Friday, October 4, 2013

Taking in a Show: Leverage Vendors for Education

get the most from tradeshow
With the MGMA Annual Meeting (Medical Group Management Association) kicking off this weekend, I want to take a moment to remind you of how beneficial the Exhibit Hall at an educational conference can be to you. Make sure you don’t pass up opportunities like these afforded you during a well-planned exhibit hall visit:


You can learn about
  • New technology that you may or may not have heard about, and give it a “test drive.”
  • New products and services that bring fresh solutions to problems you’re wrestling with.
  • Creative ideas and new ways to use tools you already have at your practice.
You can do some efficient shopping
  • Competing vendors under one roof allow you to compare products and services quickly.
  • Product literature and quick demos give you a more thorough impression of the products and services that interest you.
You can save money
  • Many vendors offer special conference pricing for those ready to buy. (If you’re not ready, you can usually get a limited-time commitment to honor the special price later.)
  • You can turn the show’s pressure back toward the vendors and negotiate lower pricing as competitors bid against each other.
You can strengthen your network
  • Meet new vendors as well as existing vendors—the best business happens between people who have relationships.

  • Talk to peers who have experience with vendors and the products that interest you and get real customers’ points of view.
Before You Go

Consult the Exhibitor Directory included in the conference program materials. Look for vendors offering products and services that interest you. Make a list of vendors you want to visit and sort them in order of importance to your practice. Certainly those vendors with goods and services you’re actively evaluating should sit near the top of your list. You’ll also want to place a high priority on those whose services you already use if you have important issues, problems or plans to discuss with them. It’s really a matter of common sense: The closer you are to a “buy” decision, the more important you reserve some time.

Scout the Territory

If your agenda doesn’t call for in-depth shopping, it’s a good idea to approach the exhibit hall (map in hand) and do a quick walk-through. Jot down a note or two as you go to remind yourself later where particular vendors are located and what products or services you want to see. You’ll have to exercise a little discipline to avoid getting sidetracked by aggressive reps or chatty friends.

The In-Depth Visits

Make the most out of your more detailed encounters by practicing some basic good-communication skills:
  • Practice describing your practice setting and the situation you want to address with a particular product or service, and figure out how to get to the point in three or four sentences. This helps fine-tune the vendor rep’s presentation and will help you use time more efficiently. For example, try something like “Our six-physician, two NP internal medicine practice offers primary and specialty care in one main location and two satellite clinics. Two of our doctors specialize in non-invasive cardiology and pulmonology, and we’ve recently added stress testing along with our in-house lab. We’re looking for an effective way to archive some 15,000 paper charts as part of our strategy to convert to EMR this year.” A brief statement like that gives the rep a substantial idea of what to show you.
  • When possible, read up on the vendor’s products (and the competitors’, too) before you approach the booth. The more you know beforehand, the more you’ll learn during your conversation.
  • Before you walk away, determine “next steps.” Do you want the rep to follow up with you? Do you want him or her to get started on a substantive proposal? When should he or she contact you—and how? Don’t make vendors guess—they usually guess that you want a phone call next week.
  • Make sure you write down important information—including “promises” made by the rep, and especially promises that go above and beyond the information appearing in the company’s literature. 
  • And, of course, always take notes on any conversation regarding pricing.
And don’t forget to bring extra business cards!


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