Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Don't Forget to Suggest the "Add-on" Items

What is an add-on sale? We bought a bag of hot dogs to cook on Veteran’s Day. The grocer said, “Do you need any buns?” We had some at home, but we bought more. That was an add-on sale. Very subtle and very effective!

My wife uses a walker. She obtained a battery-operated flashlight to mount on the front bar. It is a great idea to have a light when she is out at night looking for something. Consider mounting such a product on several of the walkers you display. When the patient sees it, it becomes another opportunity for an add-on sale.

When you visit a department store, a Walgreens, a Target, a Wal-mart or other stores, notice a few things. All items are displayed with similar products that enhance one another. All items are price marked and easy to locate.

Senior citizens love to shop. They like to see comfort items to bring home. Family caregivers are constantly searching for items to save them from making an extra trip. Make it easy for them.

Display as many add-on items as you can. This is not very difficult. Work with the sales reps that call on you. Ask for handouts from your vendors. Become aggressive and look for every opportunity for an add-on sale.

Showcasing Your Products

Shelly, is there a way of preparing a specialized catalog for my sales people to distribute without going into a big expense?

I received this query last month at Medtrade in Atlanta. I asked the provider why he thought he needed a catalog. After all, every company whose products they sell publishes one. He said he was following up on a suggestion he received in a previous blog and felt his company would benefit with their own catalog.

A three-ring, loose-leaf binder, preferably one where you can slide in a sheet with name, address, etc. of the company on the cover, is the first step. Include an introduction to your company and a list of the services you offer. One page should identify your employees and their major strengths.

The purpose of this loose-leaf catalog is to allow the practitioner or referral source to tell his or her patients about your products. You can, since your catalog is three-hole punched, include pages from the manufacturers. No prices, these are referral catalogs and should be used only as a reference source. Every time your salesperson makes a visit they should bring new pages to add and remove the outdated ones.

This works! Try it! Your catalog in the hands of the physician, nurse, therapist or referral source becomes a silent salesperson for your company. As they receive more information, the more important the three ring binders will become. Your vendors will provide you with as much material you request. This is one easy and excellent way to build new sales and enhance your operation.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Blessings

Editor's Note:
Although this message was delayed, its meaning is still timely.

One day each year we set aside a day called Thanksgiving. The whole family gathers around the dinner table and before enjoying all the “goodies” prepared, bow their heads to say THANK YOU. Not to one another, but to God for all his blessings.

But why for only one day? At my age I say that every day. Somewhere we, as an industry have to find the time to say the same “thank you” often. Despite all the gloom and doom that seems to be circulating, I discovered that is not at all true.
At Medtrade I had the pleasure of speaking to many attendees; providers, vendors, salespeople and other professionals. They were all there, grateful for the opportunity to plan for another successful year. All were very aware of the problems and difficulties of the last 12 months. All of them were there so as not to have a repetition of the past. They were there for the future.

It matters little which industry you are in – the economy affects everyone. What made me so upbeat about the future is I saw a myriad of people all working together to determine the steps they would take so that there will be another Thanksgiving holiday. So please, enjoy this holiday and say thank you for the blessings of the last year (after all, you are still in business) and prepare for the next twelve months.

“All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God a made them all.”
Cecil Frances Alexander

Wheelchairs: Your Not-so-Silent Salesforce

Is every wheelchair on your showroom floor working for you? I have visited a great number of providers throughout the country and am too often appalled at what I call “naked” wheelchairs.

I am thinking about one provider in particular. He very proudly showed me that he displayed more than a dozen chairs on the showroom floor. He was very self-satisfied that each was different. There were many: various colors and styles, swing-away leg rests, removable arms, desk arms, hemi-chairs, travel and so forth. Impressive? No! I was disappointed. Although I did not mean to embarrass him, I tried to show him how to make each chair work for him.

We spoke about how he could make each chair a silent salesperson. It is so easy. Simply affix to each chair all the add-on sale items, comfort items and ADLs. Place a different cushion on each chair. There are several types of safety belts, cup holders, wallet holders, and many comfort and many safety items you can show. Don’t forget anti-tip devices, oxygen cylinder holders, brake extensions and backpacks.

I am aware that many providers are doing this. This dealer took my admonitions seriously. He and his staff sought out every possible item they could locate. His chairs were dressed up and every item had a price tag. Most people will not buy merchandise that isn’t prominently price marked.

He has reported that in more than 90% of his sales, whether for Medicaid, Medicare or other insurance, the patient usually bought one or two additional items. The number of discretionary dollars available today is large and most people are willing to pay a few dollars for extra comfort.

Put every wheelchair on display to work. Make them better sales sources!!!

Happy Customers are the Best Customers

One question that was asked of me several times on the exhibit floor at Medtrade was “what is an asset I have that can be best used to build more sales?” Each HME provider has different strengths! These are normally the basic programs. One thing they all have in common is their customers.

When you have a happy customer, other than an occasional thank you or compliment, you hardly ever hear a peep from them. You see them and their family caregivers regularly. Wouldn’t it be nice if all of your customers fit that description?
Then there is the unhappy customer! One who is dissatisfied with something that has happened, no matter how trivial it is. You often will never hear a word from them. As a matter of fact, you will never hear anything because invariably you have lost that customer.

A good friend, with an excellent company in New England, told me about an unhappy situation that happened. He was fortunate he heard about it in time to prevent it from mushrooming. A member of his staff, meaning well, inadvertently said something that the customer interpreted as insulting and he walked out.
The upset customer told a friend what happened. His friend was nice enough to speak to the owner about the incident. The owner then called the customer, apologized and mended the situation. An unhappy customer will tell all of his friends about the incident, and with each telling, the tale will grow and become even worse.

How much does it cost to develop a new customer? Probably a great deal more than keeping an old one. Please instill in your staff the necessity for good customer service. Courtesy goes a very long way towards building a business.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Medtrade Wrap Up - Part II

It is the Monday after the weekend and I am still realizing just how much was accomplished in Atlanta. How many HME providers went home with answers to problems and ideas for new OTC cash sales? I am sure all did.

Walt Gorski was very specific when he spoke at the Washington Update sponsored by AAHomecare. He told about the “new marketing pricing” program they proposed as an alternate to the Competitive Bid and how it is being well received in Congress. I am delighted because having participated in many sessions with congressmen over they years and seeing that something new and different was “well received” is encouraging. This is another reason that I say all HME providers must become a member of AAHomecare. They represent our industry!

I was able to find the time to visit the HIRA display. Providers often overlook the role of the manufacturer’s rep. These men and women bring with them tools for marketing. They offer programs for promotions and many new ideas to show you new opportunities. I mention his because they earn their income from your purchases. Their time is limited so please, when they call on you, work with them as promptly as you can.

I would love to hear from you. Share with me your ideas for future Medtrade events. If you have any critiques for this one don’t hesitate to tell me. After all I have the role of “ Medtrade Good Will Ambassador” and they will listen to what I learn from you. Please do not hesitate to call me at 877-553-5127. If I am away please leave your name and phone number. You can also reach me at I promise to return your call and promptly respond to your e-mail.

Medtrade Wrap Up - Part I

Perhaps the most difficult thing to report about Medtrade 2011 was the non-stop activity. The best thing I found was that most of the providers I spoke to felt this was truly a superb meeting. This sentiment was shared with me by many of the exhibitors.

This was my 34th Medtrade and I will very happily report I heard very few complaints. That, in it-self, is the best indication of success.
I looked carefully at the exhibits on the showroom floor. Many of these have always been a part of Medtrade, but this year they were more active. The attending HME providers had open eyes seeking ideas how to continue and expand their operations back home.

The Retail Design Center was like a huge magnet. There were experts at many of the displays who shared ideas with attendees. After all, Medtrade is where to find cash sales opportunities and this area was loaded with answers. Next door was the Medtrade Accessible Home. One provider told me this alone made the trip to Atlanta worthwhile. He said he never has found so many good ideas!
The pre-show seminars and the conference sessions were nearly all filled to capacity. I hope that next year we will see many more providers bringing key salespeople to Medtrade. Yes, I am aware that we had an increase in attendance, mostly principals and decision makers, but when they each bring one or two extras the benefits obtained can be doubled.

It is hard to acknowledge the many accomplishments of AAHomecare. Its Stand Up for Homecare fundraiser is something many of us look forward to attending. Their booth alongside of the state DME association desks was almost in the center of the Expo. It is very reassuring they were there because these are the people who fight so hard for every HME company – not just for their members.

We have all come to expect support from The VGM Group and The MED Group and that they certainly provided. I found a couch to sit and relax on and before I could say anything, a cup of hot coffee was handed me. How about that? They, HIRA, and the other support associations were all busy. This is why Medtrade is the most important meeting for our profession. I next look forward to Medtrade Spring 2012.