you might want to first send it to your supervisor and get her okay that you're sending it. So, here goes:

Dear Dr. __________,

Thank you for your most recent letter. I can understand that this process must be frustrating for you.

My associates and I at {company} were brought in for one purpose only; to help you and your hospital get back your Medicare privileges so that your practice can operate more profitably and you can serve more people. While it's a lot of work for all of us; doctors, administrators, and we at {company}, we're happy to do it.

Because of our experience in this area, it's understood that, if everyone at your hospital will follow the advice that's been proven to work, we can in fact get your hospital reinstated and you'll have your Medicare privileges back.

I sense your frustration. As I'm sure you know, when dealing with a government program, logic is not always the highest value under consideration.

In a recent letter, you said you refused to state the obvious when it comes to documenting the (fill in correct terms), and that you didn't understand why a person couldn't just "figure it out." I believe your exact words were then: "I will not state the obvious! It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out!"

I then wrote you back and, I hope, very courteously explained that, in the eyes of the government (which, unfortunately is what counts in this case, as frustrating as that is for both of us), it is a matter of (paraphrase what you wrote him back).

Dr. __________, you then wrote back asking about my credentials and experience in this field. I understand that this was asked more out of a sense of frustration than out of anger at me for trying to help you and your hospital to get reinstated and thus get back your Medicare privileges. On one hand, I want to write back with a full explanation of my 22 years experience in the field, how long I've taught this very system and how sought-out my particular area of expertise in this field actually is (in fact, that's what lead {company} to solicit my joining them as a consultant).

While I'm tempted to do that, I know that's not really what you're asking. In fact, I believe what you're asking is, "{name}, is all this really necessary?"

Unfortunately, Dr. __________, if your goal is to be reinstated and have Medicare privileges for your hospital once again, then it is necessary.

So, again, while I truly and without question understand your frustration, please understand that I'm trying to help you in reaching your goals. If you'd care to check with my supervisor, Ms. {name}, regarding my experience and expertise, please feel free to call her at 555-111-1111 or email her at {name@name.com}.

Meanwhile, while I invite you to feel very free to ask me questions that will help you and help clarify the situation, I also ask that we treat each other with mutual respect and regard as two professionals attempting to accomplish a similar goal.

With very best wishes,



Note from Bob: I'm happy to report that our friend received a wonderful note of thanks from the doctor and congratulations from her supervisor.

While you might never find yourself in this exact situation, go through this letter a couple times and pick out some of the "Winning Without Intimidation" elements that you've noticed in this and in past issues. Remember, regardless of the situation, success principles always remain the same.

Bob Burg ( http://www.burg.com ) is author of "Endless Referrals" (McGraw-Hill) and "Winning Without Intimidation: How to Master the Art of Positive Persuasion in Today's Real World" (Samark Publishing).