Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Stop Trying to Sell

I read a lot of books and articles about selling. The topic fascinates me. 

One of my favorite quotes, by Jeffrey Gitomer who has written countless books on selling and lectures around the country on the topic, is, "people hate to be sold, but they love to buy."

The meaning of that quote is that "being sold" is a turn off because it's a forced relationship. People like to think they are making up their own minds. They need to have a conversation with themselves to understand their own needs. They don't want decisions forced.

A good sales person understands that and doesn't force any sale, but simply asks a lot of questions to help a person make up their own decision.

The people I know who are good sales people never seem to be selling. They have a great way of pulling data out of you that feeds them the information they need to assist you in making a decision.

Sales happen every day, in every situation, to every person. Many times we just don't know that a sales experience is occurring because we are too busy sorting information and making decisions.

Even in workers' compensation, a lot of selling occurs, and not in the traditional sense. We might equate selling with an agent or broker pitching an insurance contract. We might think of selling in the industry as a vendor seeking to make a contract with a buyer of services or goods. Or it could be me telling you about WorkCompCentral....

Broken down to the basics, selling occurs when someone wants something that someone else has and there's an obstacle to acquisition. Buying occurs when that obstacle has been removed resulting in an acquisition.

Many things in workers' compensation fail to achieve expected results because we're too busy "selling" instead of asking questions, finding out what someone wants, and then showing them what will work for them.

As I mentioned yesterday the California Division of Industrial Relations released its first report on Independent Medical Review just before the start of the weekend, largely calling SB 863's most controversial provision a success.

But, perhaps because the state is anxious to "sell" the concept of IMR to a challenging audience there are some holes in the report.

For instance, information about the average number of days it is taking Maximus Federal Services to issue a decision isn't readily available from the report, and the number of final IMR decisions issued last year is either more than 3,700 or more than 37,000, depending on which chart one looks at.

WorkCompCentral Western Bureau Chief, Greg Jones, notes that 53,951, or 73.6% of the applications received last year, were "closed" as of Dec. 31, 2013, and 19,331 remained open, and that the closed cases include 11,748 applications, and 4,698 cases that were terminated before Maximus issued a final determination letter, but there is no disposition stated for the remaining 37,505 cases that the report says were closed.

Figure 5 in the report shows that Maximus issued 37,505 final determination letters on these cases. According to the executive summary, "a total of 3,723 IMR final determination letters were issued by Dec. 31, 2013, each containing an average of two disputed medical treatments." The 3,373 figure appears again in a table reporting the number of applications received and closed each month.

However, Figure 4 reports 3,729 final determination letters were issued in 2013, and this number is repeated again later on in the report.

There are also many questions about the timeliness of IMR review decisions issued by Maximus.
Just a (wind)surfer dude ... not selling.
According to the report, Maximus, on average was unable to comply with regulatory requirements to issue decisions on standard cases within 60 days since September 2013. The longest average delay was in November 2013, when it was taking about 90 days for Maximus to issue a decision.

While the report deals mostly with 2013 data, the timeliness graph indicates that the average number of days to issue a standard decision fell to about 70 in December and remained about the same through February 2014. In March the delay increased to about 80 days and by June 2014 it was taking Maximus about 130 days to issue a decision, more than double the amount of time allowed by regulation in standard cases.

There is no indication in the report about any penalties assessed against Maximus. The DWC contract with Maximus contains provisions requiring the firm to issue 95% of decisions within the specified timeframes.

DWC had told WorkCompCentral previously that it had not assessed fines because it was slow in reviewing IMR applications that were forwarded to it for review, and that contributed to the delays.

When asked for this morning's story by Jones about fines the division deferred.

These are important questions because they test the credibility of the report, which in turn challenges the credibility of IMR.

If the state wants The People to buy into IMR it has to deal with these challenges up front, which means acknowledging the issues, and giving voice to both supporters and critics.

As one commentator to the WorkCompCentral story this morning about the report says, "We have created a miserable system that is only good for rationing care. Doctors, who should be in control are helpless. Yes, there are abusers. Just don't let them in your MON and trust the doctors you have."

An article I read yesterday was about the best sales advice ever received, and that advice came from a "surfer dude." The author was looking at backpacks and she became engaged in a conversation about hiking with the surfer dude. They talked about Yosemite, about bouldering, about the love of the outdoors.

She ended up paying $250 for a new backpack after a previous sales experience at a bigger store turned her off because it was a direct sale rather than the conversation "surfer dude" evinced.

"As I was checking out I said to the surfer dude 'you’re good at this.' 'Good at what?' he asked. 'Selling!' I said. 'I have been selling for years and you are really good.' He looked confused, 'I don’t sell' he said, 'I just took my fathers advice and find out what people want. What they love about hiking or the outdoors, what their interests are, then I show’em things that work for what they want.'

I get the same feeling about this report. The state is trying too hard to sell IMR, to justify the system and the law, rather than finding out what the "interests are" and then showing what works for "what they want."

IMR is a huge culture shock. People don't want to be sold on it. But they likely do want to buy into it, if the conversation leads down that path. It's up to the state to guide that conversation, not force it.


  1. Good Article. But being a sales person is hard for most people since it goes against their very nature of wanting to push the deal to make it go. Another struggle is for sales people to shut up and listen to the customer/prospect. A real deal killer. Thanks David!

  2. Kind along the lines, of listening to your patients as well, instead of just talking at them. Peace