Can You Treat Customers Like Family and Maintain Healthy Profits?
Practice consultative selling for the best results
by Mike McKillip

To be a successful and profitable HME provider, you need to put your customers’ needs first. Changes in reimbursement have more people paying cash, but that doesn’t mean you should try to sell them your most expensive products. Instead, listen to your customers, treat them like family and sell them the best products for their needs.

Consider that the baby-boom generation is retiring at the rate of 10,000 people every day. Men and women are searching for products to increase their independence. They come to you to help them select products to support their lifestyles. This is the time to share your expert knowledge about products and services.

Practice Consultative Selling

Consultative selling is not high-pressure selling. High-pressure selling usually does not take the customer’s needs into consideration. The sale is only the end to the means, with little to no regard for the relationship or return business.

Consultative selling involves helping people select products that best fit their needs and improve their quality of life. It’s one of the best ways to grow your business and revenue per customer.

By sharing your product knowledge and insight, customers will gain confidence in you as a provider. Happy customers are likely to recommend your business to friends and family, and they may tell their physician how you helped them, leading to a new referral source.

Provide Great Service

It costs an estimated four to 10 times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. A current customer is four times more likely to leave for your competitor if there is a service-related issue, rather than a product- or price-related issue. This tells us that customers will pay for better products, as long as you can provide the customer service to back up the prices.

A strong foundation of product knowledge helps you and your staff transform into active sellers rather than serving as simple order takers. Fully understanding the features and benefits of the products you offer builds your confidence and comfort level for discussing them.

Ask Questions and Listen

Ask your customer, “What do you want the product to do for you?” Pay close attention to this answer. You may have to ask additional probing questions, but let the customer tell you their needs. For example, they might want and need the ability to get around the house, go shopping or see their friends down the street.

A consultative sales person would paint a scenario for the customer and avoid asking close-ended questions—questions that would limit a customer’s response to “yes” or “no.” Always remember to focus on the benefit for their needs, not your own. Do not try to sell the customer something you would not buy if you were in their situation.

Present the Product’s Features and Benefits

Once you have an understanding of the customer’s needs, show your expertise and present options that can fit their needs. Highlight the features and benefits of each product.

A product’s features are any distinguishing component of the product or service that will be true whether the product is used or not. A feature is generally tangible and could be demonstrated to the customer in person.

A product’s benefits involve distinguishing attributes and occur when the features of a product or service satisfy the needs of the user. Benefits are the end result of satisfactory use of a product. When discussing a product’s features and benefits, be sure to present each feature with its corresponding benefit attached to it and vice versa.

Provide and Limit Options

Taking care of your customers’ needs requires allowing customers the opportunity to touch and feel the different features of the products to evaluate them. This is where the “basic, better, best” technique can be helpful.

Show your customers why “better” is superior to “basic,” or why “best” would be more favorable than “better.” Lead customers through their product options so they can compare products. Once customers see and feel the difference, they will feel better about making a decision.

Keep the customer’s budget in mind. Avoid showing a “basic” product alongside a “best” product—the feature gap and the price differential between “basic” and “best” are too wide for an accurate comparison. Always try to compare the “basic” with the “better” and the “better” with the “best.”

Limit the customer’s options to a maximum of three choices. A lot of different products function similarly, and a lot of similar products function differently—just look at the variety of smartphones on the market. Sometimes this variety can be confusing and cause paralysis on the customer's part in making a product choice. This is why detailing the features and benefits after understanding the customer’s individual needs is so important.

Tie It All Together

Let’s suppose you have a customer who needs a walker for her grandmother. Begin by striking up a conversation about her needs: She is still mobile but tires quickly; the walker needs to be transportable because she likes to go places; and since grandma is fashionable, it needs to be red. Based on this conversation, you could start with the basic walker. One feature is that it’s inexpensive; one benefit is that it can be replaced easily. The better walker’s feature is that it’s foldable, and the benefit is that the customer can transport it easily in her vehicle. The best walker has those features and many more, including a padded seat for when grandma gets tired. Fortunately, the walker also comes in red! Your customer is happy, grandma is happy and you are happy because you just made a more profitable sale, and you have likely just earned a repeat customer.

The Final Word

In order to reduce costs, payers are paying less for the items you provide. Yet, your operational costs continue to rise. Treating your customers like family and helping them select products that best fit their needs and increase their quality of life is the best way to grow your business and revenue per customer.

Even though the circumstances around how the HME industry, and especially reimbursement, are changing and unique to the market, putting your customers first is the key to profitability.