In 2018, Americans spent 3.65 trillion dollars on health care. With more than 6,000 hospitals and almost one million doctors in private practice, the health care industry employs more than 18 million people, making it one of the largest employers in the United States. While each industry presents unique challenges for sellers, the vast number of people and sheer volume of regulations can make selling in health care seem daunting—and, of course, the coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated these challenges. However, an industry this size also offers unparalleled opportunity. Here are a few things to think about when selling in the perpetually evolving, ever-expanding field of health care:
Research the Right People
One of the biggest challenges of selling in health care has always been and continues to be untangling a complex web of stakeholders. In hospitals, the list can include the purchasing department, materials management, doctors, nurses, and countless administrators. Also, you need to determine if a specific individual, such as a doctor, is a stakeholder or influencer operating as an advisor. With so many people in the mix, sales reps need to research the right people to target. More extensive research may be time consuming, but the right contact can help a sales rep gain access to a vast network of prospects.
Win Over Gatekeepers
In private practice, doctors are notoriously difficult to pin down because they are busy seeing patients. They also have a never-ending list of salespeople vying for their attention. In this way, it is essential for sales reps to recognize medical practices with long-term, loyal staff. These are your gatekeepers, and they determine if your standout business card ever reaches the doctor or winds up in a glass bowl overflowing with other standout cards. A doctor’s staff can be very protective. To be successful, sales reps need to win them over before they can even reach the doctor. Be honest and upfront with them, remember their names, and treat them with respect as valued health care providers themselves. Remember, the doctor’s office manager wields considerable influence and must be approached like a client. A sales rep must first develop trust by being authentic, engaging them in conversation, and never interrupt or interfere with a patient.
Raise Interest and Awareness
Though it seems a long time ago, it was once common to see salespeople wandering in hospitals and doctors’ offices and chatting with the staff while waiting for doctors and other health care professionals to appear. The coronavirus pandemic has changed all that, at least temporarily or what could be much longer. With less access, sales reps need to get creative and consider online introductions, product demonstrations, and other methods to get the attention of their customers. In this way, you are selling yourself as much as you are a product or service. The more interesting your proposal, the more likely prospects will see you as a creative problem solver who can help them. Consider any insights or ideas to include in your messaging to get the doctor to think about solving a problem they may be facing. For example, include a data point on proposed legislation or an industry trend that may affect their patients or practice. Be creative in your approach, and don’t do the same things each time.
Align Your Value Offering
With health care professionals, your elevator pitch should clearly define the value you can offer their business and, more importantly, their patients. Here, it is essential you be concise and converse fluently in their language. As some doctors are more business savvy than others, do your research to understand more about their mindset and primary motivations. Are they looking to expand their practices or are they patient oriented and content with a smaller practice? Remember, most health care professionals went into the industry because of a desire to help others. This is something they have in common with sales professionals.
Due to potential liability that comes with new products, some doctors and other health care workers may be more thorough in their evaluation before making a purchasing decision. Come prepared with facts and supporting documentation when making the case that your products are safe and effective.. Once you have piqued their interest, consider the collateral you send carefully and individually. Some might like detailed, comprehensive content while others prefer something more direct with the information interpreted to them. Most of all, with physicians and other health care professionals, all content should be factual, evidence based, and verifiable. There can be no room for uncertainty.
Most sales professionals understand the importance of expressing empathy to establish a relationship or build trust with a client. One way to do this is to find a common experience that shows you have gone through something similar. With health care workers, you may not have the experience to understand the life-and-death struggles they have seen. Sometimes, the best way to express empathy is to acknowledge you can only imagine what was very real for someone else. Instead, focus on the experiences that drive your desire to help others and work toward proving yourself a trusted advisor to those who are often some of our most trusted advisors.
Although selling in the health care industry presents unique challenges, it is so large, with a vast network of interconnected people, just a few contacts can open a world of opportunity. As with all sales environments, it comes with its own jargon and even extensive regulations on equipment, devices, and medications. Also, like all sales, at its core, it is about providing value, building relationships, and helping others. Understanding some of its unique difficulties, it’s easy to see how well-prepared sales professionals can thrive as the health care industry continues to evolve and grow.