Observation Deck

The More Things Change ...

Has competitive bidding changed the way providers make sales calls? Yes and no.

For decades we as HME sales representatives called on the referral community telling them about our products and services and the insurances which we were a provider for; all in the hope of getting them to choose us when a need for our services arose.

Has the competitive bid changed the way we make sales calls as HME sales professionals? The first answer is yes; here’s how: The most obvious is that we did not win the bid and therefore have to tell the referral community we no longer can take their Medicare patients.

Isn’t that Bad for Sales?

Some would think that all is lost if we have to tell our referral source that we no longer take Medicare patients, but the good news is that it is not. The fact is that most of these referral sources still see both private and commercial insurance patients and if we have the right contracts we too can serve these patients. So all is not lost, but we must re-direct our efforts and the messages we direct at our referral partners.

The least obvious is that the referral source that relied on us for not just their Medicare Patients will now have another provider serving some of these patients and in doing so may decide to transition most if not all of their patients to this other provider.

Both will change the dynamic of the sales call in several ways. Here are a several key points to consider when making sales calls if your company lost a bid and was not awarded a contract:

  • Assure the referral source that your products and services are still of the highest quality and care.
  • Ask the referral source about the other insurances they see at their office and the types of equipment and services they typically refer.
  • Be sure to highlight the Insurances that your company does accept.
  • Review the referral process and how referrals can be taken and details of the services your team will provide.
  • The frequency of your sales calls might change depending on the overall volume of these other referrals. That said, do not make any drastic changes in your sales call frequency until you are certain of the referral volume moving forward.

Changing Priorities, Managing Expectations

The other subtle changes that will take place on your sales calls will be the increase of calls to other offices which in the past were not given due importance because they did not have a payor base that we targeted. Now we will need to adjust our call volume, frequency, and territory to optimize opportunities for other referrals from these offices and locations.

For those who have won the bid and in the past were used to fair volume of Medicare referrals, your business may experience an increase in referrals. With this, you should review the way you made sales calls in the past and challenge your previous process to embrace this new opportunity.

The referral sources you are calling on have sales call expectations, which include the frequency of calls and also the depth of service each call provides. We must always be sensitive to the referral community and their first priority which is to care for patients. Our sales calls cannot become a bother or a nuisance, but must remain a resource to the referral community and the patient which we hope to serve.

If you won the bid and the number of offices you called on has increased, then you must change your focus and up your game. Here are a few ideas to help you accomplish that:

  • You must identify the potential of each referral source
  • What is the patient volume, specific to Medicare
  • What is the monthly referral trend or history
  • What types of referrals do they make monthly (oxygen, CPAP, overnight oximetry, etc.)
  • The answers to these questions should help you create a territory management process, so that you can assign the correct calling frequency to each account.

Pinpointing Change

Assuming that you had a sales process in place previously, you should consider what has worked for you in the past and also consider upping your game to achieve even greater things. The referral community can be fickle at times and you must assign the proper level of calls to each account.

The fear is that we will become complacent if we won the bid and lower the volume of sales calls because the number of companies that won the bid is limited. That may be depending upon your area, but this should not cause you to relax your call volume to the referral community. If anything this should be your wake-up call and cause you to increase your volume of calls based upon your understanding the referral frequency of each office.

Competitive bid has not changed the way we make HME sales calls because the referral process has not changed. While some of the players have changed, the overall process in which we earn the trust of the referral community to call us with referrals has not changed.

The age of the HME sales representative is not dead, but very much alive. We need to adjust our message and even our process, but the systematic way in which we get referrals is directly dependent upon us making professional sales calls, with the right message to a community who is looking for a reliable, dependable, competent, and passionate partner to care for patients who have needs that require that partner’s support.

So, has competitive bidding changed the way we make sales calls? The answer is yes and no — and there is more change to come. So providers must understand how they can adapt to what has changed while leveraging what hasn’t to their advantage.

This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

Ty Bello, RCC is the president and founder of Team@Work LLC, which offers more than 50 years’ combined experience in assessing, developing, and coaching sole proprietorships, sales teams, C-suite executives, individuals and teams in a variety of industry settings. Bello is an author, communicator and registered coach, and can be reached at ty@teamatworkcoaching.com for sales, customer call center, and management coaching needs. Please like Ty on LinkedIn and visit www.teamatworkcoaching.com for more information and join The Coaches Corner at teamatworkcoaching.com/coaches-corner.

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