Looking for any type of competitive advantage has become common place, but what is often missing are the key elements that make referral acquisition work day-to-day. Sure you can purchase claims data and then identify who you want to target, but what’s next? Implementing a sales process will help you to shake the “great relationships are the ONLY thing that brings referrals” mentality.
You must have great relationships to open the back office door and keep it open, but having informed dialog about the identified needs of your referral sources is what separates great relationships from great process. Imagine you are going to purchase a new laptop. One friend is telling you to buy a specific brand of laptop because he/she has one and loves it. You trust your friend and would definitely consider that brand, but if you call another friend who listens to your needs, knows a great deal about laptops and informs you that another brand would fit your needs better…whose advice would you follow? Both are friends, but the informed friend who learns about your needs and advises you is more likely to be the one you listen to. After talking to that friend, you feel a little more confident about your decision and informed about laptops.
Process is everything
Your informed friend followed a process. They may not have been trying to sell you a laptop, but they listened to your needs, considered those needs and shared which solution would be the best fit based on their knowledge. Unfortunately, a great deal of sales reps call on referral sources weekly to “check in” without bringing value, listening to a need, or offering a solution. Many will even ask for a referral, without proposing a scenario that makes it easy to refer to their organization. A process that is refined will create an opportunity to refer with almost every visit. It’s like a roadmap. If you follow the directions carefully, you’ll eventually arrive at your destination.
Without process, what are the risks?
A sales process is nothing more than a set of steps to gaining business. Like a ladder, with each step you get higher. If you get on the top and find out there is nothing there you want, you climb off and move the ladder somewhere else. Without it, we count on sales reps and liaisons to just get us business by whatever tools they have in their tool belt. Implementing a sales process ensures that they are listening and capturing the needs of your referral sources. It also creates predictable referrals and illuminates when referral sources begin to decline or exceed admission expectations. Considering your market has a limited number of referral sources, maximizing your sales efforts is vital keeping those sources happy and continuously meeting their expectations.
There are a handful of great consulting companies that can provide a proven sales process for gaining referrals, but without tracking and offering accountability, they become guidelines instead of absolutes. If referrals go up after implementing a process, you may assume that the process is working. However, if you track the process as it progresses, you have the best chances to maximize the effectiveness. The attention shifts from getting a first referral to maintaining referral consistency.
What is the best practice to ensure a sales process works?
There are several key metrics to track when considering the effectiveness of a sales process. The most obvious metric tends to be admission tracking, but there are much more strategic approaches to using this data. For instance: tracking those key non-admissions or pending patient admissions helps you to identify where a referral source is attempting to work with you, thus the process is working. It can provide an opportunity to educate that referral source on the ideal patient (or provides you a chance to fix an issue with your intake department if the referrals are in fact qualified). When it comes to measuring a sales process, you have to go step-by-step to ensure that success of your process. If the first step is to qualify and account, and your salesperson sets up a meeting, talks about their favorite sports team, and drops off a pamphlet, how well did they follow the process? Furthermore, do they know what questions they should be asking to qualify, and do you have somewhere to capture that information?
The absolute best practice to ensuring that your sales process is being followed and working, is to build it directly into a CRM system. The time spent monitoring your sales efforts drops dramatically, while having access to the process becomes seamless. Integrating your CRM with your organizations electronic medical records system will take the process even further. Many companies find that they re-gain usable employee hours by implementing a CRM, making it virtually free.