Sowing the Seeds of Relationship Sales

relationship sales in healthcareBy: Kriss Barlow, RN, MBA

This time of year signals the time to start planting, at least here in the north central states.  Gardening is a wonderful journey really, placing small seeds in the ground, anticipating a bounty of blooms in late summer.  Seeds only grow, however, when they are placed in the right soil, at the right time and provided the right sunlight and moisture.

The process of relationship sales has a lot in common with the good practices of gardening. Unlike a “patient gardener,” leaders today make huge assumptions about what it takes to earn relationships and many want instant results. (As a sales person, I would like instant results too!)  The reality is that, much like planting a seed, it takes time to nurture a quality sales relationship through its full growth cycle.

Sowing relationships also requires an understanding of the growing conditions.  Back to the garden analogy: A seed won’t grow if it’s planted too early in the season. Likewise, it won’t take root without good soil and proper sunlight. When it comes to growing relationships it requires that we take the time to make good choices at the onset of the process- like targeting. Sometimes, we get so antsy to “get out there” that we don’t take the time to do our homework to ensure that the relationship thrives.  To reap the rewards of referral growth, it’s important to think about “who” to target and what kind of harvest to expect.

Targeting is more complicated than just looking at who is not referring. The right target must:

  • Have referrals that they can send your way based on their freedom to make decisions (Employment by another system might limit their real or perceived freedom to use you)
  • Have enough volume in their practice to refer in those areas you are working to grow
  • For specialists, they need to be sensitive to the expectations of those primary care doctors who refer to them.  Employed family medicine doctors may refer to a specialist with the expectation that the specialist uses their health system services.

Will your seeds bear fruit?

Once the seeds are in the ground, gardeners wait and watch for signs of growth — that little peek of green that pushes through the dirt as the new, young plant grows.  Relationship sales people must also be attentive and learn to recognize the signs of traction in their own sales relationship cycles.  Certainly, good sales people spot signs of progress – that little something that demonstrates interest. For example, the primary care doctor may be willing to meet the specialist for “more than a lunch and learn;” he or she may be open to a serious meeting with a serious conversation. If you are always pushing ideas at the doctor, but see no signs of them engaging, something has to change.  In gardening terms, if you’re watering the seed but it’s not sprouting, don’t just keep on watering and hoping. Consider four to five different ways you can get the doctor to show interest at your next meeting.

Spring is such a hopeful season, the perfect time to try something new.  We’re trying a new method for holding onto moisture in our garden. It makes me think I should try a new method for holding onto prospects in my business.  What’s your spring innovation?

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