Positioning the Practice's Feet on the Street
As the business of radiology assumes a greater role in the evolution of your outpatient imaging center (OIC), it is important to remember that, essentially, yours is a people business. Investments in technology and in continuing education are extremely important, to be sure. There is, however, an increasing need for further investment in the people who represent your OIC and who have the ability (or the power, if you will) to grow your business—or shrink it. After the practice’s physicians, the most powerful people in your practice are those who represent you to referring offices and to potential referring offices. These feet on the street are your practice ambassadors. Everything they do and say must be a carefully choreographed message that will help ensure the best possible outcome. This message is the delivery of your practice brand: that which makes you unique, special, and different. Most important, their progress must be tracked weekly so that adjustments can be made, whether to take timely advantage of opportunities or to seize control of any events that have the potential to reduce scan volume. An effective practice-representative team may have members with separate territories, but that is where their individuality ends. For every other matter in the representation of your practice, they are truly a team: a select group of individuals who have been groomed to present the best possible image of your practice. These are people who share information, coach each other, and provide whatever support is necessary to achieve the overall goals of the practice. To instill in them the importance of their mission, they should understand that they are no less than the CEOs of their territories, and they can be thought of as rep/CEOs. With that understanding come certain rights and responsibilities that are essential to success. Your sales team’s members must understand that they are not working in a vacuum, and that reporting (of both progress and setbacks) is part of the responsibility of the position. They must understand that the keys to their success are discovering the needs of your customers (the referring offices) and helping to create solutions to the challenges that those customers face. Once that happens, the team members become not only an extension of your OIC or practice, but valued members of the customers’ practices as well. Establishing Accountability With this knowledge, the sales team’s members then realize that accountability and constant communication are routine—that they are woven into the fabric of the position. Most important, they know that winning will take analytical, bottom-line thinking that fosters efficiencies without diminishing service. As a practice stakeholder, you must be responsible for monitoring and motivating these key people. Monitoring is not micromanaging, which can be avoided through a thorough hiring process. Hiring the right person means hiring someone who has a track record of accountability, who provides information before it is requested, and who does not object when asked for a territory report. That territory report starts with benchmarks from a rolling 12-month period. These benchmarks include measures such as:
  • total scans for the territory,
  • scans by modality,
  • scans by office,
  • actual scan volume versus budget, and
  • actual scan volume versus the same period in the prior year.
At this point, reasonable goals above and beyond the benchmarks are established. It is then up to your rep/CEO to provide you with the route to achieving the new goals. This route to success is your opportunity to analyze the particular territory further (to determine, for example, whether there are opportunities for higher-paying scans; whether certain offices have more or less potential than others, or should be avoided due to their cozy relationships with competitors; or whether a competitor has stumbled). Here, it is important to reinforce the connection between rep/CEOs’ incentives and the work that they perform. Without this link, incentives soon become assumptions or seen as entitlements, instead of as the motivators that they were supposed to be. Establishing the connection between work and rewards is the perfect opportunity to remind your rep/CEOs how much you value their contributions and how much you are willing to support their efforts. Your support often takes the form of a no-cost, but very effective, internal public-relations and marketing program to help physicians and staff understand the vital role of the rep/CEOs. This communication serves to build awareness of the responsibility (and the progress) of the marketing arm, as well as to instill, in everyone, confidence that the department is an inspired and optimistic team. As the entire company gains greater insight into the role of marketing, physicians and staff will begin to see that interdependence and cooperation among all departments and all personnel will bring rewards for all.