Thursday, October 14, 2010

Selling the Physician to Increase Volume and Revenue

Any number of healthcare organizations are looking to increase admissions to drive revenue and volume by associated physicians. Some providers are returning to the days of employing physicians and that seems to be making a big comeback due to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPAAC). Here's hoping lessons learned from the last go around of physician employment will result in fewer mistakes this time.

Sales staffs are popping up all over like weeds-in-a-field, complete with goals and objectives, territories and sales quotas for specific docs along identified and profitable disease-states. In most cases they are managed by people who have never sold anything in their life. Little understanding of the relationship sales cycle, what is important to the physicians, their needs and ultimately their patients. The first time the sale person comes back to the organization with "This needs to change" request, it all breaks down because nobody internally wants to really change anything. We just want volume and revenue. Besides, with all the Stark considerations we really can't do too much anyway.

What's wrong with this picture?

Too sell to physicians successfully, you need more than office lunches and how are the kids kind of conversations. Its about their experience in admitting, treating and referring patients to your emergency room, hospital, pharmacy, surgical center or a home care agency to name a few of the providers docs deal with on a daily basis. Everyone is out there with the send to me, me, me, message. And that can't go on any longer.

Its more than your own perceived features and benefits.

This is a relationship sell and your sales team needs to be on track with a common sales methodology that they all use. Leaving it up to the nice person in the medical staff office to do this because she makes the docs laugh, or assigning a sales managerial function to someone who has never sold a day in their life, especially in healthcare, is a receipt for disaster.

Be ready to make changes in how you do things. When your sales person comes back, and says he or she is finding a trend in obstacles physicians are encountering in admitting or practicing medicine in your organization, be ready to make meaningful changes. If not, your just wasting your time and money sending out people to increase volume and revenue from a physician or multispecialty group. Nothing worse than over-promising and under-delivering.

10 Steps for Success

1. Hire a sales manager that has healthcare sales experience. Make it a VP level position at the senior management table. They drive strategy to make sure it is in sync with the organizational business plan and financial objects, as well as act as an agent for internal change.

One of the great weaknesses in healthcare senior management is that people who are very well educated, read an article, go to a seminar and then think they know everything they need to know too implement a strategy. Healthcare leadership has got to change in this new consumer driven environment and learn they don't know everything. The sooner you make that realization the more successful you will be.

2. Hire trained healthcare physician sales individuals. Lots of people from pharma and medical device companies make great hospital and other healthcare provider sales representatives.

3. Make sure that everyone is using the same sales methodology, techniques and materials. All sales and marketing materials should be designed for use in for the specific point in the sales cycle.. One size does not fit all.

4. Use a sales database system like for example for accountability, tracking, etc., and make sure your marketing department has full access to the information. Mine the data for strategy and new opportunities.

5. Integrate your marketing and sales efforts from day one. You have to avoid the internal conflicts which arise and those "Marketing is clueless about what we need" or "The feet on the street don't sell it like we want them too", kind of conversations. Integrate and create a joint sales marketing committee to solve a lot of that. Make sure your marketing team is trained in the sales methodology the sales force is using. Marketing should also be attending sales calls.

6. Establish joint goals, objectives and revenue targets for sales and marketing. Share in the pain, share in the gain.

7. Make meaningful changes to your products and services based on the needs and expectations of your customers. That does not mean one-offs, but changes across the enterprise that will benefit many.

8. Remember it's about the brand, your brand promise and how your brand delivers upon those expectations.

9. Make sure that the entire organization knows what you are doing. Nothing more embarrassing or damaging when someone at any level of the organization is clueless and can't be supportive of the sales and marketing efforts. Makes you look like you do not know what you are doing.

10, Evaluate, monitor performance, make changes as needed in the program or staff and start the cycle again.

To your success.

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Michael Krivich is Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and can be reached at or 815-293-1471 for consulting services in strategic marketing, integration of sales and marketing, media relations and interim marketing executive leadership assignments. Huthwaite SPIN selling trained and a Miller Heiman Strategic Selling alumni, both highly respected and successful international sales training organizations, I can lead your organization though the challenge of integrating sales and marketing.

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