In Today’s Healthcare Environment, Less Really is More

May 2018

Smart Selling: Distributor Sales Strategies From HIDA

By Elizabeth Hilla
Senior Vice President, HIDA

Salespeople naturally tend to want to sell more. It’s hard to make your quota by selling less!

But when selling to today’s healthcare supply chain managers, showing them how they can buy less can help them achieve their savings targets while bolstering the value of your solutions.

Leading healthcare providers have realized that getting suppliers to take a few cents off each widget won’t get them to the total savings they need as reimbursements decline. So, they’re targeting product utilization (consumption). That means evaluating not just what they use, but how many and in what circumstances.

Imagine that you’re trying to reduce your family’s grocery budget. You could switch grocery stores or use more coupons to get a slightly better price on the items you buy. But you might save more by looking at what you’re buying (for example, cheap paper towels that require you to use twice as many) and what you’re throwing out (for example, the bananas or sour cream that went bad before you could use them). You might even identify items that you don’t need to buy at all – for instance, maybe you’re wasting money on disposable utensils.

The same concepts apply to healthcare, many times over. You can probably think of many opportunities to help your customers right-size their utilization, but here are a few ideas:

  • Products that require fewer units to do the same job.
    • Examples: Incontinence briefs that require fewer changes; gloves that are thick enough to eliminate the need for double-gloving.
  • Products that eliminate the need for other procedures.
    • Examples: A rapid diagnostic test that’s accurate enough to eliminate the need for a culture to confirm the results; a treatment that doesn’t need to be injected, eliminating needle use and needlestick risks.
  • Strategies for reducing product waste.
    • Examples: Helping a hospital customer identify items on a procedure tray that aren’t being used and can be eliminated; identifying products that are often dropped or contaminated before usage (such as gloves that are difficult to get out of the box); adjusting order quantities to reduce waste due to product expirations.
  • Opportunities to reduce unwarranted variation.
    • Example: Showing a customer that they’re using two different strep tests with slightly different procedures, and that by standardizing to one product they can reduce mistakes (and possibly improve pricing as well).
  • Simpler, less expensive products that meet but don’t exceed basic requirements.
    • Example: Showing the customer that certain wound closure procedures don’t require a more expensive suture. (In some cases, standardization isn’t the best strategy.)

Chances are, you are well aware of opportunities like this and you point to these benefits in your sales presentations. Keep it up! Read articles on utilization management, pay attention to what your customers are doing, and share their successes with other customers. Helping your customers improve utilization management can move conversations away from price alone to instead focus on true value, and will position you as a trusted resource.