Changes in U.S. hospitals are not within most people’s definition of average. Taken collectively they are transformational. And, as with any transformational shift, there will be winners and losers – in this case, for both hospitals and health care companies.
One set of changes are driven by hospital economics. Because of rising health care costs, decreasing reimbursements, increasing malpractice suites, and the financial uncertainties of the new national health care legislation, hospitals are aggressively seeking answers for dealing with the financial pressures.
One answer is: get bigger. As reported in a recent article by the Date Decision Group there were 77 major merger and acquisitions in 2010 – a 50% increase over the 2009 level. Superimposed on the M&A trend is the anticipated increase use of GPOs. The new angle is GPOs will not only be more active in the traditional commodity market but also “extending their reach to capital equipment and medical devices” (Date Decision Group).
So given these changes, how can a major health care company be in the winning category? There are several possible solutions. This post addresses one used by companies across industries faced with a similar challenge: Put in place Key Account Executives (KAEs) who are responsible and accountable for the entire business development effort for the larger and more diverse set opportunities represented in the “new” hospital or hospital group.
What’s different about what a KAE does vs. a traditional territory sales rep? KAEs:
- Are responsible and accountable for only one or two accounts. Great care is taken by the company to determine which accounts are, in fact, key accounts.
- Spend more time and are more skilled at having conversations at the C-level – these conversations are more business and financially focused vs. traditional product or clinical sales interactions.
- Are able, by knowledge and authority, to tap the total resources of their organization and to effectively work with and leverage the sales reps and support personnel in the various divisions of their companies.
- Think and act strategically about business development in the account and manage deals for the company’s entire product portfolio.
So what does the sales training community need to think about to train KAEs? First, sales training for KAEs is not just more of the same. Anyone assuming a KAE position would be well-versed and experienced in fundamental sales skills, product knowledge, and institutional awareness. So, this is Sales Training 2.0.
Second, let’s take a look at the differences from a content perspective. Some Sales 2.0 knowledge and skill sets KAEs need to master are:
- Hospital business economics and buying processes.
- Business, clinical, and legislative trends in the health care industry.
- Knowledge of their company’s total product portfolio, business initiatives and pricing models.
- Consultative selling skills.
Finally, from an instructional design perspective, sales training for KAEs must be responsive to a target audience comprised of an experienced and talented group of sales people who have taken on a very difficult and demanding job assignment. Therefore, the sales training cannot just be a modified version of what already is in place for training territory reps; the learning objectives are qualitatively different and the level of required proficiency is significantly greater – mastery would be the goal. KAE sales training needs to achieve three overall objectives:
- Help the KAEs master the four new bodies of knowledge and skill sets delineated in the previous paragraph.
- Assist the KAEs to adjust and adapt their existing core selling skills to the new buying environment that is experiencing an ongoing transformation shift. This challenge should be accomplished recognizing that the KAEs must interact with different call points that hold differing definitions of value.
- Provide a way to help integrate and apply the new and existing competencies so that the KAEs can use those competencies to formulate and execute effective strategies for developing and capturing the business.
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