“Where is the Person I Hired?”

We have all been here. The bright smiling man with years of industry experience suddenly turns into an underperforming whiner. The smart, easy going woman with passion and energy disintegrates into the difficult, non-compliant person who challenges your every direction. The frustration can be overwhelming.

Before you begin to hire, there are three key points to consider.

  1. Understand the role. Gather a circle of people who truly grasp the role; those who currently hold it, manage it or reap the benefits of its success. Ask them, “If the position could talk what would it say?” What attributes are required for success? What will lead to failure? What is the true purpose of this position? You will be surprised at the divergence of opinions.
  2. Acknowledge your real expectations of the position. Given your culture and structure, what is realistic? Given the market and industry, what will you expect and how soon? Will this person need to be aggressive, assertive, a team-player or a rainmaker? To succeed, what will motivate them; bonus or security; structure or freedom? One person cannot possess all attributes. Who are you looking for?
  3. Slow down; recognize the cost of a poor hire. This is not the time to hurry up and hire somebody! Consider the cost of failure; it is estimated to be 10-14 times their salary. There is also the soft cost of bad hires. You may gain a reputation for hiring and firing; a difficult culture and not worth the cost to apply.

Only now are you ready to begin hiring. Follow the three step process:

  1. Use a tried and true profiling assessment. Any professional profile that has excellent record of success will work. Though it should be only 1/3 of the hiring decision. It will provide a basis for a second and third interview. For instance, if you are searching for a rainmaker and the profile indicates a low sense of urgency and competitiveness, the interview questions should focus on specific past successes and how they were accomplished.
  2. Consider the resume and references as propaganda. Applicants are skilled in interviewing and often have professional help with resumes. References are usually people who have been asked to provide positive feedback or are so carefully worded that they are of little use in identifying future success
  3. Interview often and expertly. This leaves you, the hiring manager with the task of peeling back the onion. My recommendation is to interview each candidate at least twice, include others in the process and become an expert at interviewing. Once you identify from the resume and profile, any areas of concern, you can focus your questions to determine if these areas are a deal breaker. Will this candidate feel valued in this position? Does he or she possess the attributes necessary for success? Does your company culture match the value system of the candidate? How much time will they need to get up to speed? What resources will I need to dedicate to their success?

Our day-to-day work lives are hectic, exciting and chaotic. Often, we must choose between two very important tasks. It is easy to delegate this, slide through the steps or just “fill the position.”

Hiring the right person with the right values, passions and attributes that match those required to succeed in your position is too critical to be even a little careless.


Would You Like to Tour?

These are perhaps the five worst words a potential family member should hear.Yet, not only is it promoted throughout healthcare; it is often followed by punishment for those who do not ask callers to tour. For years, in my sales training, I have recommended that the admissions teams eliminate the word “tour” from their vocabulary. Hospital Liaisons and Business Development reps should avoid it at all cost.

To understand the two most compelling reasons why, let’s walk in the shoes of a family member or a potential rehab patient.

Barbara has been told that her father is not doing well and the plans for him to return home have been dashed. She is devastated and now must deal with her Mother, as well. She begins to call the list of centers provided by the hospital social worker. She never dreamed she would have to “tour” a nursing home this morning.

Next, Frank is 74 and planning hip replacement surgery. Not only does he not want to “tour” a rehab center; he doesn’t want to go there at all.

In both cases, being asked to tour your center will result in either a direct “No”, a begrudged visit or a no-show. Why? Think about how you would feel if there was no compelling reason for you to do something you really dreaded.

So, then, how do we get a potential client into our buildings?

First, it is not about the tour. It is about how visiting your center will help Barbara feel better about her dilemma and how meeting the team in your center will help Frank to understand that he will recover more quickly.

Second, it is all about not selling. The initial call is not a time to sell, not you, your staff or your center. It is about careful questioning, expert listening and well-placed recommendations.

Lastly, it might sound something like this:

“Mrs. Chandler, thank you for sharing the challenges you’re facing. I understand this is a difficult time. You told me that your Mother is fearful that your Father will not return home and that you are also concerned about his non-compliance; is that right?”

“Yes, this is all so unexpected.”

“I understand. Mrs. Chandler, May I recommend that you stop in and meet our Director of Therapy? Our therapy team is second to none; together they have almost 25 years of experience. If you have some time tomorrow or Wednesday, we could also meet with our Director of Nursing; she can explain some of the methods that have worked to motivate our guests. How does that sound?”

The person handling the inquiry call must first listen for the caller’s greatest needs, show concern and empathy. Only then can one provide the real benefit of a visit to your center. It is always the reason they will want to “tour”. Mrs. Chandler will come in to meet the people who might get her father home and Frank (who doesn’t want to tour) may agree to stop by to meet the Director and ask those personal questions that are bothering him.

In closing, that inquiry call is a result of all your marketing, sales, events and collateral; it should be treated like gold. Don’t talk, just listen. Don’t sound rushed; slow down. Don’t ask them to tour; tell them why a visit will benefit them


Why Healthcare Sales IS Different!

Let’s see; we’ve all heard that a good salesman can sell ice to an Eskimo or heard,” She is quite a talker; she should be in sales”. Neither by the way is true. A good salesman would know that an Eskimo doesn’t need or want ice and a great sales person is much better at listening than talking.

However, I digress!

As much as we may want sales to be the same whether you are selling Pepsi, BMW’s or a nursing home bed; it is not! They are each tangible products; they are wanted or needed by the consumer and for many companies they enjoy a solid reputation for delivering what the consumer needs. They even have about the same selling cycle length.

Mrs. Smith walks into a store and wants a soft drink; she will choose among many. Most likely she may narrow it down to Coke or Pepsi. Mr. Smith walks into a dealership and wants to buy a car; he will choose among many. Most likely, he may narrow it down to a BMW or a Lexus. Mr. & Mrs. Smith walk into a hospital where they will be asked to decide on a next location for Mom. They will choose among many. Most likely, they will narrow it down to the top two suggestions.

So, then why is the sale different?It has to do with culture, corporate culture. Pepsi and BMW are sales-driven cultures while healthcare is operations driven. Neither is good or bad, just different. They take the company in different directions and that impact is felt most directly in the sales organization of both cultures.

The sales-driven company begins with the end in mind; the end being profit, margins and revenue growth. The budgeting process sets clear expectations for growth; sales hiring is meticulously rigorous; accountability is excruciating at all levels. Compensation programs are often an open-ended opportunity for sales people to produce. Operations meetings begin with market analysis, product trends and sales projections. The key person at the table is the CMO and the COO.

The operations-driven company also begins with the end in mind; the end being delivering a quality product. The budgeting process is often a laborious process to determine how to deliver the product and still make a profit; sales hiring practices are a de-centralized function concerned more with team matches and customer service attributes than with producing revenue. Compensation programs are viewed as expected but unnecessary. Operations meetings begin with a cost and budget analysis by department in painful but necessary detail. The market /sales discussion may be moved, delayed or hurried at the end of the meeting. . The key person at the table is the COO with no CMO.

Healthcare is an operations-driven organization. This difference in healthcare’s focus reverberates throughout the company. It shines a laser-light on clinical issues, human resource issues, turn-over and regulations. It is not that sales expectations are unimportant; they are simply far down on the list. There is often a tendency to believe that we would exist happily without a sales focus; a sort-of “build it and they will come” attitude. Heaven help the Pepsi, GM or BMW CEO who tries to compete with this mindset

Customer Service is a Subset of Sales

When asked, 95% of sales managers indicate that customer service is an integral part of sales. Most say that selling is ineffective without excellent customer service.

In sales, the goal is always the sale. Failure is when the customer doesn’t purchase the product or service.

It’s rather like a dance slowly moving through the sales process toward a decision. The skilled sales person ensures that the customer is with him at each step and that they are both in agreement before the dance moves to a new step.

In customer service, the goal is always a satisfied customer. Failure is when the customer is unhappy.

It is more like a comforter where the customer explains what they need to feel warm and the sales person attempts to provide the comfort.

While they have many similarities, they are vastly different in both goals and process. Still, they are both critically essential for success in continued revenue growth.

So, how then do we merge the two into an effective sales process? Which one, if either is more important? Can a skilled sales person succeed if customer service is poor? How does an ineffective sales person succeed if customer service is exceptional?heirarchy

Sales is a subset of marketing; competitive analysis and demographic data collection is the starting point. Once a talented sales person understands the market dynamics, he can begin to prioritize his customers. Identifying where the business exists, where it is currently going and why those choices are being made is the investigate step. Customer service enters here. How are we doing? What programs are working? What does the market think of us? Customer input is essential to determine how to become or remain competitive.

Once in front of the right customer, the sales person must be able to follow a linked process which takes him effectively through a questioning phase, deliver a compelling message that meets the uncovered needs and conclude with a positive decision by the customer. This is the sale.

The merging of the two skills done correctly results is a happy, satisfied customer who has purchased the product or service.

One can conclude that like DNA, they are sculpted together to create a successful customer experience which results in revenue growth.

Two Reasons Why a CEO Should Attend Sales & Marketing Seminars

The CEO is the visionary, the leader, the path-finder! He or she sets the culture, the direction and the true expectations for the company. inspireGreat leaders are servants of their people; they listen, question and problem-solve constantly. I have had the good fortune to work with some of the best. These “C” level executives seem to be all-knowing and approachable. Often, the CEO may have little comfort level within the sales arena. They leave the details of goal-setting and expectations to the sales management team. So, how does such a leader become all-knowing and approachable?

  • Set the Course- People follow those who inspire! For the sales force to be engaged and driven, they need only inspiration. A leader who can articulate the goals, the strategy and the expected results will find a team of sales people eager to respond and exceed his wildest dreams. Attendance at sales and marketing workshops or seminars provides the leader with the newest methods, current success stories and tried and true systems for achievement.
  • Talk the Talk- People follow those who understand! Each discipline has a vernacular of its own. It is filled with acronyms, abbreviations and inside tips. For the CEO who understands the verbiage and can converse with the sales force using their language, they will find an amazed and energized sales team. Marketing programs delivered by professional and experience sales leaders instill a comfort level with the sales terminology of the day.

These are only two of the reasons for CEOs to invest the time and energy in professional sales programs. I am certain that many of them could list others, equally critical; revenue growth, census development, manager development and more.

First Three Things New Managers Should Do

new_managerInterviewing is a critical responsibility of any sales leadership role. It was my primary focus when I took over a sales force of more than 500. The hiring process included a corporate level interview for all sales management positions. During the interview, I asked one question every time. “If you were to be chosen for this position, what are the first three things you would do?” The answers were both amazing and revealing. Not only in content but in the inability to provide sensible and well­thought out solutions. If you had only three first steps of the many from which to choose, what would they be?

My recommendation:

1. Identify the true goals

Goals are funny things; unless clearly communicated they seem to be different depending on whom you ask. That becomes your first objective. What are they…really? Do the CEO and the CFO have the same goals? Is the sales direction supported by the operations? Do the written goals match the genuine expectations and abilities? Unless you have a clear picture of what you are being asked to achieve, it will be virtually impossible to motivate your sales team to reach any goal.

2. Assess the sales force

No, really assess your sales team! This requires meeting them face to face not reviewing their monthly reports. It requires traveling with them, observing sales and coaching interactions. Use a systematic approach on how you measure each person’s ability, attributes and results. This is key to your success. Identifying your stars will enable you to give them their goals and set them free to succeed. It will provide you with the names and levels of others so you can design next steps for them, promotion, training and coaching or assistance to find alternative employment.

3. Establish clear expectations

Remember the adage, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” When I visit a new company, I make a point to ask everyone I meet, “What are your goals?” From the Director of Housekeeping to the CEO, everyone should know, understand and be motivated to achieve their goals. Once you have a clear view of the leadership’s goals, you can work with your sales management team to set theirs. Your expectation then is that theywork with the frontline sales force to set specific, measurable, achievable, time bound and relevant goals.

These are, of course only the first three actions of many. You will find that you may be handling these as well as balancing other significant issues. However, if you maintain focus on these three steps, it will provide you with a solid foundation upon which you can build a world­class sales force

Sales Cultures Are Born Not Created

The great sales driven organizations begin at the beginning. They don’t try to create a sales culture; they roll up their sleeves and breathe life into it. They pay attention to details; they have their ear to the ground; they don’t accept complacency.

There are the TEN STEPS implemented by some of the most successful companies.

It Starts at the Top

Leadership at the top is always about vision…true vision. According to Peter Senge, “The ability to focus on ultimate intrinsic desires, not only on secondary goals, is a cornerstone of personal mastery.” True vision does not stand alone; it must be founded in the why. Senior leadership has the responsibility to provide the reasons behind the vision to breath life into a sales culture. All across their land, the vision and the purpose must be crystal clear.

Scope Out the landscape

Asking sales people why it isn’t working is a waste of time. Sales people can rarely tell you why production is down or why orders are declining. They can only show you! Before any program or training process is initiated, travel with the sales people. Watch them; listen to them; observe the customers. Assess the results based on the time devoted to the sales process. Only then can you determine what support and systems are required.

Get the Right People on the Bus

A great basketball coach once said, “You can’t coach tall.” There are many attributes one can teach a new employee but talent is not one of them. The ability to understand exactly what will be required of the employee to be successful is paramount. The ability to assess each applicant to determine which one has those talents, the will to use them and the desire to succeed is never underestimated in the great companies. Most successful companies use a tried & true assessment tool.

Pick a Language

The words used in the everyday interactions between departments are part of the sales culture. Great companies develop an internal language shared across disciplines. At Starbucks, it’s “partners” and the “Starbucks Experience”. How the customer is described, client, guest, resident, customer must be identical across product lines. Where the sales person is in the sales process should be definable by everyone using the same language.
What Gets Measured Gets Done!

No one likes to complete reports, especially sales people. Keep the reports simple and relevant to their success. But have them and set clear expectations that they are an integral part of the strategic planning process. They should be used to measure the success of the current programs and direction of the sales force. The goals that are incorporated in the reports should be agreed upon by both sales person and manager.

Welcome Them Onboard

Starbucks has a 104 page work book on coffee to be completed in 90 days; Carrabba’s Italian Grill has a six week paid training schedule for the wait staff to learn every ingredient in its dishes. At my local salon, new stylists give shampoos for one year while they work beside an experienced stylist. How can one sell something about which they know nothing? “Knowledge is Power” claims Howard Schultz of Starbucks fame.

Accountability Rules

Accountability is one of the words most likely to cause discomfort when speaking with senior management. While that may be understandable, a sales culture can not exist where accountability does not. If goals are reasonable and measurable there is no reason why the sales team should not be held accountable to meeting certain standards. Senior leaders carry the responsibility of assuring accountability exists across all disciplines.

Reward and Celebrate

According to First Break All the Rules, most of us have our values in place by the age of thirteen. A company culture which rewards those values important to its’ people will have happy and productive employees. Consider this scenario. A sales manager hires a talented and experienced sales person whose main value is Aesthetic (love of peace and harmony).The company sales process is chaotic and requires multiple approvals and confrontation. How well do you think the new salesman will do? Rewarding everyone’s values and celebrating the successes that matter to them create a flourishing sales culture.

Surprise and Delight

Nothing drives a thriving sales culture better than a great product and outstanding customer service. Whether it is Pepsi, Hertz, Starbucks or the local café… always deliver more than you promise.

Breathing life into a sales culture and keeping it thriving and robust takes work. However, as the great companies have proven, commitment from the very top combined with passion and purpose for the product produces results. These great companies enjoy low turnover, high returns and long-standing success.

Is Your World Out of Focus?

This week I had an opportunity to hear Sally Dixon CEO of Memorial Hospital speak at a luncheon.  Ms. Dixon has been at the Memorial Hospital for 32 years and at the leadership helm for 16 of those years. She is a remarkable woman to have achieved such success in healthcare and remain as approachable and modest as any woman I have met.

As I listened to her expound (reluctantly, I believe) on the reasons for her success, I was intrigued.  She spoke of knowing yourself, hiring right, communicating, and serving rather than leading.  Sound familiar?  Yes.  Almost 25 years ago, I asked the CEO of our local hospital (now a giant health system) to speak at our community luncheon on the topic of his success.  He was a well-respected hospital administrator who had turned around a failing hospital within a few short years.  He spoke of hiring the right people, giving them clear direction, then getting out of their way.  He talked of his commitment to his employees, patients, and the community in which he served.

Since, I have heard this speech many times, I have wondered why so few rise to the top when the recipe seems relatively simple.  Why, if we know the three or four skills it takes to succeed, are so many failing to reach their dreams?

I suggest that the reason may be a lack of focus and clarity.  It is important to note that while the steps to becoming a successful leader are simple, they are by no means easy.

Let us look at just one of the success skills mentioned by both CEOs: hiring the right people.   There are few successful people who do not recognize that their success is due, in part, to having the right people in the right positions.  Even so, we continue to hire the wrong people.  In healthcare, this fact is supported by the high turnover rate.

Focus is similar to a laser beam of light; it has the ability to cut a diamond or heal a disease.  However, when unfocused, its power is diminished greatly.  The ability to focus and put all else aside when hiring is critical.  Taking the time for due diligence, in-depth interviewing and personal profiling is often viewed as a luxury rather than a necessity.

Clarity goes hand-in-hand with the ability to focus.  If we look at hiring once again, before interviewing anyone, I would ask myself, “How much do I really understand about this position?” “How clear am I on the duties, the requirements and the rewards?” It is critical that during the hiring process, you understand what qualities the candidate must possess to feel rewarded and to be successful.   Very often we simply think we know!

No doubt focus and clarity take time.  They take away from the immediate short-term results.  As Peter Senge stated in The Fifth Discipline, “It may take me a bit longer to get there, but when I get there I know what I’ve got is more sustainable.”






How Do You Know When You Need Help?

Salesmanship is sort of like interior decorating; everyone thinks they can do it. When I look at a room, I just know when it isn’t right. I am aware that the colors are pleasant but they don’t create the warmth I had hoped. I love the new, expensive lamp but somehow it feels awkward. I understand the basics but there just isn’t a WOW factor. I have achieved mediocrity.

The reason, of course is because it takes more than understanding the basics to achieve greatness. It takes more than being a smart leader. It takes skill and practice

The sales person who surpasses his goals and makes it “rain” does so because he is skilled. He is practiced and has most likely spent many hours perfecting the basics. Let’s face it, most Administrators, Executive Directors; even General Managers and CEOs simply do not have the time or the desire to perfect the skill of salesmanship.


Why then do managers continue to hire the wrong people to lead their sales force? Why do we see them step ill­prepared into the sales role or try to manage the sales process from the office? I would suggest it’s because it’s a little like interior decorating; everyone thinks they can do it…until the finished project is a disaster.

So, when do you know you need the advice and support of experienced sales professionals?

The answer might be …NOW! Here are the three questions to ask:

  1. Have we reached or surpassed our revenue goals with a steady growth pattern over the past year? How about year over year?
  2. Do we own market share? Do we really know?
  3. Are we the number one choice in our medical and professional community?

If the answer to any of these is no, reach out to a professional company with sales and marketing experience in healthcare. Ask for references; look for experience; listen for results.

It’s All in the Preparation

I often wonder when I get obsessive about preparation.

When did I start agonizing over the work months and months before the due date?  When did perfection and detail become as important as the delivery?

As I think back, I can squarely place the cause for my obsession on the broad shoulders of my father.  My first recollection is that of me standing directly in front of my dad leaning on his knees.  That particular night I was struggling to recall the times tables but there were many other nights.  After dinner, I would often be expected to recite the prepositions from front to back, deliver (with feeling) my rendition of “Old Ironsides” or name the capitals of every state.  I’m still not sure I even knew what Old Ironsides even was and I certainly don’t remember the capitals.

The years flew by; I often think of how difficult it must have been for him to come home after a long day, sit down to dinner, then immediately join me at the dining room table to check my homework.  My dad worked for the gas company and spent his day with a jackhammer in the very cold Pennsylvania winters.  How he must’ve wanted to comfortable over-stuffed  chain and watch his favorite TV show.  My dad was a big barrel-chested German man who wasn’t blessed with a huge dose of patience and now I understand why.

He would crinkle up my paper at the sight of an eraser mark and heaven help me if I overlooked a mistake.  He would send me scurrying upstairs to review the next chapter.  “You will want to be prepared in case your teacher asks a question about the next chapter”, he would say softly.

My dad was the one who signed my report card,who wen to school when a young teacher became frustrated and smacked me along side the head (which I richly deserved).  My dad is the one who came home and found me sitting on the school steps when I got my first “C” for a poorly sewn apron.  I was afraid and embarrassed to go home.  We never said a word; we didn’t need to.

So, when I scrunch up a draft for the umpteenth time, I think of my dad.  When it seems to take me forever to get the words just right, I think of my dad.   But when I deliver that powerful presentation that is right on target, I thank my dad!