While AHS has taken many big breaths stomaching the 32 percent cut, it adopted the changes and reset its course. The company launched a new product line, CPM (Continuous Passive Motion), and set a new long-term strategy course to incorporate education into their referral sales plans—thereby improving sales call professionalism, efficiency, quality and success.
“Salesperson is probably not the exact correct term for health care,’’ said Tammy Zelenko, president and CEO. “Our purpose is to make referral sources and consumers aware of the offerings that will improve life so that consumers may be comfortable in their home.”
Advacare has three outside sales people. But they view every employee as a salesperson or awareness builder. Everyone has goals—service technicians, respiratory therapists, customer service reps, retail store personnel, management, warehouse and the receptionists.
“Our education strategy has driven our referral strategy,’’ she said. “The two main components, one of which is Advacare University where we provide CE training for case managers, social workers and other health professionals along with CME training for physicians. We also provide a series of Lunch ’n’ Learn Programs for office staff, new employees and new referral sources, on such topics as Travel with Oxygen, Safety with Oxygen and How to Determine the Correct Mode for Oxygen.”
The second component of the education strategy is the Product of the Month. A monthly calendar schedule is developed for featured products. “We determine the manufacturer’s specifications on the product, and create a sales flier with the product information and the items that it may complement,’’ Zelenko said. “We share the product of the month with all the staff so that they are aware of it.”
Salespeople have a regular call plan. When they make a cold call, they have the tools to show they can train referral sources at their convenience, help them with their continuing education and provide the professional support they need. Once a new referral is engaged, the first in-service is on Advacare. The salesperson then lays out a calendar of training activities, events, product focus and support. Before you know it, they have six months scheduled.
“For existing referral sources, these tools maintain the relationship,” Zelenko said. “When there is a change in referral personnel, we are there with training. We offer an in-depth PowerPoint presentation to referrals on competitive bidding and all of the changes that would result from it. We also bring in new home health agencies to our showrooms for training, and in hospitals, their new respiratory therapists will shadow ours.”
AHS uses OnBoard Communications for fleet tracking and has added specialized features to include drop down menus for sales personnel to identify the call type (Lunch ’n’ Learn, Advacare University, Cold Call, Prospecting, etc.). All referral sources are in a master database. Weekly meetings are held to discuss new business prospects, referral activity, competitive landscape, successes and challenges.
“There are more and more roadblocks,” Zelenko said. “Besides a hospital’s in-house HME, more and more hospitals are requiring HMEs be credentialed by VendorMate (www.vendormate.com). This has placed a middleman between us and the hospitals and another way to make us pay to get into hospitals. We spend a fair amount in radio, TV, billboards and the website to make consumers aware they have choices and of our services. We encourage consumers if they are happy with our services to tell their physicians and health plans of their interest in switching.”
Zelenko believes in the basics when it comes to encouraging referrals: timely response and follow up, and helping make their jobs faster, easier and more enjoyable with an honest, consistent relationship.