The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world as we know it. Navigating a landscape that seems to change every day has led to a period of adjustment for everyone. There are vital steps your homecare company’s sales and outreach team can take now to build and strengthen key relationships, stay productive, plan for the future and weather the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
1. Stay in regular communication with your entire team.
Preparing your team, including your caregivers or technicians, with updated, dependable information is crucial, as it will ensure everyone is on the same page, build unity and morale, and, in particular, establish trust during this time of uncertainty. To implement internal communications that are effective:
- Put in place regular—even daily—communications to share changes or other important information with your team.
- Be sure to include your sales and intake team in operational meetings.
- Outline what your organization can and can’t do on a daily basis regarding requests for services, enabling your sales team to focus outreach appropriately.
- Solidify a crisis communication plan so your sales team stays on message when talking with referral sources, clients, families and members of the community.
2. Place the focus on strengthening current referral relationships.
Due to the need for social distancing, your sales staff needs to work creatively, using the phone, email and other digital means of communication to showcase how your company is ready to meet needs and solve problems.
In the short term, your sales team should focus on strengthening existing relationships with referral sources and can place new prospecting on the back burner. Think about how your sales team can support these referral sources:
- Listen—When referral sources contact your company, be sure to truly listen to their needs and be ready to work in new and creative ways to problem-solve together.
- Empathize—Realize that referral sources are facing ever-changing demands and priorities. Make sure your actions validate the uncertainty we’re all facing. Investigate opportunities to help and focus your interactions in a partnered way that takes into consideration their time and evolving needs.
- How can you help?—For long-term, established referral source relationships, ask what you can do to help them meet their needs. Be ready to think outside the box to come up with a solution to the problems they’re facing.
To preserve the relationship you’ve established with these referral sources, think about creative ways to provide support and to stay connected. For example:
Make use of video calling applications for communications with your referral sources. If a referral source sends you an email, ask if you can arrange for a 10-minute meeting through Zoom or a similar platform to connect and discuss how to best offer assistance. However, if the issue is easily resolved via email, send the email. If possible, offer to host virtual activities for facility-based customers.
Support your referral partners’ volunteer endeavors and select opportunities in your community where you can contribute staff and/or expertise to fill a need for essential services for older adults and other vulnerable people.
Use social media to share useful, factual and scientifically-sourced information, and to offer encouragement—not just targeted to referral sources and those on the front lines, but to seniors and their families as well.
3. Try having your team wear different hats.
Your sales team may find they are available to help your agency in other capacities during these times. This allows knowledgeable staff members to focus their talents on other areas of the business, and also provides opportunities for professional growth and cross-training, helping your sales force to be more in touch with the services they are selling. Sales staff can:
- assist with operations where needed;
- contact clients and/or caregivers to check in with them about their services and overall well-being; and
- help with recruiting and the hiring and/or orientation process.
4. Make the most of this time.
One great way to take advantage of this time is to use it to plan and assess your current sales processes and strategies. What has been successful? Where might there be opportunities for growth or additional outreach? Focus any downtime on creating a plan that will allow you to hit the ground running after the current crisis is under control.
- Use this time to reflect on questions such as: What is working well? Where can we improve? What are three (or more) opportunities that are worth pursuing?
- Develop a sales SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis.
- Build and populate your CRM.
- Evaluate and formalize your sales plan, to include a time and territory plan.
- Research and create a list of new prospects to target after the crisis has passed.
- Analyze the past three years’ worth of sales data to identify trends and relationships you may want to rebuild.
- Develop a solid process for managing inquiries, including capturing all data in your scheduling system.
- Calculate your conversion rate and create a plan to improve it.
5. Plan ahead for what will come after the crisis.
After the immediate emergency has abated, homecare agencies need to be on the front lines, ready to provide care.
While travel and meetings are rarer, concentrate on using this time to:
- Develop a plan for an influx of new clients: Evaluate staffing needs, necessary training for staff, and care or product needs specific to patients who are recovering from COVID-19;
- Create a plan for outreach, extending beyond referral sources to those in need of care post-COVID-19; and
- Get ready to resume face-to-face sales as soon as social distancing and isolation guidelines are relaxed in your community, realizing that the rules may change regarding who is allowed to visit hospitals and care facilities and how often.
While none of us are able to pinpoint exactly when the crisis will end or what “normal” will look like, one thing is certain: Referral sources and members of your community will remember your agency’s efforts to develop creative solutions and to offer a steadying hand throughout the pandemic.