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Hiring the right person for the job is the key to success for any business but in home health many managers are not sure how to identify the right person for a sales and marketing position.
Home health managers usually come from the clinical side of the agency and may have no sales experience in their background so it is harder for them to evaluate a candidate for a sales position, says Lucy Andrews, RN, MN, chief executive officer of At Your Service Home Care in Santa Rosa, CA. "We all love to take one person who is doing well in their job and move them to another position that is important to the agency because we trust them to do a good job," she says. "Unfortunately, the nurse who is passionate about the use of telemedicine in home care may not be the right person to sell the agency's telemedicine service to referral sources," she adds.
"There are many clinical staff members who are enthusiastic about the service they provide and they want to tell others about it, but you have to look for someone who can close the sale," says Andrews. "You need someone who can talk about the service and then ask the referral source to give your agency a try," she explains. "This is the area with which many clinicians struggle," she says.
It is also important to have a person who is dedicated to sales and marketing, points out Andrews. "Sales and marketing is an ongoing effort, not something that can be done between seeing patients," she says. For this reason, you need to screen your candidates carefully to make sure that nurses who apply for the position understand that they won't be working with patients, she adds.
It is not necessary to hire sales and marketing staff members who have only clinical or only sales experience, points out Andrews. "You are looking for a person who is excited about selling the agency's services and getting results," she says.
Home health managers may think they need someone with a clinical background because the "product" the person is selling is clinical, admits Andrews. "You can teach enough about your business to a non-clinical person but you can't teach a person who doesn't love sales how to sell," she explains.
"A good sales and marketing person can talk about the benefits of using your agency's services from the perspective of the referral source," says Andrews. Talking in terms of reduced hospitalization, improved outcomes, and reduction of the cost of providing care, and how that helps the referral source's business is important, she points out. "The sales person also needs to be able to communicate how the agency can make the referral source's job easier," she adds.
Because sales and marketing people are motivated by results and by money, you need to be clear about your expectations upfront, recommends Andrews. Develop your sales and marketing program with specific goals related to new admissions, development of new referral sources, or increase in specific programs, she suggests. "Tie these expectations to monetary rewards because sales people are motivated by money," she adds.
The type of pay structure for your sales and marketing staff depends upon your agency, says Andrews. "I've seen commission-only sales staff and salaried staff," she says. To improve motivation, salaried staff members usually have a bonus structure that is tied to goals met for new referrals or other aspects of the business, she adds.
Once you have hired the right person, be sure to provide the tools that he or she needs to do the job, warns Andrews. "If you do hire someone with no home health experience, arrange for her to go on several home visits that represent your core business as well as any special programs you offer," she says.
Even if you hire people with clinical experience, they won't know everything about every type of care, so be sure they have a list of resources within the agency for questions. Also, make sure they have access to data that helps identify potential sources of new admissions, says Andrews. "We have preconceived ideas about who our best referral sources are, but when a sales and marketing person evaluates the data carefully, other sources may prove more valuable," she says.
Have your marketing person look for the referral source, the type of patient typically referred, and any referral trends, Andrews suggests. The "A" list of contacts should include sources who frequently refer patients and represent a great deal of volume, who refer patients who do have insurance or other means to pay, who have the potential to refer more patients, or who see patients that are appropriate for the agency's specialty services. Your "B" list may include sources that have potential but not as great as the sources on the "A" list. "Market to both the A and B lists, with the emphasis on the A list at the beginning," says Andrews.
Make sure your sales and marketing person knows when to drop a source from the marketing list, recommends Andrews. "If you haven't received a referral from a source that you are visiting two times a month over six months, give up," she says. She adds, "You don't want your sales staff wasting their time, not when there are other sources for new referrals."