Guest Post by Pat McGloin from Partners and Simons
For years direct sales teams have been one of the most effective promotional channels in the Life Sciences industry. Long gone are the days where a biotech/pharmaceutical sales professionals could park their car at a hospital or large clinic and “walk the facility” prospecting with healthcare professionals and clinicians.
The reason for this is really twofold:
- The overall healthcare environment has been trying to do more with less. What does that mean? Staff hours are getting cut and clinicians and buyers are taking on an increasing administrative burden. Thus, their availability to meet with sales reps has decreased over time.
- Sales professionals selling into the healthcare space have decreased access to the healthcare professionals, clinicians, and buyers. The recent implementation of the Sunshine Act and increased adoption of programs like Vendormate have dramatically restricted access to clinicians.
The first reason outlined above is a function of the natural course of business, but the second can be more challenging to counter. It epitomizes a shifting market dynamic which is forcing Life Sciences executives to rethink their sales and marketing strategy.
The Sunshine Act requires that all producers of biotech/pharmaceutical/medical devices and supplies track and document their financial relationships with clinicians and hospitals. While the reason behind it may be noble, it has disrupted the traditional sales model that the biotech industry has used for many years.
In addition, programs like Vendormate create barriers between the biotech sales pro and the clinician – like forcing the sales rep to check in, restricting their free access to the facility, tracking their movement throughout the facility, and, in some cases, applying a fee to the sales rep in order to even meet with clinicians. Many times, if the sales rep’s company doesn’t have a contract with the clinicians, access will be totally denied.
In no uncertain terms, the productivity of the sales rep has been negatively impacted by many of these regulations and procedural barriers intended to constrain the rep’s access to and influence on the clinician. The bottom line is this: If biotech sales organizations continue to create sales channels the way they always have they will be at a huge disadvantage.
Sales and Marketing in the New Normal of Healthcare
How physicians prefer to acquire new information is changing: Recent research suggests that “two-thirds of physicians prefer to get information on specific therapies through digital channels...and a higher percentage (80%) of younger doctors held that view.” Creative marketing approaches, when used correctly, can complement a direct sales organization by increasing close rates and overall sales productivity. Targeted messaging delivered through approaches that combine e-detailing, lead nurturing and social media will communicate a more thorough understanding of your customer, delivering meaningful information in a format that is most convenient to them.
Quite simply, since market factors have negatively impacted the sales rep’s access to clinicians, a concurrent digital strategy works on two levels:
- Increasing touch points with existing prospects. By providing other digital touch points, companies can increase visibility of their brand and their products, buffering the long spells that may occur now in between face-to-face visits.
- Inciting market response from new prospects. A strong digital approach broadens the audience of qualified targets that reps don’t have access to in the first place. By building credibility in your brand through digital strategy, companies can create hand-raiser opportunities, which leads to a much more meaningful conversation when a rep is provided first-time access.
Companies selling into the healthcare space must adopt these digital components that can positively affect the sales rep’s productivity and their ability to reach their intended targets. Think of it as providing air cover for the ground troops – where the ground troops are the feet-on-the-street sales reps and the air support comes in the form of highly cost-effective digital channels to assist the reps in their efforts. These new digital marketing channels are no longer a nice-to-have, but have become a must-have.
Pat McGloin serves as the Managing Director for the Life Sciences Business at Partners and Simons, a marketing services firm serving the healthcare/biotech and financial markets with digital and traditional communications expertise. Pat touts over twenty years of Life Science commercial leadership experience in a start-up environment, and for recognizable brands like Johnson & Johnson, Cytyc/Hologic and CR Bard. Pat has devoted his entire career to developing and executing commercial strategies in the life sciences space. The product lines he’s commercialized have generated over $1.5B in revenue. Connect with Pat McGloin on LinkedIn. Connect with Partners and Simons on LinkedIn and Twitter.
In looking at your B2B sales team, the great majority of B2B sales reps can be categorized in one of the three groups:
- The All-Stars (aka A-Players) – Much like an all-star athlete, these B2B sales reps are gifted and they work hard. They need little to no management or oversight to get to their quotas.
- The Unpredictables (aka B-Players) - This group represents the great majority of your B2B sales team. These reps may make their quota one month and miss the next. It’s difficult to figure out exactly why. They appear to have the ability but their performance is unreliable.
- The Underacheivers (aka C-Players) – These B2B sales reps rarely hit their quota. You are left with a wish and a prayer that they can bring up their game. But in the end, they probably are not equipped for a sales role.
Attention Sales Managers: Your best bet to improve your team’s performance is to focus on those Unpredictables – the B-players. Even marginal improvements in their performance can amplify their way throughout your sales performance, as a team.
Look at it this way… Let’s assume the following premises:
- You have a team of 10 B2B sales reps which exist in some iteration of the normal distribution bell curve; that means that you will have 2 All-Stars, 6 Unpredictables, and 2 Underacheivers.
- Their sales quota is 5 units per month
- Your All-Stars meet the quota every month.
- Your Unpredictables average 3 units sold per month.
- Your Underacheivers average 1 unit sold per month.
If these premises hold true, on an average month, your team will sell 30 units per month (10 from your 2 All-Stars, 18 from your Unpredictables, and 2 from your Underacheivers).
So your Underacheivers need a lot of work. Let’s say that with 6 hours of training/reinforcement each, they can increase their performance by 1 unit per month. Then you’ll see your monthly units sold increase to 32. You’ve spent 12 hours for 2 more units sold.
Now let’s assume that your Unpredictables don’t need as much training. Maybe they need some nudging. So you decide to spend 2 hours with each of the 6 B2B sales reps and all of them increase their output by one more unit. Now you’ve spent 12 hours for 6 more units sold.
You see what I’m driving at here? You need to spend less time with the B-players to get them to produce than the C-players who will rarely produce anyways. Not only do you need to spend less time with them, but you can see that the B-players make up the majority of your B2B sales force, and so there are some economies of scale in play, as well. You can train or work with them in mass and further increase your performance on a lower “time budget”.
At the end of the day, B2B sales people are people and I don’t mean to reduce them to just a number. But when you view B2B sales management in terms of hours spent for units produced, it’s obvious that your best investment of time is with your Unpredictables.
I read an excerpt from Jill Konrath that she posted recently called 5 Warning Signs Your Sales Opportunity Won't Close… and it got me thinking about the converse. What are some tell-tale signs that your B2B sales opportunity WILL CLOSE? AKA buying signals
It’s all too common in B2B sales for salespeople to miss the prospect's subtle cues on their readiness to buy. It's crucial to identify the buying signs so that you don't oversell your solution. Essentially, buying signs are hints that the prospect is willing to consider how they can own your solution. In other words, they are now convinced of the value and are ready to discuss purchasing from you.
If you encounter any of these buying signals, you should know that it’s probably time to pounce:
The prospect shifts from asking questions about your solution to asking questions about pricing.
When the questions are less about what your product can do and more about what it will cost them to own it, you’re moving in the right direction. Frequently, a buyer who’s ready to make a decision will ask some iteration of the question, “Is this the best price you can offer?” While this might mean that they are comparing prices, it could mean they are prepared to accept your offer, and just looking for one more concession. At this point, it’s up to you whether you want to open up another round of negotiations. If there is a way to sweeten the deal that may be especially meaningful to your buyer, you might consider offering additional incentives for signing within a certain time period. In other words, offer them a promotion that sounds like this: “If I can get you [promo offer], can you sign by the end of the week?”
The prospect asks about different options that might be available.
Any trained car salesman will tell you that if a prospect asks “Do you have that car in black?” - they’re ready to buy. When a buyer uses language that inquires about the different types or forms of your solution they can own, it’s go-time. It could mean that they are prepared to make a decision and want to be sure they will have what they need most. Beware though, it could also mean that they are comparing your solution to those of competitors.
The prospect asks about the buying process.
If your internal sales alarms aren’t going crazy when you hear this type of question from your prospect, something is wrong. Undoubtedly, if a buyer is asking you what the next step in the process is, they are at – or nearing – the point where they’ll make a buying decision. A question like “How can we structure the payment terms?” is a dead giveaway. But it might be subtler, as in a question like “So what does your client onboarding process look like?”
Inclination to buy has been pinpointed using “trial close” questions.
When any of the above occurs, it’s time to test the waters. The “trial close” is a question asked as a litmus test of the buyer’s intentions. Some common examples include:
- Does this seem to be the kind of solution you are looking for?
- How is this sounding so far?
- If all of these things you’ve expressed interest in are available, are you ready to make a decision?
Trial closing questions are a good way to be sure you don’t lose a sale because you didn’t explicitly ask for it. Furthermore, they are soft approaches that don’t force the buyer into a “yes” or “no” position prematurely.
The Misunderstanding: You make sensible decisions based on the future value of objects, investments and experiences.
The Truth: Your decisions are infected by the emotional investments you’ve made, and the more you invest in something the more difficult it becomes to abandon it.
The sunk-cost effect is a term that our brethren in the Finance or Accounting Departments may know all too well, but it’s a concept that B2B sales professionals should know also. The sunk cost effect is the tendency to persist in an endeavor once an investment of effort, time, or money has been made, even though that endeavor is not providing returns.
Think of it in the context of a friendly poker game. So you’re playing a hand of Hold ‘Em poker that looks promising at the outset. You call a couple of bets before the flop and the flop comes. It isn’t the best flop for your hand and you’re likely behind to your opponents… but you call a couple more bets in the dire hopes that your hand will improve and you can win a pot that you are highly unlikely to win. This is called “chasing good money with bad money” and it is at the heart of the sunk-cost effect. You’ve perceived that you’ve made an investment and even though it’s not going to end well for you, you continue to invest in the bleak hope that your luck will change.
Now as a B2B sales professional, imagine the poker analogy as it’s applied to your profession. Let’s substitute poker chips for your most valuable resource – your time. You may be feverishly chasing B2B sales opportunities that are extremely low forecast opportunities – simply because you’ve already invested two hours in a presentation, and another few hours corresponding via phone and email. Maybe they’ve gone silent for a couple months… maybe they’re dragging you along with very sparse communication. Either way, B2B sales professionals need to know when to cut the cord and simply add those prospects to a bucket of Inactive or Long-Term Follow-Up.
For more information on this subject, some highly recommended reading from our blog can be found here:
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I’ve been a long-time fan of Guy Kawasaki’s work. For those of you that don’t know, he’s a venture capitalist, public speaker, best-selling author & blogger, and an Apple Fellow (sprouting from his work as an Apple employee originally responsible for marketing the Macintosh in 1984). I was pleased to see that my local Social Media Club of Dallas would be showcasing Guy as speaker at an upcoming event, which I'll surely attend.
As I was perusing some Youtube videos featuring Guy Kawasaki, I ran across the one below. In it, he speaks to an issue pertinent to everyone in sales and marketing – Powerpoint presentation best practices for a pitch of any kind. He goes on to talk about his 10/20/30 rule for a pitch presentation:
- Keep your slide deck around 10 slides
- Stick to a 20 minute presentation
- The smallest font you should use on a slide is 30-point font
These make good sense (although the 30-point font seems pretty large). How many times have we sat through a 50-slide presentation wondering when it was going to end? A presentation where the presenter reads a long paragraph that is contained on the slide verbatim?
In our sales presentations, we would all do well in keeping it brief and profound rather than lengthy and bland. Have a great weekend, sales and marketing community, and check out Guy’s book Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions – it’s a doozie.
Jigsaw/Data.com published information on their most downloaded contact records by department. The news may be a bit grating for those in IT sales as Information Technology/Information Systems (IT & IS) personnel topped the list of most sought after contact records. It’s an indicator that IT personnel are being prospected more frequently than other company departments.
I wonder exactly how many sales calls IT directors receive every day. Indeed, technology has made our lives easier, especially in the business world. But there are just so many technology companies out there vying for business – hardware, software, telecom, storage & virtualization. So many vendors selling their wares to the same prospect base can create quite a challenging sales landscape for those in IT sales.
Sales prospecting is tough as it is without a slew of vendors calling the same personnel. This, coupled with the fact that it takes more and more dials to connect with a prospect, makes the lead generation process a lot of heavy lifting. It’s time to look at ramping up your internal demand generation efforts for your five-year sales plan or consider outsourcing all or part of that function to a company (like SalesStaff) that specializes in B2B demand generation. Either way, the IT sales scene is tough so keep plugging away.
Full Press Release available here.
SalesStaff LLC, a Houston-based demand generation firm, launched a new brand, MedSalesStaff.com, which aims to assist hi-tech clients in the ever-changing healthcare industry. For more than 10 years, SalesStaff has served the high-tech industry with Demand Generation services. SalesStaff’s expansion into this market was motivated by recent incentive programs now in place offering the healthcare industry financial and technological benefits to implement leading information technology to ensure the privacy of patient information, and increase efficiency of healthcare staff operations and record keeping. Through a proprietary lead nurturing methodology, SalesStaff works with their clients to generate highly qualified sales appointments. As a result of increased demand for sales prospecting within the healthcare vertical, SalesStaff brings their pay-for-performance marketing programs to vendors looking to penetrate clinics, hospitals, and physicians’ offices across the country.
According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report, health information technology (HIT) spending is expected to reach record highs in 2011 as providers ramp up their HIT capabilities to conform to recent government regulations. Starting in 2011, hospitals and physicians can begin collecting federal money for "meaningful use" of electronic health records (EHRs). The 2009 economic stimulus bill includes $19 billion to improve the nation's HIT capabilities and to provide incentive payments through Medicare and Medicaid to clinicians and hospitals when they implement electronic health records.
“We’ve seen a 65% increase in demand during 2010 - 2011 for performance-based lead generation directed at healthcare industry prospects,” says David Balzen, SalesStaff’s CEO. “We’re passionate about growing our clients’ sales pipelines and we’re excited to serve the healthcare technology market with B2B sales prospecting programs that deliver tremendous ROI."
"For businesses whose bottom line hinges on how well they can secure sales meetings within the healthcare industry, sales prospecting becomes a 'make it or break it' proposition," says Balzen. "It doesn’t help that selling to clinicians and physicians is replete with nuances that make it more difficult than normal B2B marketing. Just ask any pharmaceutical salesperson how hard it is to get a meeting with a doctor." MedSalesStaff.com’s pay-for-performance appointment setting program makes it much easier for vendors to gain access to elusive sales prospects within the healthcare industry.
Outsourcing certain business functions has become an increasingly viable option for organizations. Currently, countless companies use a Managed Services Provider (MSP) in place of an internal IT department. Some choose to outsource their HR department to a Professional Employer Organization (PEO). Sales and marketing functions are no different, with many reporting an upward trend in outsourcing many tasks traditionally assigned to internal sales and marketing departments. MedSalesStaff delivers a practical option for organizations wishing to outsource their healthcare industry sales prospecting and demand generation.
SalesStaff is a provider of appointment setting and demand generation services for business-to-business technology companies. For more information, visit http://www.medsalesstaff.com or contact David Mason at 888-591-8022 Ext. 345.
Selling healthcare IT is not easy. Here at SalesStaff, we’ve seen a 65% increase in demand during 2010-2011 for performance-based lead generation directed at healthcare industry prospects. So much so in fact that we have an entire division dedicated to serving the demand generation needs of healthcare suppliers – MedSalesStaff.
Certainly the market is ripe for the picking in light of current conditions around electronic medical records (EMR). Congress included a formula of both incentives and penalties for EMR/EHR adoption versus continued use of paper records as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Now it’s “go-time” for an array of healthcare IT suppliers.
Selling is a tough business as it is – whether streetside lemonade or multi-million dollar solutions. Here are some reasons why selling healthcare technology can be particularly difficult.
1. Doctors and healthcare staffers are notoriously hard to prospect. These people aren’t the easiest prospects to get sales appointments with. They’re in the business of saving lives and fixing illnesses. That business stops for no one.
SOLUTION: Be persistent. Whether you hire an outside appointment setting company or you manage it in-house, you must stick to the plan and stay diligent in your efforts. Adopt a lead nurturing track with e-mails, phone calls, and have excellent follow-up procedure.
2. The market isn’t without significant competition. In terms of EMR/EHR providers, I’ve seen lists of vendors ranging from 225 to 500. Big name companies, smaller companies, boutique companies selling to every sub-specialty you can imagine. You name it – they’re on the list. You can bet you’re not the only organization calling Dr. Wilson’s office in Omaha.
SOLUTION: Have some differentiators on the tip of your tongue. Sharpen up on your value-selling skills (as mentioned in our article: 5 Tips for Healthcare IT Sales: Navigating a Niche Industry).
3. Within the context of healthcare regulations, it’s a race to beat your competition to the punch. Sure, the healthcare industry is heavily regulated and things are always changing. That makes for a favorable market for healthcare IT vendors. However, the window of opportunity on certain projects, like EMR/EHR implementation, opens and closes. While you’re busy with other tasks, your competitors are beating the drum, selling their wares.
SOLUTION: Focus on filling your top-line funnel with IT sales leads NOW. Hire a company to generate sales appointments, or quickly develop a team of your own. If you already have an in-house team, keep them motivated and incentivized.
4. Healthcare staffers can be reluctant to diverge from the status quo. Doctors are a fickle bunch. Much like anyone else, if something is working just fine, they see no need to change it. Get at their pocketbook and it may be a different story. The incentives and penalties associated with adopting an EMR solution have FORCED the market to look at a paradigm shift from shelves of paper files to digital files.
SOLUTION: Strike while the iron is hot. The healthcare industry now HAS to look at EMR as a viable option to the status quo. The prospects are out there. Are you going to get to them first?
SalesStaff has a flagship brand dedicated to generating qualified sales appointments within the healthcare vertical. Be sure to get a cost-per-meeting quote by visiting www.medsalesstaff.com or calling 888-591-8022.
Recent regulatory changes to the healthcare industry have somewhat altered the landscape for healthcare IT sales and marketing professionals wishing to penetrate those verticals. Indeed, doctors, hospital administrators, medical personnel... they represent a very niche, very sensitive buying group. The IT industry is fraught with companies who have either entered the healthcare space or are considering it. Understandably, the potential profits associated with the ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) and HITECH (The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act) programs have stimulated much of this attention.
Maybe you’re an experienced veteran selling into the healthcare vertical or maybe a mere novice oblivious to the nuances. Either way, digest these five tips for selling to healthcare professionals. If one tip makes you one more sale this year than you would have otherwise made then we all win.
- Make sure that your value-selling skills are sharp. Healthcare professionals are just as business-conscious as any other group. Face the facts, most sales include solutions that answer precise business requirements and offer new capabilities to the prospect. Vendors have to identify more than the office technology requirements; they must identify the office workflow and know the specific industry requirements of healthcare organizations. Then they have to be able to address them properly.
- Know who pulls the purse strings and the prospect organization’s buying process. Who makes the buying decision in the hospital? Keying in on the decision-maker and the process for purchasing are fundamentals to selling into hospitals or physician offices. Be aware if the hospital or clinic belongs to a buying group or Group Purchasing Organization
- Cultivate a plan to retain and grow business within existing accounts. In order to show that you completely grasp the dynamic business and organizational concerns of the industry, communicate every six months, at the very least, with administration. Perhaps use recent, relevant industry news as a reason to re-contact prospects
- Thoroughly research the prospects that you are responsible for. As a salesperson, it all goes back to understanding the funding mechanism of the healthcare industry and how the dollars flow within target organizations.
- For heaven’s sake, speak the language of healthcare professionals. Successful salespeople will learn who their buyer is and speak their language. Beware that healthcare executives may not speak “clinicalese”, so speak to them in administrative, business C-suite language. Alternatively, if you prospect to physicians and doctors primarily you might want to brush up on your healthcare lexicon. If you’re having trouble, identify coaches within your own company. Communicating the correct language, understanding the intricacies of a budget or identifying a healthcare organization’s decision-makers is not easy. Were those activities even in a healthcare salesperson’s repertoire a decade ago? Rest assured, they are today.
Navigating the waters of selling within the healthcare vertical is tricky and requires a specific knowledge. SalesStaff has a flagship brand dedicated to generating qualified sales appointments within the healthcare vertical. Be sure to get a cost-per-meeting quote by visiting www.medsalesstaff.com.