In today's healthcare world there are only two things for sale: products and outcomes. In the hospital supply chain we have a long history of bringing down unit product acquisition costs. But we have exhausted the easy money of haggling over price and we are likely not putting as much in savings to the bottom line as we were in the early days. Once an item is commoditized additional effort at lowering its price is like burning hundred dollar bills to light our search for pennies in the dark. Now we, like other parts of heath care and other industries, are starting to realize that we do our best work on the bottom line when the top line is robust and growing. And that is supply chain and value analysis’s new opportunity.
How do we take a supply chain function and turn it into a powerful support for increasing revenue for our facility? One answer to that question is outcomes. Clinical outcomes are the result we get when we combine the right products with the skills of our clinical team. When patient care is improved through measurable results, when patient satisfaction increases and the total cost of doing both goes down – that is a powerful outcome.
This is where the product supplier gets to choose between just selling us stuff and becoming partners in our success. The ideal partner knows that the best way to sell their product is by working with us to optimize our use of their product in producing superior clinical outcomes, even if it means selling us fewer units of their product. The ideal partner knows that building a long term value relationship is far more important than making a quick sale of a high volume of products.
What makes a sales representative an ideal partner?
1. They understand that the relationship creates the sale; not the other way around, and that real relationships take time. Most of us know when we are being sold and we don’t like it. We also know when someone is pretending to be friendly to get the sale. Recently on LinkedIn a number of people have posted a message that says something like this, “Don’t you hate it when someone asks you to connect with them and then five minutes after you do they are trying to sell you something?”
2. They ask good questions and they listen to your answers. We have all had conversations with people where we just knew they were not hearing anything we said because they were busy thinking of the next thing they were going to say.
3. They listen to your questions and provide answers when they have them. They know that even if we are in a hurry the right answer will always serve us better than a hasty wrong answer.
4. They work for a company that truly values its employees. Your supplier can never value you if the employees who work there are not valued and that includes your sales representative.
5. They value you as a person. You are not just some gate that they have to come up with a way to get past. You are treated with respect but not kept at a distance.
6. They have studies that point to the value of their products in achieving outcomes. By now we hear the term “evidence based medicine” in our sleep. Yet how often does a representative try to sell a product with no supporting outcomes data?
7. They are committed to quality. They know that quality is not just the absence of manufacturing defects but is the presence of positive attributes that will have a meaningful impact on clinical outcomes. Quality is not just a product characteristic; it is a state of mind and a practice that is instilled into the culture and baked into every product.
8. They stop selling. It may take a while but when the sales representative stops selling the focus product for the month and simply engages in discussion about how they can help you improve your clinical outcomes, you know you have a partner.
Lynn Everard is Managing Director of Valumatrix, LLC. Valumatrix delivers strategy, content, and messaging for a rapidly changing world. Their newest offering is an outsourced employee newsletter that provides inspiration and supports wellness. Valumatrix is an NCI Partner. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.