Sales Notebook

Don't Just 'Show Up and Throw Up'

What it takes to make a great salesperson.

Now that I have your attention I will give you the rest of the
story. I believe that is what Paul Harvey would have said. And if
you are looking for the next great salesperson, you do need the
whole story.

Home care companies are looking to expand their reach, locate
new customers and increase their network of business contacts. The
advertisement in the yellow pages and that new sign in front of the
retail store are not doing enough to generate business to
compensate for the reimbursement changes and the growing costs of
operating a business.

One solution is the hiring of a new and great sales
representative. But what should you look for when you hire? What
traits are most important? In other words, what makes a great

Because the best teachers are our colleagues in the industry who
are continually looking for the best and brightest stars, I posed
these questions to some who manage, administer or work a sales
territory on a daily basis.

One of the answers I got was from Willene Bandy of Sumner
Health Care in Gallatin, Tenn. With a background in operations,
Willene reminds us that “listening is a No. 1 priority. A
sales rep should never just ‘show up and throw up,’
which is what so many people do. Knowledge is very important and is
often overlooked for a pretty face.”

A solid start, but I also want to share with you just some of
the other responses I received:

Helen Kent, Progressive Medical, Carlsbad, Calif.,
provides a clear, concise and very interesting suggestion about
what type of person to seek out. She is an owner with a long-term
vision in mind. “I want someone who is hungry, young and
wants a career. I can teach them the industry and the

Robert Steedley, Barnes Healthcare Services, Valdosta,
Ga., is also interested in the long term, and he offers some great
advice about handling the employment interview. “When
evaluating a sales representative, I look for clues that suggest
they will be successful for the long term. These include an
attitude of service to internal and external customers, the
willingness to adapt to change and a desire to work as part of a
team. The absence of any one of these qualities would most likely
disqualify an applicant.

“You can learn about these qualities by asking questions
that allow the applicant to speak about their previous employment
where they demonstrated the behavior you are looking for. Just be
careful not to suggest what you are looking for, or the answers you
receive will be sure to be what you wanted to hear.”

There is more to learn about that employment interview from
Angie Wheeler, Bird and Bear Medical, Little Rock, Ark., who
comments, “The same qualities I look for in a successful home
care salesperson are the very same qualities a person must possess
to be successful in any business. The candidate should have the
ability to sell themselves as soon as you meet them. I look for
overall appearance and self-confidence as well as their
relationship skills. These characteristics are a must when making a
cold call.

“Determination is also a requirement for success. This is
a very competitive industry, and possessing the ability to handle
rejection and criticism will also help keep them focused on what
they need to do to be a successful salesperson.”

Susan Swirbul, Almost Family, Gainesville, Fla., once a
former recruiter, believes “asking questions pertaining to
how a candidate sets themselves apart from the competition is a
good place to start” in any interview. Swirbul, now selling
medical products, believes a great salesperson needs to present
“a compelling message addressing the needs of the referral
source.” She also addresses the need for a salesperson to be
creative, a characteristic that can be overlooked.

Like Brandy, Faisal Poonwala, Spring Branch Medical
Supply, Houston, also points to the importance of product
knowledge. “Above all else it is important to know what your
inventory is and who needs and uses our products. We cannot count
on just knowing what the manufacturer tells us the product is for,
but we need to know what it can do and what it can't. We must know
what it is we're offering and providing both inside and

Poonwala gives some interesting insight into the lives of our
customers. “We need to remember that each of our customers is
a loved one to someone else. We have a moral obligation to see to
it that every person gets the same respect and quality service that
we would expect for ourselves and out loved ones.”

Terri Webb, Suncrest Healthcare, Madison, Tenn., sees the
sales representative handling a comprehensive role. “Your
referral source needs someone that can be a resource for
everything. They may need questions to be answered and information
about what is going on in the world of health care. A great
salesperson must be passionate about their company and the services
they provide.”

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