Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sales in the Healthcare Technology Industry

Sales is prevalent in every industry, without sales its likely most of us wouldn't have a job.
Within the Healthcare IT industry sales takes on many forms, such as; hardware / device vendor sales, EMR vendor sales and staffing vendor sales just to name a few.
Many of us have been hounded by sales professionals (sometimes that term can be used lightly), myself included.  This post is for both the "houndee" and the "hounder". 

For the Houndee - the typical issue is "how do I get these sales people off my back?" - you're working like crazy every week trying to be the master of your workload and you find yourself answering unwanted sales calls & emails more frequently than imaginable.  I have found that sending a polite "no thank you" or ignoring unsolicited phone calls does not detour most sales people from continuing to bombard you.  The best method of counter attack is to mark the emails as spam and block the phone numbers of the people that consistently reach out to you but really have nothing of interest to you.  I've literally explained to staffing sales people that at no time EVER will I be interested in their service because they aren't even offering people in the correct industry but yet they continue to email me so to the spam box they go... blocked forever and no longer distracting me from my work. 
But what to do if you may potentially - one day - be interested in the particular product or service the person is offering.  Let them know "no thank you for now, but you can reach back out to me in 6 months or a year etc".  Be polite but make it clear that if they hound you, you're not going to consider them when you're seeking what they have to offer in the future.  Its also a good practice to create a folder in your email to send all the "potentials" into, this way when you are ready for their product or service you can quickly scan through the emails to find the contact info of the person(s) you need.
The other possibility is that you aren't even the decision maker.  Often sales people will reach out to anyone, grasping at straws and hoping they will get an "in" with the person who is responsible for making the purchasing decisions.  In this case, respond to the sales person and let them know that you do not make the decisions but you have provided all their information to the person that does and if there is a need for their products/services, that person will be in contact with them.  Also request to be taken off their call or mailing list. 
Sure these efforts are a bit time consuming but in time you should greatly decrease the amount of unwanted solicitation you're receiving.

For the Hounder - I myself spent many years in a sales role, so I wanted to start out by saying that I sympathize!  Every sales person knows the more doors you knock on, the more sales you're going to make - however, making yourself a giant PITA (pain in the *ss) isn't necessary the best way to go about winning friends and influencing people.  Below are a few tips that might help you build the types of relationships that will win you the business:
1.  If someone tells you point blank they are not interested in your product/service:  ask them if they ever use your type of product/service - if so put them on the "occasionally contact list" and back off.  If you tick them off, they wont turn to you in the future.  If not - apologize and remove them from your list.
2.  If you've heard the old sales adage that "people love to hear their own names so repeat their name often" - that's a load of bull.  NOTHING is more annoying than having some sales person you hardly know repeating your name to you throughout an entire conversation.  DON'T DO IT!  (It absolutely screams Kenny Tarmac - ie: Scam Artist)
3.  If you're cold calling, try something offbeat, friendly or even humorous.  I'll spend time on the phone with someone I can build rapport with, but I'll politely say no thanks and hang up on anyone that is clearly reading from a script.
4.  KNOW your product/service.  Nothing is worse than dealing with a sales person that acts like they know what they're talking about but clearly doesn't.  Particularly in our industry.
5.  Show empathy to your potential client.  LISTEN to them and HEAR what they are saying.  Try to find common ground.  If you're busy working overtime to convince them how badly they need you and your product/service you're likely to lose them.
6.  Polite persistence will work 98% of the time. 
In summary:
Don't email the potential client every week with the same information.
Do email the potential client occasionally with industry related news and tidbits.
Don't call the potential client over and over when they've told you no.
Do ask if you can call them back in 3 or 6 or 9 mos etc to check in.
Don't assume that the person you're reaching out to has 100% power to make purchasing decisions.
Do inquire what the contract process is and determine the best method for making a sale.
Do address the person initially as "mr or ms ______________" and allow them to suggest you can call them by their first name and then use their name at the beginning and end of the conversation.
DO NOT repeat their name to them multiple times throughout the conversation:
Example:  "Hello Ellen - how are you today?  My name is Alan from XYZ Company.  Ellen - I'd like to talk to you today about our services.  Let me tell you Ellen, we have exactly what you need.  Our service is the #1 service of its kind in the nation.  Ellen - how long has it been since you considered a service like ours?  5 years?!! Ellen!  that's way too long.... etc"

With some mutual respect and courtesy we can all do business together without stepping over any boundaries. 

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  1. Leigh-Ann Renz

    Marketing & Business Development Director for PIMSY EHR (Smoky Mountain Information Systems, Inc.)

    Cherie: Thanks for this great post!! You've really captured both sides of the fence. I literally straddle it daily: on one hand, I'm reaching out people who have watched our video demo to see if they have a need for our product, and if so, see if they are a good fit for us.
    On the other hand, I'm constantly hounded by vendors trying to sell me contact info from practices / hospitals, developers who want to help us build apps, etc.

    With this in mind, I'd like to add, for the Houndees: if you're not interested, please let the sales person know!! It's takes an incredible amount of time and energy to follow up on sales calls, send fresh emails with new content, figure out if you're interested, etc.

    We in Sales don't want to just drop the communication thread, b/c we know how busy you are and have had many clients that ignored us for months and one day said "yes! i can talk - i love it! I want to buy today".

    If you tell our Sales team you're not interested, we will take you off our follow up list - and even refer you to other products that might be a better fit if our product isn't right for you. But PLEASE let us know so we can stop wasting our time if you're not interested!!

    For the Hounders: Cherie is completely right about respecting boundaries. I just this week had to send a "TAKE US OFF OF YOUR LIST. REMOVE THE FOLLOWING DOMAINS...." email to a vendor who will not respect my requests. This was followed by....another email from her, not 20 minutes later! So frustrating, and I would never even consider using her for this service down the road.

    I keep 2 folders for the type of services we might be interested in, and when I receive those emails that look like I might want to consider them some day, I send an email: "We're not interested right now, but I have your info on file, etc...."
    It's a great way to respect the person contacting you, let them know where you're at, and be ready to jump into a pool of options when you're ready.

    I actually hate "Sales" - ie, someone trying to sell me something. Our philosophy is matching our product with the people who need it, not selling them something they either don't need or aren't the right fit for!! I find that having that attitude and personal integrity flows into a much more successful and less stressful business model: