What should the average dealer do if national competitive bidding for durable medical equipment becomes a reality? There are many opportunities available
by Shelly Prial

What should the average dealer do if national competitive
bidding for durable medical equipment becomes a reality? There are
many opportunities available to increase business, and now is when
every entrepreneur should start thinking about building
over-the-counter cash sales. There are several ways to do this.

The Mecca Approach

The approach that stands out as the most practical, the least
expensive and the one that can bring cash sales back is to make
your location a mecca. Most people enjoy shopping. Take an
afternoon off and go the local mall where you live. Watch which
stores people enter, and see how many walk out carrying a

Next, examine your showroom. Is it brightly lit? Are similar
products displayed together? Can customers find different
departments without asking where they are located? Your showroom
should show customers where they can find that which they seek.

The PR Approach

As the name implies, public relations means getting your message
out to your clientele. This does not require a major financial

Why should customers go to your location when there may be many
other providers offering the same products? Because you are
inviting them. How do you invite them? Sometimes simple methods can
prove beneficial. Using your computer as a base, you can create a
list of customers and the specific items they purchase. This list
then becomes the nucleus of a mailing list.

Next, prepare a monthly newsletter that shares health and food
tips, includes a bit of humor and specials — a coupon or a
discount — on selected items. These newsletters can travel a
great distance: Neighbors will share interesting newsletters with
one another, while physicians and other practitioners will leave
them for their patients to read.

The Meetings Approach

Hold promotional Saturday morning meetings. These have always
proven to be traffic-builders. Once a month, have a “blood
pressure day,” a “cholesterol-screening day,” or
a special day for any of a series of other similar tests. Have a
nurse available to perform the tests.

In addition, invite a representative from the company whose
product you feature — a sphygmomanometer for blood-pressure
day, for instance — to place a table display in your
showroom. I assure you, he or she — and your customers
— will want to come back often.

The Smartest Dealer

Competitive bidding will happen. When? We cannot predict, but,
to prepare, consider building your cash sale opportunities.
Over-the-counter sales are not going to be awarded to the lowest
bidder, but rather, to the smartest dealer.

The value of a customer

I had an interesting chat with a DME dealer, who told me that he
and his staff grade their customers by the volume of sales and the
profits they realize from each. I asked for more of an explanation,
and here is what he shared.

The customers who are in long-term care with a family caregiver
receive the most attention. Those clients brought in by a case
manager or recommendation from a physician will be given similar
attention. All others are, in this dealer's estimation, considered
walk-in clients until something happens to change their status.

This is an intriguing concept, but I find it to be lacking. I
learned many years ago the value of a customer: That lady or
gentleman who stops by to purchase a package of adhesive bandages
or any other small item can become an important patron tomorrow.
Unless they feel that you care, they may very well take their
business elsewhere.

Treat every shopper as your most important patron at the time of
the transaction. Creating good will and good relationships with
your customers can pay big dividends!

Sheldon “Shelly” Prial is a partner with HPS
Healthcare Management. In 1987, he founded the Homecare Providers
Co-op, now part of the VGM Group. He can be reached by e-mail
shelly.prial@worldnet.att.net or by phone at