How to Build Momentum in Your Retail Sales
- By David Kopf
- Jul 01, 2010
At a time when MIPPA has reduced funding for key Medicare categories by 9.5 percent and the round one re-bid is right around the bend, providers must do everything possible to increase their cash flow. This is doubly important now that CMS’s newfound paperwork persnicketiness has resulted in further payment delays on some claims due to RAC, CERT and ZPIC audits.
Suffice it to say that cash is king. This means providers must have a solid retail sales program in place in order to survive the current funding environment. That said, while many providers might operate a cash sales business, they might need to ramp up their retail operations in order to ensure it is a dependable cash-flow contributor. Here are some solid ways to help build momentum in your retail sales:
You can’t have retail success without employing some marketing savvy. True, you can generate retail sales through your existing customers coming into the store, but you’ll go much further if you advertise to past, existing and prospective clients that you have retail DME solutions to their daily challenges. There is a wide variety of channels to get your message out, including local papers and mailers, as well as radio and possibly even local television advertising.
But don’t stop at traditional marketing. Consider getting out and doing a little public speaking. In the same way that you conduct in services for referral partners in the local healthcare community, consider hosting local seminars for patients at community centers, assisted living centers and other venues that let you present and discuss your homecare solutions, as well as answer questions.
Similarly, take out booths at local fairs, community events and similar venues. While you might not make a presentation like you would at a seminar, you’ll at least have another opportunity answer questions and offer information. Offer a free give away or game or contest to attract prospective clients to your booth. Interfacing with your local marketplace will help establish a reputation for being a local expert who is willing to share his or her knowledge, and that will pay off in additional retail revenues.
Enlist Vendor Support
Don’t forget that many of your vendors will offer a variety of marketing tools and marketing support to help your increase your cash sales. Most come at low- to no-cost in comparison to the alternatives, as well. Why would vendors offer these resources? It’s in their self-interest to ensure that their providers enjoy success with their retail products, so they are willing to offer marketing support that ranges between customizable brochures and tri-folds, all the way to print, radio, web and even video advertising support.
As you craft your retail business plan, make absolutely sure to contact each of your retail DME vendors to find out what tools they have to offer. You might be pleasantly surprised at not only what they have to offer, but the results, as well.
In addition to marketing to support, some vendors offer financing for some high-ticket retail DME products. For example, auto access products are not covered by Medicare or most private payor (if not all) insurance, yet they can be somewhat pricey. Likewise, there are many occasions where a patient might want a piece of expensive DME that might typically be covered, but that patient does not have funding. In cases such as these, the patient must come up with the money for the item, and that’s where financing can save the sale.
Better yet, the terms offered by vendor financing services are often very attractive. See if your larger vendors offer any financing services and learn what it takes to create a program to support your retail operations.
For some HME businesses, retail sales can represent a whole new ball game. For many “making the sale” can seem counter-intuitive from the typical process of working with referral partners and filing a claim. This means you must ensure that your staff has the necessary skill set, training and disposition that will help them make your retail business a success.
A key aspect of empowering your sales team is ensuring that they have rock-solid product knowledge of the DME you are offering and how these various items relate to various patient needs. If they are doing their jobs right, they will function as an expert consultant that will help your patients make the right decisions about what they need.
Lastly, do not neglect your floor space. If you want to ensure retail success, you must create a retail show room that compels clients to peruse what you have to offer and learn more about the items that might solve their problems and improve their quality of live. Here, too, your vendors might be able to help by offering retail display and signage support.
Points to take away:
- Retail sales are a critical part of ensuring providers survive the tough CMS funding environment through improving cash flow.
- A key part of this effort lies in ramping up a solid marketing effort. This not only means leveraging traditional marketing techniques, but reaching out to the community through seminars and events.
- Make sure to leverage marketing resources provided by vendors. Many vendors offer turnkey marketing materials.
- Another key vendor support in cash sales is financing. For particularly expensive pieces of DME, financing can help drive high-end cash sales.
- Another key aspect of retail operation is the staff. They must adopt a sales mindset and become consultants with vast product knowledge so that they can ensure they not only make the sale, but keep customers happy.
This article originally appeared in the July 2010 issue of HME Business.
David Kopf is the Publisher and Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy magazines. Follow him on Twitter at @postacutenews.