Whether you recognize?it or not, all prosperous home health and hospice agencies?regardless of the services they provide?have one thing in common: their owners and sales representatives know how to build and maintain relationships.
The truth is that sales representatives too often get caught up in the particulars of the services they are selling to notice how critical it is to build relationships not just with your customers, but also with your vendors, employees and ? yes ? even your competitors.
The truth is that business relationships are just like any other relationship. They require some work to maintain and they must be mutually beneficial. As in any relationship, you must be willing to give, share and support, not just take or receive.
Here are some quick pointers on how to improve your relationships:
- Encourage Honest Feedback: An open, honest relationship demands clear communications of how each party is performing. I encourage my clients to interview their accounts frequently to ensure that the client is receiving the services at the level that they perceive as excellent!Encourage constructive criticism and be brave enough to suggest ways clients can help you perform better.
- Listen More Than You Talk: We all want to eulogize our strengths, our virtues in hopes of impressing others to ultimately get more business. But, being a good listener highlights your qualities much better than being a big talker.I coach a Sales Representative in Virginia and we did a little brainstorming session on why his top 5 accounts refer to him. When I asked the sales rep, ?Why do they work with you?? his response was this. ?Cheryl, I really don?t know. We have had a couple of service failures and yet if I walked in there tomorrow and told them I can only take a new patient that is a Chinese Male, his clients would find him a Chinese Male to refer.? I asked him why he feels that way. He simply responded, ?Because they are my friends, not just my clients. They want me to be successful because they like me and wouldn?t want to lose the weekly fun encounters that we both look forward to.?The relationship is what they value the most in him. Yes, they value his advice and his skills in handling the referrals, but a lot of sales reps can do what he does. What sets him apart is that he takes the time to listen to them and really understand where his clients are coming from.When we interviewed these 5 accounts, they said most often that they value his role as a sounding board, and a few even call him a shrink! That’s the kind of behavior that leads to home health care referrals and long-term business success.
The sales rep told me, ?The one thing that I remember you telling me on one of our first coaching calls was, be the sales rep that the office is so glad to see walk in the door, and that is what I do on each and every single visit! I leave my worries outside and make a positive, fun visit with both ears wide open, so I know what to ask about next week!?
- Make a Routine: Know the best time to stop in each account and keep your routine. Make sure you visit your top accounts at least once every week so they can be prepared for your brief fun visit!
- Be Honest: I know we want to be the industry experts. But when asked questions that you don’t know how to answer, always say so. Don?t try to spin a response to sound like you know their industry. Instead, tell them you have had no experience in that situation and let them know what goal you are trying to accomplish.This way you can truly learn how to position your organization to truly meet and then exceed the client?s expectations. They really will appreciate your honesty. Honesty is the foundation for a great relationship.
- Take Notes: Keep detailed notes on everyone you meet. This will allow you to remember your talking points from week to week. If you have a CRM, use it as a tool and not as a task! That?s the beauty of a CRM.
- Give More Than You Receive: Be sure to contact people when you are NOT in need of something. Don?t just make a sales call to get what you need.Take the information to the account that can make them look good to their patients and customers! Bring them monthly health observance information or information on new wound care products that your team may have just received.Bring white papers about home health and hospice or on how telemonitoring reduces hospitalizations. Take time to learn about their business since it’s important to them as your business is to you.Take a minute to understand your clients? needs and provide opportunities for them to help fulfill this whenever possible. Try to understand what they’re trying to achieve with their business.From time to time, whenever I get an opportunity, I refer my clients to someone who can help their business, even when I gain nothing from it. Clients really appreciate it when they realize that you’re looking out for them.
- Be Authentic: Don?t be afraid to be vulnerable. Let people see who you are. It builds trust and respect. Being too professional is a bore. Wouldn?t you rather enjoy yourself?Learn to have fun when making your sales calls. Smiles are contagious. People love to be around positive fun people. Make sure you choose the right attitude!The choice is all yours! If you can?t be a people person, then do yourself and your company a favor and get a new job that doesn?t involve helping patients identify your incredible services!
- Make It Personal: Sometimes it is good to send an actual physical letter, or a card of appreciation as opposed to an email. Send notes to new clients thanking them for their business.I send emails of appreciation often, for no reason at all. And, send something during the holidays keeping within stark and referral kickback laws. Never forget who got you where you are. And never, ever think you can say thank you enough to clients, customers, colleagues, and even vendors too.
- Meet Face-to-Face: Invite your contacts to an event that you would both enjoy. You will naturally deepen the relationship and get to know each other better. You could also make plans to catch up at or join someone at a networking event.
For some people, networking events are challenges and having at least one friendly face there can give them the confidence to network better. Plus, you will strengthen the relationship.
By: Cheryl Peltekis, RN ?The Solutionist?