Internal Relationships and Sales: 5 Hot Spots

By: Kriss Barlow, RN, MBA | kbarlow@barlowmccarthy.com

The importance of establishing and growing relationships with intent is top of mind for great field teams. It’s all about the obligation of field staff to have a clear visit strategy for earning referral relationships. Most physician relations/sales teams work super hard on this part every day in every way.

While we are grinding away to make relationships with intent happen in the practices, what about the health of internal relationships that are required for successful field sales? Internal relationships may support, neutralize or damage field success. Ask these five questions to determine the health of your internal relationships.

1. Is there commitment from leadership? Many programs work beautifully as grassroots efforts, but not this one. Physician relations flounders without leadership support. Organizations that have some of the best success have top leaders closely aligned. Leaders seek out updates, opinions and results. They offer support and involvement. Physicians look at organizations with a healthy (or not so healthy) dose of skepticism. Top down actions and consistency of message are recognized and valued.

2. Can we manage new business if we ask for it? Managing new business is about services and specialists, but it’s also about systems, process and functions to support the expectations of the referring physician.  Make sure the internal systems are established from the outside- the referring physicians’- perspective, not from what the internal stakeholders feel like they ought to find acceptable.

3. Is physician-driven business a core strategy for the organization? For some organizations, growth of the ACO or the clinically integrated network is front and center. If this is the case, clarify roles and don’t assume. Many leaders still want the right volume growth as they develop the future state. Others may want field staff to help support ACO or CIN growth. Be clear about the business strategy and where you are best served. You can’t be all things to all people, so make sure you’ve clearly defined the expectations at the right level. (And make sure you don’t abandon your momentum practices and then expect to go back to the same level or relationship after a long gap).

4. Can operations, IT, business development and marketing be counted on for support? Reminiscent of that old saying, “No man is an island,” effective programs forge strong internal relationships. While they won’t always completely understand the field role, they need to value and support it. Physician relations must initiate and encourage alignment and sharing in most cases.

5. Are you aligned with the Employed Practice leaders? Did I save the best for last? For many teams, this is the final frontier of internal turf. Often, practice administrator’s want to manage the practices without physician relations involvement. If leakage, or in-network referral growth, is a hot topic for your employed groups, the organization will benefit from field staff assertively earning referrals through focused awareness, meetings and use of the portal or other tools to make sure the practices and doctors are aware of the network specialists. Assess where you are today and where you need to be with this one and then create a plan.

How do your internal relationships stack up? It’s frustrating when you thought it was working only to hear of a little sabotage in the ranks. Get creative and find new ways to keep your pulse on the internal relationships the same as you do in the field. If there are barriers, make a business case for the impact and then start the communication process to make sure everyone is on the same page. The need for great internal sales never goes away.

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Internal Relationships and Sales- 5 Hot Spots

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