The Days of “Muffin Marketing” Are Gone

There has been a significant shift in the hospital key decision makers on selecting preferred home health and hospice services providers. Understanding who makes these decisions, and more importantly how this affects your sales strategy is imperative.

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In the past, hospital administrators had no vested interest in what happened to patients once they left their facilities. Sad, but true. However, with the new Medicare readmission penalties, hospitals’ bottom lines are now at risk if certain benchmarks on patient readmissions within the first 30 days after discharge aren’t achieved.

Additionally, the establishment of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), as well as pilot programs in post-acute bundling, have further reinforced the message that hospitals will become financially engaged in the entire episode of patient care. What does this all mean…… recommending the “right” hospice and home health (both skilled and personal care) agencies to serve their patients has become a much more important issue than ever for hospitals today. So hospital management will now make this decision, no longer leaving it up to the discharge planners and social workers.

So what does this mean to your business development and sales efforts? As the sales targets for all home based companies shift from the discharge planner to the C-suite, you’ll find selling at this level requires a whole new skill set and knowledge levels. The days of pitching your services to a clinician over a muffin, donut and tchotchkes are over.
The following are five things you will need to explore with your business development leadership:

Gaining access to top hospital management versus discharge planners is more difficult. Although getting past the receptionist in a doctor’s office or onto the hospital floors may have been difficult, you usually could garner a brief impromptu meeting with a physician and/or discharge planner. Access to the C-level individuals, however, is much more restricted and involves more layers of organizational structure. Bureaucracy tightly controls the calendars of top hospital administrators, and tracking them down in the hallways of their institutions is usually impossible.

There are more people involved in the decision-making process. Due to the hospital’s finances are at risk, the number of individuals potentially impacted by this brand decision is greater than in the clinical sales process. More people means more messaging and communicating to have your message heard and understood.

Additional sets of agendas and different motivations now impact the decision. There are more people involved, which means there will also be more points of view, since each person could be affected differently by the decision. The chief financial officer may consider only the agency with the lowest readmission rate, for example, while the case management director may be primarily concerned about an agency’s responsiveness. Compared to a physician or discharge planner, top hospital administrators typically are:

  • More concerned about business issues because they aren’t involved with patient care on a day-to-day basis.
  • More analytic about their decisions and want proof or numbers to validate a proposed course of action.
  • More focused about the impact on the entire organization – not on individual patients, as a clinical person might be.
  • New thinking strategically.

Making a choice and implementing the final decision takes more time. Due to the magnitude of the potential impact on the organization and an increase in the number of parties involved, the decision may take longer than in clinical sales. In clinical sales, if the referral sources were swayed by your presentation, they could react by sending you a referral for their next patient. Implementing a C-level decision may take more time, since it often involves working through a number of people to affect frontline change – which also requires more messaging and communication.

Sales Force Skill-Set Training. Sales staff and Liaisons that work in hospital settings will need to do a “deep-dive” into understanding not only the value proposition on how to sell but as training in new phraseology and approaches to use. Your training and education focus and dollars will need to be change.

Wishing you the best!

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