Rep Enjoys the Freedom to Sell

Edition: November 2002 - Vol 10 Number 11
Article#: 1344
Author: Repertoire

The other day, Mike Gallagher – sales rep for Gulf South Medical Supply -- was on the phone with his congressman and senator, talking about seniors’ health care. “I don’t think our government is supporting our seniors as they should, and that’s disappointing to me,” he says. It was vintage Gallagher.

Gallagher calls on nursing homes as well as some DME companies and home health agencies in northern New Jersey, a couple of counties in New York, and the Philadelphia area, was a runner up in the recent Repertoire/HIDA Excellence in Sales Award. (See October Repertoire.) He is passionate about his job, pushes himself to keep moving further and further ahead, and absolutely loves what he’s doing. Most of all, he enjoys – and seeks out -- accountability vis-à-vis his customers, and he expects others to do the same -- like his legislators.

A native of Bethlehem, PA, he had plenty of sales experience prior to becoming a medical products rep. For 12 years, he sold commercial art services for his father’s business. Then he made a dramatic move away from the business, going to work for an accounts receivable management firm.

Tough Enough

His job was to make cold calls on companies who might be interested in his company’s collection services. It was straight 100-percent commission, he says. He was actually more of an independent contractor, paying all his own expenses and getting paid week to week based on the number of accounts he signed up. Despite (maybe because of) the pressure, Gallagher did quite well, and after a year, was running an office for the company.

The job toughened him up. “It taught you how to be self-sufficient,” he says. But it also taught him a lot about the art – and science – of selling. The company had developed a science in its approach to selling, he says. “They had a strict way of cold calling and prospecting. If you could find the specific things you were looking for, your chances of making a sale were high.

“You had to be your own marketer, your own cold caller. You had to keep a lot of balls in the air at once. And you learned the value of time.”

Enter high school football buddy Brian Slusaw, zone sales vice president for Gulf South. Slusaw had been trying to recruit Gallagher to join Gulf South for some time. Finally, Gallagher decided to take him up on the offer. That was four and a half years ago.

Gallagher found that selling medical products to nursing homes was easier than selling accounts receivable management services. “We know who we’re targeting, so we have a very captive audience,” he says. “That struck me as very unique, because I was used to creating the demand.” He found that people in the nursing homes actually wanted to see him and talk to him. And, by and large, he found it easier to gain access to decision-makers.

Says Slusaw, “He got out there every day and taught himself the industry. He asked a lot of questions, got in front of people, and if something came up, he was there.

“The difference between Mike and other reps is his urgency and quest for knowledge,” says Slusaw.

Not Just Products

One thing that attracted Gallagher to Gulf South was the opportunity to sell programs – not just products. “What interested me from the beginning was that Brian [Slusaw] would talk about the programs we offered,” he says. “He talked about software, about things that the customers needed from Gulf South. From Day 1, that’s what I was interested in.

“I knew we are judged by and paid for product sales,” he continues. “But I knew that if we packaged them in programs, that would be the successful approach.” So that’s what he did from Day 1. Eventually, his customers caught on.

“Mike knew that he wouldn’t be successful selling piece by piece, and that you have to sell the big picture,” says Paul Sklareski, Northeast sales manager. “That’s what separates him from other reps. He sells the whole package, the program, the quality of the program.”

Customers bought into the concept of Gulf South as their single-source vendor, says Gallagher. He ratcheted the proposition up a notch by convincing them that selecting a full-line vendor such as Gulf South could potentially save them FTEs, because they wouldn’t need a purchasing agent.

He introduced his customers to the value that the manufacturers’ reps could bring to them. “The manufacturers have invested a lot of time coming up with education programs to show [nursing homes] how to use the best products in the most efficient way,” he says. For example, a manufacturer of dressings could demonstrate why caregivers could change dressings much less frequently than they were, without harm to the patient.

He seized upon Gulf South’s Accu-Scan inventory control program as an opportunity to provide more value to his customers. The software program allows providers to track their inventory and to create purchase orders. As products are consumed, the system charges it to the appropriate resident. Long-term-care providers can use it to either bill their residents or to simply to keep tabs on how much they’re spending on supplies and treatments.

Gallagher became so adept at helping his customers install and exploit the power of Accu-Scan that he has trained other Gulf South reps on how to set up accounts and how to help customers understand how the system can help them meet their objectives.

Custom Programs

Sales in the territory multiplied. “Mike knows all the people up there [in northern New Jersey],” says Slusaw. “He knows the manufacturers and their reps. It’s like his business. He has invested in his customers, his territory and the region.”

Gallagher has taken the program-selling approach one step further by customizing programs for individual customers. He has about 175 active customers, most of them independent nursing homes (with a growing number of regional chains). “I like to spend a lot of time pre-call planning,” he says. “I have a game plan for every single account.”

He’s grateful that Gulf South gives him the opportunity to devise these custom programs. “There are virtually no limitations,” he says. For example, if a customer wants multiple deliveries a week, they can get it.

“I’m passionate about my job,” says Gallagher. “I love what I’m doing.” Gulf South is perfect “for a sales rep like me, who wants to have an impact on his customers, who wants to be accountable to his customers. I have a lot of friends in health care and in all different aspects of sales. But at the end of the day, most of them don’t have the same feeling I do.”

Adds Sklareski, “Once Mike has a customer, he has a customer for life.

“I expect a lot of the company and a lot of myself,” says Gallagher. “I really drive hard, and I enjoy doing it….And I’m going to see how far I can push.”