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Doing Your Homework

Mike Langlois | Thursday, October 8, 2020

Before the arrival of COVID-19, Brent and I were sent a list of topics that were identified as areas of interest by attendees at the Fall 2019 IDN Summit. Although we will continue to reference the impact of the pandemic in future articles, it is time to turn attention back to the challenges we were, and still are, facing before anyone ever heard of COVID-19. With that as background, today I will provide some tips to the supplier community on how to best to gain an audience, and eventually business, with the IDNs and their GPO partners. 

The first and most important step is to do your homework. Many IDNs and all GPOs have websites that provide information on how they make purchasing decisions and how to contact the right individuals within each organization. These sites may offer valuable information, including

  • Size and Geographic location
  • Clinical Specialties 
  • Instructions on how to become a Supplier
  • Description of their bidding system
  • Bid Calendar
  • Supplier Training 
  • Supplier Diversity Initiatives 
  • Sustainability Initiative
  • Supplier Guidelines
  • How Best to Communicate
  • How to submit Vendor Grievances
  • GPO Membership (Provider Websites)
  • Selection Criteria

I suggest you explore all GPO websites and as many of the IDN websites as you can, even if you are not looking to be a supplier to that IDN.  These websites can give you tips on how to successfully sell your product or services, which can be used on any/all providers and GPOs. 

As you do your homework, be sure to pay attention to the bid calendars, if they are available. You will need to start the bid process for your specific product or service many months in advance to be considered to receive a Request for Bid Proposal.

You should also pay close attention to the supplier diversity initiatives, which many organizations are now aggressively pursuing. Today supplier diversity has a much broader scope than just minority-owned companies. These supplier diversity initiatives can extend to women-owned companies, veteran-owned companies, small businesses, local businesses, and many other definitions that might include your company.  

Many organizations place an emphasis on sustainability. If you have a product or service that supports the “green” initiative, you could be favorably rated over those companies that do not offer that benefit.

Given the challenges of procuring products from overseas these past six months, the production location is an important factor on any criteria list. For organizations looking to diversify their supply chain, domestic and local products can be more valuable.

There is no substitute for doing your homework before you contact any IDN and GPO, whether by phone, in person, or at the reverse trade session at a future IDN Summit. It will save you and those you contact much time, avoiding basic questions such as size, location, and GPO affiliation.

Your first sales pitch should include a very strong understanding of the organization, how it makes its decisions, why your product and service is a good value for the IDN or GPO membership base, and how it is different from your competitors. You only have one shot at making a good first impression — make it count!