How to make sales at the RSNA

October 24, 2007
Steven R. Renard
Steven R. Renard

In keeping with family tradition, my niece has entered the radiology business. She is getting ready for her first RSNA meeting, and one day she asked me, “As a potential customer, what would you want to see or hear at our booth this year?” Her question, simple as it seemed, was hard to answer.

In keeping with family tradition, my niece has entered the radiology business. She is getting ready for her first RSNA meeting, and one day she asked me, "As a potential customer, what would you want to see or hear at our booth this year?" Her question, simple as it seemed, was hard to answer.

Outpatient centers, which in the past would have bought the latest and greatest, are fighting to keep their heads above water. They are closing or consolidating unprofitable centers, cutting budgets, looking for improved billing techniques, refinancing debt, shuffling equipment from one site to another, and freezing staff. This siege mentality has begun to spill into hospitals, where administrators now fear reimbursement cuts in the future. It all portends a lot of tire kickers, window shoppers, and dreamers at vendors' booths this year.

So given this climate, here is some advice I would offer my niece and her fellow RSNA exhibitors:

  • Don't act as though the DRA is a nonissue or that your new products will increase revenues, cut costs, and ease the pain. Buyers are skeptical. Acknowledge that the imaging world, especially the outpatient center sector, is struggling and that no magic bullets exist to solve the problems. Potential customers should know you care and that you are involved in supporting the lobbying efforts in Washington, DC, to make things better.

  • Be ready to work with tight budgets. Customers - especially imaging centers - need to feel they are getting a better deal than they would have in pre-DRA times.

  • Have several lending sources at the ready. In the end, vendors will seal the deal based on what the customer can realistically afford. This is why the number of fair-market value leases in the medical imaging community has been increasing.

  • Have site planners and installers present at your booth. They can answer questions about installation costs and operating issues, such as downtime and clinical applications.

  • Do not oversell technologies. Small centers don't need PACS/RIS that can be scaled to handle an enterprise. But they might be able to use a 1.5T that can be upgraded to a 3T or a CT with 32 slices that can be upgraded to 64.

  • Give real-life examples of cost savings and customer contacts to prove they are really possible.

  • Match testimonials to the customer. If you are pitching an outpatient center, get testimonials from comparable outpatient centers, not prestigious research facilities.

Vendors who understand their customers and the struggles they are facing will have a much better chance at making a sale as well as building a long-term relationship. This will reap many benefits in the years ahead as we learn to live with the DRA.

Steven R. Renard is a diagnostic imaging and radiology industry consultant with nearly 15 years of related experience, primarily in imaging center operations.