Hospitals are going through a period of transformation change. On the clinical side, they’re changing what they buy, how they buy, and what they are willing to pay for it.
And on the business side, hospitals are making significant and innovative changes, too. For example, hospitals are continuing pursuing mergers and acquisitions, purchasing physician practices and hiring sales people to call on physicians to increase referral rates.
Those who know the market best say the change is likely to continue. For example, an article in USA Today shares what hospitals are doing in relationship marketing. The authors reported:
“A growing number of hospitals are using their patients’ health and financial records to help pitch their most lucrative services, such as cancer, heart and orthopedic care.
As part of these direct mail campaigns, they are also buying detailed information about local residents compiled by consumer marketing firms — everything from age, income and marital status to shopping habits and whether residents have children or pets at home.
Hospitals say they are promoting needed services, such as cancer screenings and cholesterol tests, but they often use the data to target patients with private health insurance, which typically pay higher rates than government coverage.”
The article goes on to point out such marketing efforts are widespread – and highly effective in revenue terms.
This marketing idea is simply one of the recent examples of innovation. The fundamental issue is what all these changes mean for the future? The likely answer is hospitals will continue to innovate and change how they do what they do. It is a strategic imperative for coping with the ongoing financial pressures.
So for those of us interested in sales what do we need to do in order to be responsive to these changes so we can continue to be successful? To get some ideas for answering that question, let’s listen in on a presentation being given at a meeting of the VP of Sales and several regional mangers for a large medical device company. We will join the meeting in the middle of a presentation being given by Jerry one of the regional managers.
Well, I think we all agree that our customers have and will continue to make significant change in how they do business. And, we also agree that we as a sales function will not prosper unless we adjust and adapt to these changes. In the future business-as-usual will be business lost to our competitors. Obviously there are a number of pieces to the puzzle but let me start with some ideas in sales training that I think are worth considering:
- New Products. We need to put more emphasis on conducting product-specific sales skills training when we launch new products – let’s learn than launch vs. launch than learn.
- Existing Sales Force. Heretofore our major investment in sales force training has been with new hires. Because of the rate of change in the buying environment, we should implement at least one sales skills training effort each year to help our existing sales reps to learn new skills and to adjust and adapt their existing skills to the new set of conditions.
- Collaboration. When we do any type of sales training, including product training, we need to get other functions such as marketing and technical support engaged in the training. We are no longer living in the “wild west” where we can go it alone – we need to help others to help us.
- Sales Managers. We all know that the pivotal job for improving sales effectiveness is the front-line sales manager. We need to get serious about getting them involved when we train the sales reps – they can provide real insights and feedback during the class and if we design it right they can practice their sales coaching skills – so it’s a double hit.
- Buying Models. I was speaking with a training director who was noting that while their need for sales training is increasing and the budget is decreasing. She said – we should change how we purchase training from outside vendors. Betty suggested we negotiate for a license–to-use so the training department can leverage our internal assets and avoid ongoing per head pricing.
When buyers change how they do what they do, sellers need to mirror that change. And, that bit of shape shifting needs to occur in real time. Times of change produce a new set of winners and losers – business-as-usual will be business lost to competitors that are more agile and responsive.
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