10 Success Skills for Hospice Liaisons/Representatives

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Professional selling skills in Hospice: which are most important? You may find a variety of responses to this question and that’s OK. Based on my experience as a hospice liaison, a hospice Director of Admissions (sales manager), a VP of Product Development, a trainer and a coach and my commitment to end-of-life care, here are my top 10, and I know developing these skills will make you “THE BEST OF THE BEST.”

Passion

A person without passion for the important work we do in hospice will not succeed and most likely will not look forward to each opportunity to improve access to care. You must believe in  the value of the services and develop your unique way to present hospice features and benefits. You are the storyteller for the care provided by your team, and the stories won’t inspire if you aren’t passionate about what you do.

Know Your Product/Services

Selling hospice is an education process for customers and the community, and you can’t educate if you don’t know the Medicare Benefit, CMS Rules and Regulations, the clinically appropriate patient, the roles of all team members, your hospice’s services which differentiate you in the community, etc. Participate actively in sales meetings, attend in-services, read and study.

Know and Work with Your Internal Team

You are usually out there all alone calling on customers, but you have so many resources and teammates that can enhance what you do. They are the people providing the care we have committed to. Know your teammates as well as you know your external customers, build rapport with them, and recognize their contributions to care and customer service. I always recommend that you ride in the field with a clinical team member once a quarter so you stay close to what we do (do this on a Monday when it is a little harder to get in front of customers).

Profile Customers

Learn as much as you can about each physician practice, hospital, nursing home and assisted living community and then the individuals within these referral sources. Profiling is not a one-time event; it continues as the relationship continues. The more you know and understand your customers, the better you will be at presenting features which will benefit the customer (what triggers them to think of hospice, what services are most important to them, how they want to be communicated with, etc.).

Set Objectives for Every Call

Know what you want the customer to do at the end of your call or presentation. Plan your call based on the expected outcome: know why you are there, what is expected and how you achieve the objective. Some examples of customer objectives for a hospice sales call:

  • NH DON will agree to schedule quarterly in-services provided by your hospice
  • Hospital SW will agree that your hospice is the provider of choice
  • Physician will refer first patient/family.

Many sales people who have been in this profession for a while skip this step - WRONG. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN.

Rapport

“Rapport is the process of establishing and maintaining a relationship of mutual trust and understanding between two or more people.” - Selling and Persuasion Techniques by Gregory Woodley.
Sharon Drew Morgan, in her book Sales on the Line, writes “There are three ways to make a sale: Rapport, Rapport and Rapport. No matter how good your product is, how good your questions are, if you are out of Rapport with your buyer (customer) then there won’t be a sale.”

Time, Territory & Self Management

This is self-explanatory. You are out in the field on your own most of the time, and you are the “captain of your ship.” Spend the time to develop sales plans, plan a monthly calendar, know when customers are most available, prepare by having your sales aides/resources/brochures with you, always have business cards, be organized and be on time.

The Discipline of Sales

You must be intimately familiar with and comfortable with the sales triangle/process and how to effectively implement each part for hospice: profiling, opening, establishing rapport, questioning, listening, presenting features and benefits, handling objections and closing. Hospice University has resource videos on each step in the sales triangle process. And you must…

Practice

You may know these skills but they must be practiced until they become a habit that you do without thinking or, as Gregory Woodley says, until you are Unconsciously Competent at them. You do the right things without thinking about it while you do it (you have planned, practiced and prepared). Practice describing the clinically appropriate patient with your Medical Director, handling objections like “the family isn’t ready”, clearly presenting the Medicare Hospice Benefit, and on and on and on. PRACTICE EVERYTHING!

Ask yourself how you think you are doing with each of these 10 skills; emphasize the ones you are great at and have a plan to improve on the ones that aren’t at the great mark yet. Continue the important work you do. Without you and the education you are providing, many terminally ill patients and families may never have the opportunity to hear about hospice and how it can help them.

By Judy Rybka, Faculty

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