The HME as Retailer: "This is a different mindset."

Retail is in HMEs' future. For many providers, cash sales may come to be the whole of their business. Yet, many providers struggle as they make the transition from their traditional Medicare/Medicaid-reimbursement business to the competitive world of cash-and-carry retail.

In the September issue of Home Health Products, three knowledgeable voices from the HME industry speak frankly about what HMEs are doing well and not so well as they move from quiescent, no-frills industrial parks to well-choreographed showrooms in high-traffic areas. Jack Evans, a nationally known HME industry consultant, Albert Ercol, vice president for sales of SCA Personal Care, and Scott Marcus, co-owner and vice president for sales of Health Circle, discuss the common mistakes -- and the progress -- that they observe as they travel the country talking to providers.

Here's a preview of what Jack Evans thinks providers are doing right and what they've still got to work on:

"They're approaching all their Medicare and Medicaid customers as sales leads. By qualifying who the end user is, they not only provide the reimbursable item, but they sell them all the related products that the end user needs. For every person walks in the door every sales transaction, they have two or three or four cash sales.

"In terms of what's not going so well . . . So many people decide they're in the retail business, they move to retail locations, remodel their showroom, they bring in all this product. But they never teach their sales people who work in customer service and insurance intake that they're now in a new business. That's the number one issue. The sales don't change, don't increase. It's still one product per customer transaction. They never teach the staff about cross selling, upselling, and taking control of the sales process. You can spend all the money you want on creating a beautiful retail showroom. But, unless you train your staff on why you've made all these changes, nothing's going to change in relation to sales. I see that all the time."

This article originally appeared in the July 2007 issue of HME Business.

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