As providers contend with radical reimbursement cuts, or perhaps being nixed out of a central business category altogether thanks to competitive bidding, they must strive to expand their revenues through other means. Retail sales has become and important element in that strategy. It offers income free from the constraints and cuts of Medicare, while leveraging the providers deep understanding of homecare patients’ needs and the products that can help them.
That said, there is a element unique to retail sales that represents some unexplored territory for HME providers: sales. Certainly HME providers are no slouches when it comes to selling their services to referral partners, insurance payors and other business clients, but that’s just it: working with those clients involves business-to-business sales.
Selling to consumers is an entirely different undertaking. Now providers must appeal to a different mind-set and range of needs. Instead of working to generate funded claims for prescribed DME, now providers are working with patients that are paying their own way. That means those customers will be more cautious and desire a greater deal of information and service before they buy.
Because of consumers’ different service needs, providers must undergo a bit of a revolution in terms of how their staff work with these clients. Training will be critical to success. Management must start working with the sales team to see how they can win over cash sales customers’ business. That means management must develop an effective sales training program. Here are some key elements that program should incorporate:
Realign attitudes. The first element in a provider’s retail sales training program should work to force a bit of a culture shift among he staff. A key obstacle to entering retails sales in the HME industry has been that selling has been somewhat frowned upon, as it is deemed less noble than working with a funded piece of DME, and because some might feel it is taking advantage of a patient’s situation. But if anything, retail sales is in fact well aligned with what HME businesses do. Providers want to deliver top-quality care and that patients receive the right DME, but in a retail situation, they want to close the deal. If that’s the case then they should be working to leverage their deep product knowledge to help their retail customers by putting them in touch with the non-funded, retail products that can help them enjoy their lives, just as much as they work to ensure their patients get the correct funded DME.
In the end, patients are looking for solutions. Whether or not a solution is covered by Medicare, or private payor insurance, or if it is paid for by a cash transaction is immaterial to the product’s value. If the customer desires to purchase something via cash, why shouldn’t the HME provider accommodate that wish? This is the culture shift that providers need to be willing to undergo and reinforce via sales training.
Staff must work with the customer. Retail sales starts with a high level of service. Providers must train staff to greet patients when they enter the door and then offer to help. When called upon, the provider needs to stick with that client to ensure the client is aware of the various solutions available to him or her. Ultimately, staff become a “temporary consultant” for the customers, imparting their product and care knowledge in the hopes of helping the customer make an informed purchase.
Reinforce the three components of the retail sales process. When a customer walks in the door, three things should happen: staff should welcome the customer, qualifying the customer’s needs, and then serve as a resource to help the customer decide on the right solution. One strategy upon welcoming the customer is to ask what he or she is looking for, and then offer to walk him or her over to that section of the store. At that point the HME team member can strike up a conversation about the various items available and start to ask tactful questions about the patient’s needs. This is considered consultative selling, and it works particularly well in HME retail sales, because it ultimately is helping the customer.
Leverage dialoguing and scripting in training. A lot of providing serviceoriented retail sales involves working with different patient types, and answering not just easy questions, but some of the harder questions, as well. That means that HME retail sales staff must have answers at the ready if they want to inspire the customer’s confidence. To help foster that retailreadiness, providers should employ a retail sales training approach that involves scripting and dialoguing so that staff can quickly communicate key product knowledge, as well as answer the tough questions.
Points to take away:
- Providers must develop a training program for retail sales.
- This training program must help foster a culture shift among the team, in which sales is considered a helpful process.
- Bearing that in mind, providers should reinforce the concept of consultative sales, in which staff helps clients select options.
- Staff should understand how they can quickly transition from welcoming a customer to the store, to helping them find products.
- The training program should also incorporate scripting and dialoguing so that staff can quickly answer tough questions.
- HME Business recently conducted a late-May webinar on retail sales hosted by Ty Bello, RCC, president and founder of HME sales consulting firm Team@Work LLC. Called “Fast-tracking Retail,” the webinar outlined how providers can develop a solid internal and external retail sales plan, as well as the insights needed to create and sustain a long-term marketing plan to reach cash sales consumers. The webinar is still available as an archive for a limited time at hme-business.com.