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.
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:
- 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?
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!