Breaking into the Healthcare Segment

It starts with building the right mindset

The healthcare segment may feel exclusive to the contractor who wants to build an avenue to success in that market, but the strategy isn’t necessarily complicated, according to a Sherwin-Williams market segment specialist.

“It starts with having the mindset that you’ll be working in a healthcare space,” says Matt Wessel, Sherwin-Williams National Accounts Director — Healthcare & Hospitality. “And the key consideration is that people are there for a reason. As a contractor, you have to be aware of and sensitive to patients and staff in that space.”

Wessel outlined several considerations for those seeking to open the door to success in the healthcare segment. They are outlined below.

Think competitive bids, not low bids

A professional bid is key to making an impression in the healthcare segment. Pricing will be important but be aware that this segment rarely rewards simply the low-price leader.

“What differentiates contractors in the eyes of the healthcare customer is not that they’re coming in with the lowest bid,” he says. “It’s going to be confidence in their ability to perform, with minimal disruption to patients, residents and staff, and to do so with products that will perform. Certainly, these customers want a competitive bid but they don’t want a competitive bid by sacrificing quality and experiencing negative disruption.”

Be aware of products and their impact

High-performance products with specific attributes are often standard in healthcare spaces, and Wessel advises that knowledge of these products and attributes can be a point of differentiation.

“The typical products in healthcare are all going to be low VOC or Zero VOC, and they often will feature microbicidal and air purifying technologies,” says Wessel. “Think Sherwin-Williams SuperPaint Living Well Collection. These kinds of products are going to resonate with the healthcare segment. They’re not universally always used, but low VOC or Zero VOC products are almost always universally used. No patient or resident wants to smell high VOC products being used right outside their door.”

Look the part

While optics matter in any market segment, they’re particularly important in the healthcare segment, according to Wessel, and he advises to dress accordingly.

“It’s important to present yourself in a professional way,” he says. “When people see a painting crew in a healthcare space, you want to be sure they know who they are. Being clearly identifiable is important and normally a pre-requisite to get in the building for most of the healthcare industry. Having t-shirts or uniforms that identify your painting company helps differentiate your company as well.

“And your people need to be courteous. If anyone asks what you’re doing, be willing to take that time to explain who they are and what they’re doing.”

Be mindful of your presence

Almost all healthcare segment painting occurs in places that are otherwise fully operational, according to Wessel. Successful painting contractors will operate with maximum sensitivity to their surroundings.

“Whether you’re in senior living or you’re in acute care such as hospitals, disruption to residents and patients is the top pain point for healthcare customers, and secondarily, disruption to staff,” he says.

“These buildings are occupied in almost every situation as it relates to renovation or ongoing maintenance. They’re going to be busy, occupied places and you have to be aware of how you’re going to mitigate those concerns for your customer. So it may be working off hours, or having a plan to get in at a certain time, block an area off, and get out on time, on schedule. Whatever it might be, you have to think in terms of, ‘How can I make my customer’s life easier, with as little disruption, in terms of staff and patients, as possible?’ Decision makers who are hiring a painting contractor never want to get emails and phone calls complaining about painters being in their way or being disruptive to facility operations.”

Understand the impact of COVID

Even as mask mandates are being lifted in many public places, COVID has changed the way healthcare operates, and as a result, painters in the healthcare segment must operate differently as well, according to Wessel.

“When I think about the pandemic and how its impacted healthcare, it’s impacted it in almost every way you can imagine,” he says. “And as that’s related to painting, you have to have a clear understanding of what the expectations are every time you enter a space or a building.

“That can vary. Just to enter the building might have one set of expectations and requirements, but to get into another part of the building, you could face another set of expectations and requirements. It could be anything from showing a negative COVID test, taking your temperature, wearing a mask, or wearing significant PPE. If you’re working in an area where patients or residents are highly susceptible to infectious disease, you might need to be in full PPE to do that work. Be prepared to address how your company will adhere to all requirements.”

Can you be a color resource?

Color decisions in the healthcare space are typically made for contractors, but it never hurts to be a resource if the decisions aren’t yet made.

“There’s a science behind color in healthcare, no question,” Wessel says. “The majority of time, whoever you’re painting for has a design department or an architect who’s already sorted that out. But in the event that isn’t the case, Sherwin-Williams Color Marketing & Design can assist any contractor, through their Sherwin-Williams rep, with healthcare-specific color palettes. When you think about patients and residents, color makes a difference in the way they interact and feel in a space, and there’s a science behind it. We have experts who have considered color palettes that work best in healthcare and the reps in our stores can access these Color Marketing and Design resources, if needed.”

Timeliness matters

Wessel’s final point of advice isn’t unique to healthcare, but it’s nonetheless critically important: Be on time.

“It sounds so simple, but it’s so important,” he says. “And that means having the material you need for the job the day before. If you need to be there at 7: 30 in the morning, don’t go to the paint store at 7: 00.”

This article is part of a series of stories designed to help professional painting contractors grow sales by expanding into new markets. Previous articles include Grow Your Sales with HOAs, Grow Your Sales in the Hospitality Painting Market, and Breaking into the Multi-Family Segment.

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