You’ve got the best ambulance company in the market. You have invested in great equipment, hired competent EMS staff and ordered some pens and notepads. You’re ready to grow, but how do you communicate this to your customers?
The simple answer is to hire a Marketing Associate to go out every day and drum up business. The problem is that there is usually very little time and possibly even less money for training.
Most ambulance companies hire one of their Emergency Medical Technicians or Paramedics to instantly become the “marketing rep” for the company. As you can imagine, this can be a challenge.
The skill set that makes for a great EMS professional is not necessarily the same set of skills that make a great sales person. Are you setting your company and your new Marketing Associate up for failure?
The key to success is to have a formal sales training program. You wouldn’t think of sending an EMT or Paramedic to a 911 call without a comprehensive in-house orientation and clinical training program. Why would you promote an EMT, hand them some pens and send them out to grow your company?
Marketing is a People Business
The first rule of the hiring process is to make sure your Marketing Associate is strong when it comes to the basics. Good communications skills and a genuine interest in meeting people are the golden keys to success.
It sounds simple, but many folks are great in a small personal setting, but freeze up when meeting new people. You can train a person to sell, but it is almost impossible to train a person to be a “people person.”
Selling is about attitude. Is your new Marketing Associate friendly, utterly reliable, and eager to learn?
Sales Training 101
If your company doesn’t have its own in-house training department and you cannot bring in an outside sales consultant, you’ll need to look closely at your staff to develop a sales training program that fits your company’s needs.
You’ll want to identify which of your management team not only has the strongest grasp of what the business goals of company are, but also has the most enthusiasm and interest in your services.
In addition to providing a detailed overview of the services your company offers, the following sales topics should be covered:
· Mission Statement and goal setting for the next 24 months
· Organization and time management skills
· Selling your Ambulance Service line
· Focus and follow -up with customers
· Creating the sales pipeline
· Prospecting and lead generation
· Dealing with fear in sales
· Developing presentations that focus on company strengths
· How to close the deal
· How to add value during the sales process
· Relationship building and networking
· Negotiations 101
As homework, make sure they read at least one good book on sales, for example, the One Minute Salesperson. Discuss with them what they are learning from the book as they read it.
Putting it all Together
After the initial sales training program, you’ll want to test the associate’s grasp of both the technical and sales skills they’ve learned.
Ask them to teach you about the company and evaluate how well they explain the services, their overall level of persuasiveness, friendliness and approachability.
You’ll be looking for an associate that can model the kind of sales behavior that develops relationships, creates a sales pipeline and persuades a decision maker to contract with your company.
Give Refresher Training
Even your best Marketing Associate will move away from the basics the longer they stay in the business.
It’s not at all uncommon to see associates succeed in their first year of business, only to watch them fall into a slump when they get away from the basics.
Much like refresher training for your EMS personnel, make sure there is formal refresher training for the Marketing Associate. Your marketing associate will only be as good or bad as you train them to be.
If you have poor producers, the fault may be in the lack of ongoing training. If it is, correct it. At a minimum, make your marketing associates role-play certain selling situations to strengthen them in the basics.
I believe that a marketing associate can know virtually nothing about the ambulance industry, yet still succeed, as long as he or she knows how to sell.
By the same token, I believe that a marketing associate, who knows everything about the industry, but nothing about sales, will eventually starve.
If you start with a simple sales training program and use the previous principles we discussed, I believe you’ll find that your salespeople will function to their maximum efficiency and effectiveness.
About the Author
Michael Shabkie has extensive ambulance business development experience with both the public and private sector. He has also served as a key collaborator for EMS system design, developed winning contracting strategies, managed sales and marketing departments, and acted as an executive advisor on operational processes for both public and private ambulance organizations.
Successfully marketing an ambulance company and its’ services is a highly complex undertaking. The sales cycle can be prolonged, the competition fierce and current customers can be fickle. As ambulance company owners or managers, we have to understand our sales process intimately and have a “high touch” marketing plan that is finely tuned for the customer.
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