Customer Checkup

Keep your customers healthy by staying in touch

Editor’s Note: JHC readers may not work for medical products companies, but they have plenty of customers – administrators, all the people who use the products for which they contract, and the vendors with whom they negotiate contracts. Their credibility is on the line every day. Sales coach Brian Sullivan spends most of his time working with salespeople and sales executives from medical products manufacturers and distributors. But he’s got something to say to contracting professionals as well.

Suppose you are a physician. Your patient calls and says they need to have a little checkup with you. After doing your homework and reviewing your charts, you realize you haven’t seen this patient in a while and hope that everything is fine. They haven’t expressed any pains lately, so you think they just have a few questions. The patient walks in, looks sick as hell, tells you they have felt this way for a while and wanted to tell you that you are fired, and that they have changed providers, because you didn’t seem to care enough about their health and well-being.

“I had no idea,” you say. “I thought everything was great. How was I to know? Why didn’t you tell me earlier? I could have corrected your problems … if only I had known.” Well guess what, Doctor Contracting Exec? The patient shouldn’t have to have an arm growing out of their neck before you realize there is a problem. It is your job to see the signs of a sick patient long before they realize they feel like garbage.

Whether you believe in Obamacare or Nobamacare, one thing is clear. Preventative healthcare is good for patients and, many believe, good for the system. Because by diagnosing problems before they grow serious, we are able to save lives, and reduce the costs that come with more expensive treatment. In short, find the problem early, fix it, and everybody wins. This same formula applies to you as a contracting executive.

Keeping your accounts healthy
Here is a little fact about the medical industry: Many medical companies lose as many as 30 percent of their customers each year. And the reason so many of these accounts are “dying” is because the companies that are selling to them are not practicing “preventative” healthcare. As a contracting executive, your customers are the department heads, clinicians and caregivers who use the products and services you provide them. The following are ways to effectively diagnose and treat those customers so they remain healthy accounts.

Ask your most important customers these three questions at least once a quarter:

  • What am I doing that I should keep doing?
  • What am I doing that I should stop doing?
  • What should I begin doing to better serve you?

Can you imagine how surprised you would be if your family doctor proactively called each quarter to see how you were feeling and to offer tips to keep you healthy?

Research the latest treatments and stay up on industry trends. Physicians need to get CME credits each year so they are aware of better ways to serve their patients. Contracting executives, on the other hand, have no such requirements. Keeping your knowledge and skills at peak levels is often up to you. So why is it that countless people in this industry only hone their skills when their employer provides them an opportunity to do so? Let’s get something straight: The best of the best in this business look at their company’s investment in education only as bonus learning. When nobody is looking, they are studying the clinical benefits of that new product, seeking out a networking partner with whom to share ideas, and attending that seminar that they paid for with their own money. They understand that this knowledge will keep their accounts healthy.

Prepare and review financial health objectives regularly. How healthy do you want each department to be? Is it enough that they are alive, or do you want them living a vibrant financial – not to mention clinical – life? If you haven’t done so yet this year, break down your top 20 accounts and set financial health objectives for each. Schedule a specific time each week in your office where, like a physician, you review the “charts.” You will find yourself making subtle adjustments that will help you diagnose any problems much earlier.

Admit when you blow it. Recently, as my 10-year-old son lay in a hospital bed with a severe case of bacteria hepatitis (aka, wacked-out liver), a nurse rolled in to give him his meds. One of them was Tylenol. Well, I am no physician, but I have read enough Tylenol labels to tell you that those little pills are processed in the liver and should NOT be taken when you have liver problems (or if you have more than three drinks a day). I then realized that they had already given this to him several times already. I questioned why they wouldn’t choose a different pain reliever that doesn’t affect the liver. They looked at me as if this was the first time they ever heard this, then made the change. When I questioned the physicians later, they were stumbling over each other trying to justify why they did it, rather than just saying they probably shouldn’t have. In short, they lost credibility, not so much from their actions, but rather by their response to their error. In business, when you blow it (and you will), admit it quickly, and then make the fix.

So this month, give your “sales territory” a check-up by using the skills discussed above. By practicing the art of early diagnosis, you will keep a ton of accounts healthy. And I won’t judge you if that same behavior makes you a valuable resource to your facility. See you at the Top!

About the Author

Brian Sullivan
Brian Sullivan, CSP teaches salespeople and leaders how to influence more people in his PRECISE Business Development Programs. Sign up for a FREE Online Training Module on How to Become a Master Questioner by going to Or visit him at
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