How do you think a buyer prepares for your sales call? Some do more than you know. One buyer’s work on rating suppliers’ sales calls gives us insight into how other buyers are scrutinizing our selling. It can also teach us how to be effective salespeople.
A hospital that makes selling better. Ms. Vicki Perfect is the former Director of Employment and Education at Greenville Hospital System in Greenville, South Carolina. She led the project to develop criteria to evaluate vendors and the products and services they sell. The hospital needed to evaluate for a variety of reasons. They needed to better understand the diversity of their needs and to establish a shared vision for the expected outcomes of the product or service. Buyers from different departments were purchasing similar products for different application needs. This was impacting the bottom line of the hospital.
They also wanted to create a shared understanding of the relationship between cost benefits and customer satisfaction. With the hospital industry undergoing significant cost constraints it was easy to select from the lowest bid. However, ultimately that selection of the product or service had an impact on the hospital’s ability to deliver quality care. By creating standard selection criteria the hospital was able to evaluate financial impact as well as the service impact of its purchase.
The checkup. Hospital management brought staff from different departments and different disciplines together in cross-functional focus groups. Their assignment was to identify and prioritize their product and customer satisfaction needs. They then developed specific evaluation criteria. These criteria were to address the hospital’s operational needs; impact on patient care; product or service presentation/quality; and provide references from other companies. Cost was also a factor. Each vendor was rated on a 10 point scale for each item. Then each item’s weighted priority was factored into the results.
The operation was a success. The hospital found that the evaluation criteria resulted in decreasing the time it took to purchase the products/services and deploy them throughout the hospital. The members of the cross-functional teams became champions for the products/services that were actually selected and used the selection criteria as a mini-education tool to implement the product or service in their department. An added plus for the hospital was that this effort developed intelligent buyers so that the hospital, rather than salespeople, determined what they wanted and needed.
So the next time you prepare for your sales call, remember that your customers may be doing their own preparation as well. Ask your customers about their purchasing criteria. If you’re going to be evaluated for your selling, you might as well know what your customer is looking for. It’s one way to deliver just what the doctor ordered.