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The Daunting Challenge of Selling into Health Systems – Lesson 3: Create a Great Story
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Last week, we explored the clinician’s role in healthcare IT sales, and provided insight into how you can win them over. In this third and final post of our three-part series, Jonathan Fullerton shares his experience crafting a compelling, thought-provoking story required to successfully sell in healthcare.

Competition is fierce in healthcare. There are countless vendors out there chasing healthcare dollars, as well as trying to capture the private equity being poured into this industry. Healthcare executive mindshare is already scarce, given the number of things they are dealing with at any given time. It is extremely difficult to get attention, and even more difficult to sustain interest.

Remember what I said in the last blog post about stating your value proposition to clinical professionals (do it fast)? Take that advice, develop your value proposition, and then reduce the time you take to state it by half. Then half it again. And figure out how you are going make it unique enough for your prospect to remember it, while they are being bombarded by hundreds of other compelling value propositions.

How do you make your message concise, clear, and compelling? I think of the Henry David Thoreau quote, “Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.” It’s difficult. You can’t use the same words everyone else is using. If you look at your message, and can’t clearly distinguish it from other similar solutions, go back to the drawing board.

Finally, and perhaps most important, what is the story you are trying to tell with your value proposition? The most successful selling I have seen in healthcare is when the value is couched in a crisp, relatable story that makes sense to both clinicians and administrators. This is not rocket science: state the problem you are solving, state the implications (or pain it is causing) and then state your solution. And say it in less than five minutes. Remember, health care is all about stories: stories of saving lives, of curing disease, of cutting-edge technology that transforms medicine. Couching your value in a way that both resonates and aligns in a way that health system leaders understand is a must.

What lessons can we glean from my experience in this industry? They are simple, anchored in blocking and tackling that everyone says they are doing but that few execute successfully. Preparation is key. You have to be strategic, and you have to be expert at your sales process. Spend time getting your message right. Try it out with people who represent the types of prospects you are targeting. Be vigilant in anticipating changing circumstances and priorities. Understand the prospect’s budgeting cycle and decision-making process. With lower conversion rates and longer sales cycles, the number of organizations you need to be cultivating at any given time has to be higher than other industries. Make sure your pipeline is a higher-than average multiple of your sales target.

Returning to our friend who abandoned selling into health systems (I mentioned him in the first blog), convinced that continuing to do so would cut years off his life. Is he right? To be sure, selling into healthcare can be immensely frustrating, fraught with amazing highs and terrible lows; it requires minute attention to detail, process and storytelling. That said, it can also be incredibly rewarding: my passion for this industry rests on my strong belief that anything I can bring to the table that will help clinicians do their job, that will reduce human suffering and that will help cure disease is a win.

If you’re ready to continue the adventure of selling into the healthcare industry, stay tuned for upcoming Gen5 blogs on the nuances of the health-system sales cycle, and how to win with each role you will encounter.

Thoughts? Comments? Say hello@gen-5.com!

About author:
Jonathan is a healthcare strategist who has been studying the healthcare industry for 20 years. He has partnered with the nation’s top hospitals and health systems on clinical, financial, and operational terrains. He has grown several healthcare technology and advisory companies, creating brands and targeted messages that compel the healthcare buyer. Jonathan serves as a strategist on the Gen5 Healthcare Marketing Team.

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