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How to Increase your Sales in Home Healthcare …in 3 Minutes!

Background

Selling in the home healthcare arena presents unique challenges.  Most salespeople come from caregiving backgrounds, not traditional sales roles.  As such, most do not view themselves as conventional salespeople.  This makes it easy for them to focus on the caregiving side of their roles, i.e. their comfort zone, and not the selling aspect.  As we say, they’re more comfortable with the “science than the selling.”  That combined with the fact that the time in front of the decision maker, often a physician, can be as little as 30-60 seconds, presents unique challenges to overcome.

The Challenges

To be effective, a home healthcare salesperson must be effective at asking physicians, hospitals personnel, skilled nursing facilities management, discharge planners, insurance companies and case managers for actions such as:

  • Referrals
  • Meetings
  • To be a primary source
  • To be a secondary source

3 reasons why asking for referrals is difficult for home healthcare sales representatives:

The goal for most home healthcare salespeople is to obtain patient referrals.  However, getting a referral requires the person to ask for one.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  So why doesn’t it happen?

1) No one has taught them the skill of asking.

2) Most don’t view themselves as traditional salespeople; asking is often considered too salesy, pushy and uncomfortable.

3) The salesperson often only has an extremely short period of time to ask a physician for a referral.

Is it any wonder why they are not effective at asking?  Is it any wonder why there is often high turnover?

While it’s common practice to plan for sales calls, most of the time salespeople do not identify the specific action they want the customer to take as a result of the call and how they are going to ask for it.

I see this all the time. Often when I’m coaching clients and ask them what they are going to ask for during the call, I get a list of questions.  Asking questions is necessary to help you identify pain points, or trigger events.  Asking for an action is completely different.

 

A quick story will reinforce this point.

A customer of ours developed a list of questions for their salespeople to ask clients.  Their goal was to obtain referrals from physicians, caregivers, etc., to use, or try, their services.  They routinely captured the basic questions such as how many patients, what are they doing now, what would they like to improve, etc.  When coaching them on their sales calls, it became apparent that salespeople were not actually “asking” for the referral.  They felt their role was to ask questions and deliver their presentations.  Surely, if someone was interested, they would ask to do business with them.  After it became apparent that nobody was actually asking for a referral, we coached them on the key elements of an effective ask.  This approach was especially appealing to the salespeople who often came from the caregiver side of the business. Initially, they were not comfortable with the idea of asking for a referral.  It was only after they understood that an effective ask is based on the WIIFM for the recipient (enhanced patient outcomes), did they embrace the idea.

The results were outstanding.  They learned to deliver an ask that solved a problem specific to a physician, or other decision influencer, to whom they were selling.

 They’re happy that their competition is still just asking questions and not asking for the referrals.

Understanding that questions are designed to get information and asking is designed to get an action, will enable you to incorporate both into your customer interactions and immediately improve your sales results.

 

How does your sales team currently ask for referrals? 

The Solution

As with everything involved with sales should be, the solution must be simple; simple gets used, complex does not.  Make no mistake, there is sophistication in simplicity.

How can you or your team become better at asking? There are 4 key elements to an effective ask:

1) What do you want?  What action do you want as an outcome of the call or visit?  If it’s a referral, plan your ask around gaining a referral.

2) What issue are you solving for the decision influencer?  If you’re asking a decision influencer to make a change from what he or she is currently doing and begin giving you referrals, what problem are you solving for them?  If the physician doesn’t perceive any issues with what he or she is currently doing with their referrals, such as excessive patient readmissions, they are not going to make a change.

3) How do you and your organization uniquely address this issue?  What about your brand and services are different and apply to the issue?

4) And finally, WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) for the decision influencer.  If you’re asking a decision influencer to make a change such as to begin giving you referrals, think about what’s in it for this person.  If it’s a physician, how will granting you referrals positively impact them?  For example, improved performance rating through decreased patient readmissions.

 

Now all you or your team need to do is to ask!  As Ghandi said, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

Simply taking a few minutes prior to every sales call to think about what you want, the issues facing the person you’re calling on, how you and your organization addresses these issues and finally, what’s in it for the person, will immediately improve your sales results – assuming you ask for it!

Simple, isn’t it!  Good luck!

 

How to Avoid “Show Me What You Got”

Why do so many sales calls not go as planned? The poet Robert Burns wrote, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” He could have just as easily been talking about B2B sales calls. No matter how well something is planned for, things can still go differently than planned or anticipated.

During an internal TMG meeting last week, we discussed why often even the best-planned sales calls don’t go as we expect. If every meeting went as well as we planned out, sales would be much less complex than it is now.

Why? What’s the root cause? Why do so many sales calls with prospects and customers go off the rails?

There are so many strategies for planning sales calls.  Why do they often fail to produce the desired results? Most are partially used (if at all) and even the most enthusiastic reps use them sparingly.

As you might guess, the answer isn’t always obvious.

We reflected on a recent sales call shared with me by a Vice President of Sales.  It was an important call and they followed their sales call methodology for pre-planning.  It was solid… until the real-world set in.  The VP of Sales and his salesperson sat down at the table prepared to execute the sales call they had role played to perfection. The decision influencers from the customer came in, plus one, the person who would finalize the decision.

He said, “I have 10 minutes, show me what you have…”  Realizing that they had 10 minutes, the VP and salesperson went to their comfort zone, “We’re a global organization, here is a map of all of our facilities, we have the broadest offering in the industry, we have world-class support,” and on and on and on. Sound familiar? We all have a “go-to” safe zone when we feel like something is going off track.

After about 5 minutes, the “finalizer” got up, said thanks and left the room.  Immediately the VP of Sales had that sinking feeling – we blew it.

What happened? Did they not execute their sales call or, did the finalizer not know how to buy?

Here’s our theory: as salespeople, we’ve trained our customers how to buy.  Through our actions over time and multiple engagements, we’ve encouraged them to say, “show me what you have.”  Ideally, we should have trained them to ask, “how will you help me increase sales, decrease costs, or improve productivity.”  Wouldn’t it be great if everyone you talked to asked “how can you bring value” instead of “show me what you have?”

What’s the solution?  Here are the 3 key elements to deal with the situation:

First, prepare for the “show me what you have” statement.  Ensure everyone on the call knows how to respond, otherwise it’s likely that someone will go into a product pitch.

Second, let the decision influencer know that you will show what you have, once you ask some questions.  “I’ll be happy to share with you what we have, I just first need to ask a few questions.”

Third, ask your questions and consciously move the conversation to identifying/developing trigger events and talking about how your product or service uniquely addresses it.

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2 Minutes to more Effective Asking Skills

Why is Asking for what we Want so Difficult?

Asking is a critical skill for anyone to have – especially salespeople.  When we plan a sales call, presentation, or meeting, we do so with the goal of obtaining a specific action.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  Why then is it so difficult for us?

Let’s look at this from 3 perspectives: What do you have to Ask for? Why is Asking for what you want so difficult? What are the key elements to influential Asking?

What do you have to Ask for?

To be an effective salesperson or manager, there are many actions you must be able to obtain from your customers:

  • A meeting
  • The order
  • To be specified
  • A plant tour
  • A referral
  • To be the single source – or a backup, to the current single source
  • The next step in your sales process
  • To accept a price increase

Ask yourself the next time you’re planning to engage a customer – What do I want? How am I going to ask for it?  We may know what we want from the engagement, but the “asking” portion is more difficult.

 

Why is Asking for what you want so difficult?

There are 3 reasons I find Asking so difficult for people:

First, when were you ever taught how to effectively ask?  It’s safe to say that if you’ve been in sales more than a few years, you have attended programs on call planning, presentation skills, negotiating skills, questioning, etc., but nowhere were you taught the skill of asking.

Second, we’re not comfortable with asking.  There can be many reasons that we’re not comfortable with asking, but what I hear most often is “What if they say no?”.   Who wants to be rejected?

It’s easy to feel that asking is too forward, too blunt.  Think about it this way, each one of us can think of a situation where you knew someone wanted something, but they just kept rambling on and on.  How did you feel?  Frustrating, wasn’t it?  Did you finally just say, “What do you want!”.  Turn that feeling around, our customers often feel the same way.  Just as we respect it when someone simply asks what he or she wants, so will your customer.

Third, we don’t understand the foundation of an influential ask.

 

What are the key elements to an influential Ask?

There are 4 key elements to an effective Ask:

First, clearly understand what action you Want as a result of the customer interaction.  It’s a common best practice to identify the action you want as a result of the customer interaction, but not how you’re going to influentially going to ask for it.

Second, from the customer’s perspective, what problem are you Solving?  If they don’t perceive you’re solving a problem they have, why would they agree?  Be sure to leverage your differentiators when describing how you will solve their problem.

Third, make certain that the WIIFM? is clear to your customer; specifically, how will he or she be positively impacted.

Fourth, go to the “golf driving range” for sales effectiveness – practice what you’re going to ask, role play with someone.  Once you’re comfortable delivering it, it’s time to execute.  Many people that I coach will do all of the above, except when it comes time to actually deliver their asks; they simply don’t do it.  Remember the positive feeling you have when someone delivers an influential ask to you.

Increasing your asking skills will have an immediate and long-term impact on your sales and management effectiveness.

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What’s the difference between Asking & Questioning?

 

Why does it matter?

“Asking” and “questioning” are two different skills that are essential for every salesperson and sales team to master.

Although they are two dramatically different skills, most individuals view them both as questioning: “What questions are we going to ask?” Or, “What are we going to ask?”

In the next 2-minutes, you’ll be exposed to a skill that once applied, will produce immediate, positive results for you.

3 points to consider:

Questioning is a skill which enables you to obtain INFORMATION from a decision influencer.

There are 3 types of questions that allow you to uncover different “types” of information:

1) Verify information that you believe to be true

2) Discover new information

3) Identify how someone personally feels about a topic – reflective questions

Properly prepared and delivered questions of the 3 types above will allow you to gain information necessary to move a sale forward.  Success is getting an answer.

During a sales call, typically 4-8 questions are asked.  The outcome we’re looking for is simply an answer.  Chances are the person you’re asking the questions to will provide the same answers to your competitors – assuming they ask similar questions.

Asking is a skill which enables you to obtain a desired ACTION from a decision influencer.  

Examples of asks:

  • For the order
  • For the next step in your sales process
  • For a meeting
  • To be specified
  • To accept a price increase
  • To quote
  • For a customer to purchase more of your products or services

A properly developed, i.e. influential, ask that is skillfully delivered will enable you to obtain an action from the decision influencer.  An action is dramatically different from simply answering a question.  Additionally, an ask is binary; you either get it or you do not.  To be a good “asker” you must prepare your ask prior to the call.  There are 4 key elements to an effective ask:

1) What do you want?

2) What issue are you solving for the decision-influencer?

3) How do your brand and differentiators uniquely address this issue?

4) And finally, WIIFM? for the decision influencer.

 

Why does it matter?

Were you ever taught how to ask?  It’s more than likely you weren’t.  Questioning however, is second nature to most of us; we perform it at the unconscious competent level.

It’s common practice to identify what we want as a result of a sales call, meeting or presentation.  But how do we plan to ask for the action?  We don’t.

I see this all the time. Quite often when I’m coaching clients they will discuss, “what are we going to ask?”  Confusing questioning with asking is one of the most common errors when call planning.   They should say, “what questions are we going to ask?”  Followed by “what action are we going to ask for?”

A quick story will reinforce this point.

A customer of ours in the healthcare industry had developed a list of questions for their salespeople to ask clients.  Their goal is to obtain referrals from physicians, caregivers, etc., to use, or try, their services.  They routinely capture the basic questions such as how many patients, what are they doing now, what would they like to improve, etc.  When coaching them on their sales calls, it became apparent that salespeople were not “asking” for the referral.  They felt their role was to ask questions and deliver their presentation.  Surely, if someone was interested, they would ask to do business with them.  After it became apparent that nobody was actually asking for a referral, we coached them on the key elements of an effective ask.  This approach was especially appealing to the salespeople who often came from the care giver side of the business. Initially, they were not comfortable with the idea of asking for a referral.  It was only after they understood that an effective ask is based on the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) for the recipient, did they embrace the idea.  The questions that they had been routinely asking allowed them to identify what important to the decision influencer.

The results were outstanding.  They learned to deliver an ask that solves a problem specific to a physician or other roles they sell to.

They’re happy that their competition is still just asking questions.

 

Understanding that questions are designed to get information and asking is designed to get an action, will enable you to incorporate both into your customer interactions and immediately improve your sales results.

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What Your Training is Missing. ASK!

Company leaders spend thousands of dollars per year on training their salespeople. They invest in all types of training to improve their teams based on metrics, gut feelings, and observations of their team’s performances.

These investments include, but not limited to…

  • Presentation skills
  • Negotiation skills
  • Key Account Management
  • Sales Processes
  • Sales Methodologies
  • Customer Service skills
  • Questioning skills
  • Prospecting skills and processes
  • CRM training
  • Cold calling approaches

What’s missing? What’s the glue that holds all of these skills, processes, and methodologies together?

A) Great leadership and B) Participant’s being able to ask for what they want.

Here’s the scenario we see all too frequently:

Salespeople participate in scheduled training as they’re onboard or need “tune-ups.” The training frequency and topic depends on the size of the company, but nearly any organization with a dedicated “trainer” position has a core curriculum of training they’ve invested in. That training provides a level of knowledge in one or more of the topics listed above (what have we missed?).

The challenge:

Training participants go through the content and walk out with new language and processes to be successful, but they simply don’t know how to ask.

Asking is a communication skill that’s talked about but never taught. When did someone sit you down to teach you specifically how to ask for something with your audience in mind? We’re always told “do you want that new customer? Go ask them for a meeting. Do you want a raise? Go ask for it? Do you want a referral from a key account customer? Go ask for it.”

All sound advice, until we need to deliver the ask itself.

With all the training topics out on the market and in that stack of books on your desk (collecting dust?), asking has never been addressed. If your training participants can’t ask for something, doesn’t that diminish the ROI from any other training? How can you get the ROI on your new sales methodology, if salespeople don’t know how to ask?

Asking is a skill that’s commonly buried and raked over with a different topic, like negotiating or prospecting. If you train to either of these topics, do your salespeople use them to ask for a referral? What about asking for a fee increase?

We’re simply making sales too complicated. Thankfully we train this skill, but if you haven’t worked with us (yet), here are three tips:

First, anytime an important prospect or customer situation comes up, simply deliver this question: “What are you asking for next, and why should they say yes?” You’re likely going to discover an opportunity for coaching, and make sure the second part isn’t just about your product or service!

Second, “asks” should be an action that’s measurable versus a question for information. There’s a key difference between asking for something and raising a question. It’s likely your team is significantly better at questioning than asking.

Third, take a step back and look at your training content. What are the important “asks” from your environment and sales field? What’s the outcome if your salespeople can’t deliver those asks with the training material you’ve provided?

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