Don’t be put off by a satisfied customer

Sometimes contracting executives need to provide solutions for their internal customers even when those customers don’t think they have a problem.

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.

Contracting executive: “Are you having any problems with your current supplier or products you’re using?”

Clinician: “No, not really. They are pretty good.”

Contracting executive: “Oh, um, OK. If you ever want to take a look at something new, here’s my extension.”
Pathetic, isn’t it? So why is this response being delivered around the industry every day? It’s because since 1963, we have all been told that sales is about finding the pain and providing a solution. In fact, the term Solution Selling should now be lumped into the cliché category with “at the end of the day” and “it is what it is.” Not because we shouldn’t be providing solutions to our internal customers, but because we should not ONLY be providing solutions.
Let me explain. To provide a solution means there is a problem that exists for the customer (in this case, one of your clinicians). But what if they have no problem? Does this mean you have no chance? Well, it shouldn’t. You need to retrain your mind to believe that only part of your job is to provide solutions. The other part is to actually seek out people who are happy with what or who they use, and make them happier.

Creating an opening
For the last seven years, I drove around my town of Kansas City in a mildly beat up Ford Escape. I was perfectly happy. I was not looking for a “solution.” It wasn’t until a savvy car salesman approached (not on a car lot) and began the slow process of learning why I liked my ride. After telling him I thought it had sufficient space to haul my kid’s sports equipment to and from practice, was pretty comfortable, and allowed me to blast my XM radio on my drives to and from the airport, he convinced me to test drive a vehicle that had MORE space, was MORE comfortable and had BETTER speakers to blast my tunes. Here we are, just a couple weeks later, and guess what? I am now driving around in an SUV I had no intention of buying only a few weeks earlier. In short, I had no pain, but the guy still got an order. And I am happy he did.

So the next time a clinician tells you they are happy, resist that feeling in your stomach that tells you that you have no chance at bringing them something new. Because you do! Just find out the following:

C- Who or what are they CURRENTLY using?

L- Have they LOOKED at any other suppliers or products lately (including ones that you might have on contract)?

E- What do they find EFFECTIVE or ENJOY about the way things are done now?

A- What they would ALTER?

R- Who is RESPONSIBLE for making product decisions?

An effective conversation
The most infrequently asked question in the CLEAR questioning formula above is the “E” question, but it’s often the most important. The following is an example of what this would look like in the world of healthcare contracting.

PRECISE contracting executive: “Dr. Jones, who are you CURRENTLY purchasing your supplies from?”

Doctor: “Acme Medical Supply. We have used their products for a long time.”

PRECISE contracting executive: “Have you LOOKED at any other companies recently?”

Doctor: “No, we’ve stayed with the same products and went along with their product updates when they came out.”

PRECISE contracting executive: “That’s great. They must be doing a lot of things right. I am curious, what do you ENJOY about doing business with them?”

Doctor: “They seem to have good prices. The service is pretty good. Plus, they show up every few weeks to check on us. So, I guess nothing special. It’s just who we have always used.”

PRECISE contracting executive: “Is there anything you would ALTER or change about the way they have served you?”

Doctor: “No, not really.”

PRECISE contracting executive: “Doctor, who as well as yourself is RESPONSIBLE for deciding what supplies you use, and from whom you purchase them?”

Doctor: “My colleagues and I.”

Now take a look at the above script again. What have you learned? There is no PAIN, right? So how are you going to provide a SOLUTION? Well you don’t have to! From here, you will focus your presentation on the things that the doctor ENJOYED. You just have to earn the right to show him how you may be able to provide better quality, better service and better pricing. Had you forgotten to ask the “E” question, you would fall into the trap of the average contracting executive and would have either walked out thinking you had no chance, or would have dropped your tired story about how you can be the “one-stop shop.”

So this month, it’s time to create a habit that is about to turn around your IDN’s performance. It’s time to seek out happy customers. You’ll not only provide solutions to those in pain, but create ecstasy for those who didn’t know they could have it any other way. In short, “Don’t search for your prospect’s pain, search for their happiness. Then offer them ecstasy.”

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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