Operational Readiness to Sell a Service

by Kriss Barlow, RN, MBA

Have you ever been asked to grow a part of the business only to jump in and then feel like it was a waste of your time and sometimes your credibility? We’ve all done it once and with that painful reality comes a great chance to establish criteria for front-end work that can determine if a service is ready to grow.


“The only way to know how customers see your business is to look at it through their eyes.”

Daniel R. Scroggin


For field staff, part of the role is to be the voice of the referring physician to the internal team. This is so much better when it can be done with proactive communication about what’s needed rather than reactive communication about what’s broken.

To get you started, here are some general elements to consider. Based on your market, those areas that you need to grow and your market positioning you can add any additional criteria.

  • Good upside potential
    • The right service is one that has a solid revenue and volume potential.
    • The face-to-face approach to earning business is expensive. The obligation here is to make certain that there is profitability.

It’s important to understand how the organization is measuring the upside potential and if there is a realistic baseline for growth and a realistic threshold you will be expected to reach.

  • Capacity
    • First within your facility
    • Beds for inpatient admissions, adequate time on the schedule if it’s outpatient
    • Throughput capacity for tests and diagnostics in the service line
    • Nursing and ancillary staff
    • Capacity also means adequate specialists
    • Adequate number interested in increasing their patient base
    • Specialist capacity also means that the specialists will value the new business and treat the referral sources in a way that encourages them to use your specialists rather than the competition.

NOTE: This is where you have those candid conversations about their willingness to use your facility.

You set yourself up for challenges in retaining the new business you are working so hard to earn when there is a lack of ability to provide streamline access for care in what the referring physician perceives to be a timely manner. Internal stakeholders may feel like a wait for testing is OK, but as we know it is not about what we think; it’s all about their needs and timeline.

  • Differentiation
    • The ability to differentiate your service from the one the referring physician currently uses.
    • If you are going to ask a physician to shift his referrals, the representative must be able to draw a clear distinction.

Spend time with the Service Line leaders and the stakeholder physicians to understand: why us? What would make a referring physician choose our service over a competitors’. Pull out your sheet of common categories of differentiation and continue to work through it so you can discover the sweet spot for you program. And if you can’t? Either keep digging or continue work internally until there is something that the referring doctor will find of value that you can deliver in an exceptional way.

  • Market appeal
    • You need to sell something that someone wants to buy
    • Often the motivation for selecting different services is driven exclusively by margins. Make certain that there is market interest and market potential.

Thinking within our organization may lead us down a path of trying to create interest in a product that frankly, nobody but the internal stakeholder really cares about. If you need to provide some sample research in the field to affirm your hunch, do that. It is important that each conversation with the referring physician adds value for them. Great field reps take the time to make certain they have the right message for the right audience at the right time. Use your internal selling skills to ensure the internal audience is informed about what it takes to ensure a product or service is ready.