Observation Deck: Taking your turn on the other side of the desk

Journal of Healthcare Contracting readers know that they have to be good salespeople as well as supply chain experts. Whether it’s interacting with administration, the clinical staff, even vendors, there’s selling involved. Even though we didn’t plan it that way, we couldn’t seem to get away from the topic in this month’s issue.

Brian Sullivan’s “PRECISE Contracting” column is an example. Brian had a successful career with Welch Allyn prior to becoming a sales consultant. And we’re proud to carry his column regularly. You might be wondering why “PRECISE” is in capital letters. That’s because it’s an acronym, standing for “Prepare,” “Respect and trust,” “Engage with questions and curiosity,” “Convey solution,” “Indecision – overcome yours and theirs,” “Secure and advance,” and “Explore.” It’s Sullivan’s precise recipe for successful selling, which he put forth in his book “20 Days to the Top.” Take a look at the book. You might see that you can apply the formula – which was originally designed for sales reps – to your daily interactions with your internal and external customers.

The second sales-related article in this month’s issue is about Lowell Church at Adventist Health. Read about how he built his affiliate program into one that generates somewhere around half a billion dollars in sales every year. Church is the first to admit he enjoys sales, having been a business owner in his past life. But he continues to apply the principles of selling in his current position.
Like PRECISE selling, Church’s approach is fairly formulaic. He and his team have become adept at qualifying leads. They do so by reviewing their offering with the potential client in hopes of helping that client determine whether the affiliate program would be a positive thing for them. Once the client has signed on, the Adventist team works with the client on an ongoing basis to help identify favorable contract opportunities. And they make an effort to keep their clients involved and in the fold, by welcoming them to participate in conference calls and annual conferences.

Underlying the Adventist Health sales approach is a rather sound sales philosophy, which Church sums up this way: “[T]he affiliates are not cows for us to milk. They are part of our own herd. We take care of them like our own. And we only present opportunities that are good for them.”

And finally, we report on one family with three generations of medical salespeople, one of them now working for a major GPO. All three generations love the art of selling, but more important, they love the art of selling in the healthcare field. That’s because they enjoy the “mission” aspect of what they do, that is, helping people get well.

My guess is, that’s why most of you are in this business too. You may enjoy the challenges of contracting, negotiating, logistics, management. But you could do that in any industry. You’re in healthcare because you love the mission. Add salesmanship to it, and you’ve got a complete picture.

About the Author

Mark Thill
Mark Thill is the Editor of The Journal of Healthcare Contracting and has been reporting on healthcare supply chain issues since 1985. He is a graduate of Dominican University in River Forest, Ill., and he received a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.