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Sales Leadership: It's a New World..or Is It?


The times, they are a changin'.  Home health and hospice are being subject to multiple changes and adjustments, with even more on the horizon.  To the uninitiated it may appear to be different, but industry veterans are simply reminded that no matter what, with Medicare, there will always be change. 

Mike Ferris, Principal at Simione, explains that the most successful organizations are those with leadership that prepares proactively for future change.  “They are never complacent,” he says, “and if things are going really well financially, they are looking for ways to improve clinically and operationally.  They are using their success to breed future success, and they recognize ‘good times’ as the time to be investing in sales and marketing to ensure a positive dynamic continues.”

Much like all areas of operations, sales teams will be expected to increase productivity.  As a result, the cost of acquiring a new case must go down.  The trend of increased sophistication in home health and hospice sales will continue to be the driver of increased referrals.  Training is the single most important thing you can do for your sales team to further their efficiency and effectiveness.  The next step is to make sure you have effective sales management in order to keep your sales team focused on driving results. 

Over the last few years, organizations found they have more competition for cases.  Their first step was to hire sales people and put them out in the community.  That was, for many, a significant competitive advantage.  Bur, Ferris cautions, “Once the majority of agencies had sales people, just having them was not enough.  Training, support, and management of these sales people shifted the balance.  Once again, others followed suit. Today, there is an urgent need for home care or hospice agencies with professional sales people to educate and train them regularly if they want to maintain a competitive advantage.”

As a starting point, Ferris suggests that sales programs focus on increasing the number of cases generated per sales person.  This requires an investment in helping each sales person improve his or her sales techniques, while focused on higher volume accounts.  The most successful sales people will be those who integrate their services with their referral partner in such a way that they become the standard of care.  These sales people are constantly diagnosing their account's needs, and looking for ways to integrate their services into different types of patient diagnoses and circumstances; ultimately, they become an indispensable resource and trusted partner.

All marketing initiatives and materials (printed collateral, advertising, website content) should tie directly to sales efforts and support them, while tracking the results from each.  The message being delivered across all media must be consistent and designed to drive referrals.  If you cannot answer the question, "How does this increase referrals?” you should either redesign or rethink your methods.

Sales training must also include all sales team members - inside sales (intake, referral center, admissions, customer service, etc.), the outside sales team (sales representatives, nurse liaisons, community outreach, etc.), and all staff members.  At its core, the organization must be a sales-focused, customer-centric company.  “Everyone in your agency should be telling your story in the community to help bring in more business.  The most compelling way to achieve buy-in by everyone in the organization is by framing all conversations related to furthering the goal or the mission.  Pride and sense of mission are the two universal motivators in gaining widespread buy-in, along with getting credit for the good things your organization accomplishes for patients and families,” Ferris explains.

While the end of the first quarter is drawing near, you have many opportunities to further your quest to be a higher-performing home health or hospice agency.  “Make sure your sales team is appropriately and effectively telling your story in the community, and that your marketing efforts are generating a return by telling that story consistently with high enthusiasm,” says Ferris, “Good luck, and happy selling!”