Retail Sales
by Dom Berardinelli

There have been dramatic cuts in reimbursement for HME products, and providers have been forced to think creatively with supplementing their core business. One major development to come out of this has been an industry-wide focus on retail-ready and cash products. This is not a new concept for providers, but fully buying in can be a daunting task for staff.

One of the recent trends in HME education is the idea of upselling additional products with the purchase of a core product to add revenue to a sale. Industry experts have coined terms such as bundling, add-ons, caretailing and up-caring to represent this sales strategy. As straightforward as this concept may appear, putting it into practice can be a different story. Many providers I have spoken with say it is difficult to break the sales patterns of staff members who assume a client will only use his or her insurance when they walk through the door; these salespeople are uncomfortable suggesting clients pay for a product out of pocket. There is a gap in the mindset of providers and their staff that I believe can be effectively bridged by starting small and methodically working your way toward becoming a retail master.

How do you cross the chasm of retail? First, there needs to be a commitment from the entire sales team. Everyone who is a customer-facing employee must be a part of the process in order to change the company mindset. Next, select a core product you sell regularly and do some research on supplementary products that are available on the market. Select three of these products you either already carry or that you believe would sell well to your target audience, and contact the manufacturer for samples and education on how they recommend you upsell their product, particularly beside the core product you have chosen. Finally, set up a meeting, and role-play scenarios in which you recommend these cash products when a customer walks through the door looking for your chosen core product. Remember, do not assume the client is unwilling to pay cash, but instead embrace that they are coming to you as an expert in HME products, and utilize that authority to help them leave satisfied with their purchases.

I like to use a rollator to demonstrate this process because it is a product commonly sold throughout the industry, and there are many products available that can support and enhance a client's use of the rollator. After you determine the client needs a rollator, ask them questions about how they will use the product and what kind of lifestyle they lead. Below are three retail products you can upsell on a routine basis to add some additional revenue to your rollator sales.

  • CaneTUBE by Cane Holder—This product secures the client's cane so they can easily transport it during their daily activities. The CaneTUBE snaps onto the rollator for easy installation and comes in a variety of colors and patterns for personalization. Simply ask or observe if the client currently uses a cane, and ask if he or she intends to continue using the cane after the rollator purchase to get the conversation started. This product retails for $19.95.
  • GRIP Lap Board by GRIP Solutions—This is a mobile nonslip tray that keeps items in place during movement as well as when tilted at slight angles. It fits conveniently on the rollator seat to transport items from the kitchen to the living room, and then serves as the meal tray when the user is seated. Ask the client if they are active around the house and routinely transport items from room to room to open the door for this product recommendation. This product retails for $38.95.
  • See 4 Safety Mobility Light by NEPA Partners—This innovative product provides the necessary lighting for your client to safely move throughout the house. The light automatically turns on and off without the need for buttons or switches, plus it snaps right onto the rollator for easy setup. If you discover during your discussion with the client that they are awake routinely during the night or active during the evening, then this product is a no-brainer. This product retails for $19.95.

All three products mentioned above can provide your client with tangible benefits; it is up to your sales team to demonstrate them. Customers likely will not mind paying out of pocket in order to enhance their independence. But in order to recommend something—and do so with authority—you first need to be knowledgeable and comfortable with the products (this goes for your entire staff). Leaning on product manufacturers for support and product education is key to establishing that comfort level.

Role-playing is also of great importance in bridging the gap between the retail and reimbursement mindsets. I have often heard from staff members of many providers that they utilize the insurance aspect of a sales conversation because they do not want to come off as pushy. I believe the way to overcome this is to start small and master the retail sales process. Pick one product—a rollator, lift chair or bath bench—get comfortable with the relevant upsell products and then practice, practice, practice.

In order to successfully cross the chasm of retail, the entire staff needs to buy in—that starts with setting realistic and attainable goals. Obtaining product knowledge is simple if you do a little research, or take the example above and start with the rollator. Once your staff is educated on related products and how these can help their clients, they will feel comfortable relaying that knowledge during a prospective sale. When you realize that you are not just selling the client some item—you are providing them with a product that will enhance their independence and simplify their daily activities—that is when you will become successful at retail.