Four Strategies to Drive Commercial Growth at Your Healthcare Company in 2019

by Dan D’Orazio, CEO, Sage Growth Partners

The health of your business should always be front and center in your mind, but the start of a new year presents an ideal opportunity to reset, recalibrate, and set new objectives for a more successful future.

That’s why we recommend that all healthcare companies take a moment this January to lay out their business-related New Year’s resolutions. Documenting those resolutions, and sharing them with all employees, will increase the pressure to stick to the goals as a company, and it will help everyone focus on what’s most important: the health of the business.
Having trouble getting started? Here are four New Year’s resolutions that can help accelerate commercial rigor to attract new customers and retain existing ones in 2019.

Get Out of Your Echo Chamber—Actively Listen to the Market.

As new policies, competitors, and technologies arise, you must continually challenge your assumptions and update your strategic and marketing plans accordingly. If not, you will find yourself operating under outdated strategies and your business will suffer.

The problem is that challenging your own assumptions may not be comfortable. It also requires research, and research may be viewed as a “dirty word” at your company. Perhaps research is seen as “too academic,” perhaps you think your customers are a good enough proxy for the market, or perhaps your executives feel like they know the market well enough and research is not necessary.  That may be true, but it could really hurt your business if you assume—and you are wrong.

Challenging your assumptions requires continually assessing the broader market beyond your traditional customer base. Without a pulse on what’s happening across the industry, you could miss out on important trends that pose significant opportunities or challenges. Here are a few questions you should constantly be asking:

  • Are potential buyers’ pain points as identified in your strategic plan still correct? Even if so, are buyers willing to pay for your solution? Is the pain really motivating enough?
  • Does the market still care about your solution and are you framing it the right way?
  • Are there new or different buyers you need to be targeting across the industry or within the organizations you are targeting?
  • Is it clear that your solution offers something new or unique?

Broaden How You Define Your Competitive Set—It’s Probably Bigger than You Realize.

Many companies build their competitive strategies against companies that provide similar solutions. The problem is, they are actually competing against all the other IT and service companies seeking to attract the attention of buyers.

Sure, they have to be top of their category, but ultimately their solution must be big enough to gain the mind share of the other priorities of their buyers.

Let’s take quality and patient safety as an example. It ranked 4thth on the list of top concerns according to a survey of hospital executives released in 2018. If you are a quality vendor, you can talk about quality all day long, and you may be the “best” quality vendor. But if you can’t relate quality to healthcare executives’ number 1 concern (finances) you won’t have much of a shot at grabbing their attention. And you may continue to wonder why you are losing deals. 

Only 8% of people actually stick to their resolutions, according to
University of Scranton researchers. Can your business do better?

Hire and Train Commercial Sales Teams Differently.

Hire differently: Hire sales executives who want to listen, teach, and consult first. They must understand your product, of course, but they also need to understand the market dynamics and the challenges and priorities unique to each of your potential buyers. They have to be a student of the market, your buyers, and the competitors. They have to have a voracious appetite to consume and translate meaningful executive insights, insights that must be mapped to core buyer pain, pain that is only best understood through deep discovery.  Not much of anything that has a big-ticket item will get across the line without a bespoke approach.

Train differently: Don’t expect a sales leader to execute this model alone. Many very talented sales executives are frankly scared of being exposed—scared of not knowing the market well enough, scared of not understanding how and why payment reform impacts a buyer or the sale, scared of engaging with the varying needs of the CFO, CMIO, CEO, etc. Training must go beyond a few days of training at the sales kickoffs.  You must pour resources into salespeople, and give them access to new kinds of team members who can help them decode the market, do better discovery, frame the pitch optimally, and so on.  Selling in healthcare is, more than ever, a team sport.

Gain Fluency in Health Economics and Finance.

You must clearly articulate how your product can help buyers improve the bottom line. This requires gathering as much data as possible about the market, your solution, and potential buyers. Then, you must turn that data into your value proposition.

Economic impact models can be very helpful in this regard. They drive marketing leads by helping potential buyers understand the value of solutions.

What if you don’t have all the data you need to build a model? Having built some 25 or so economic models for companies big and small, we’ve learned that no one ever has complete data. But there are tons of studies that have benchmarks, endpoints, and other data points that can help frame an economic value story. When building a model, it’s not about guaranteeing an exact ROI, it’s about helping to build trust about your solution, and what impact it may have on the unique circumstances of your prospect.

One of our biggest learnings in building these tools is that they are much more than a tool—they become a strategic canvas for consultative selling. And if done well, your prospect becomes the “owner” and the champion of the analysis.  Making blind decisions on big ticket items is scary. These models can drive new levels of insight and comfort.

These tools can be especially useful in making the case for a product when a sales team member is no longer directly involved in conversations on the buyer’s side. For example, once sales people have an initial conversation with a buyer, that buyer often then needs to become an advocate for the product with other leadership at the company. Providing that buyer with an economic value tool that is easy to understand and based on real data is a very effective way to help them make the case for your solution.

There’s no better time than the present to gear up for a healthier 2019. Best of luck in the year ahead, and keep us posted on your progress.

Email me your thoughts and other New Year’s resolution recommendations: [email protected].

Dan D’Orazio is CEO of Sage Growth Partners (SGP). He shapes and leads the vision for the firm—a vision focused on helping clients to accelerate their commercial growth. While also leading the firm’s business development efforts, Dan remains actively engaged with client delivery to ensure the quality of work and to deliver successful strategies for clients in an ever-changing and complex healthcare market.