Why Healthcare Sales IS Different!

Let’s see; we’ve all heard that a good salesman can sell ice to an Eskimo or heard,” She is quite a talker; she should be in sales”. Neither by the way is true. A good salesman would know that an Eskimo doesn’t need or want ice and a great sales person is much better at listening than talking.

However, I digress!

As much as we may want sales to be the same whether you are selling Pepsi, BMW’s or a nursing home bed; it is not! They are each tangible products; they are wanted or needed by the consumer and for many companies they enjoy a solid reputation for delivering what the consumer needs. They even have about the same selling cycle length.

Mrs. Smith walks into a store and wants a soft drink; she will choose among many. Most likely she may narrow it down to Coke or Pepsi. Mr. Smith walks into a dealership and wants to buy a car; he will choose among many. Most likely, he may narrow it down to a BMW or a Lexus. Mr. & Mrs. Smith walk into a hospital where they will be asked to decide on a next location for Mom. They will choose among many. Most likely, they will narrow it down to the top two suggestions.

So, then why is the sale different?It has to do with culture, corporate culture. Pepsi and BMW are sales-driven cultures while healthcare is operations driven. Neither is good or bad, just different. They take the company in different directions and that impact is felt most directly in the sales organization of both cultures.

The sales-driven company begins with the end in mind; the end being profit, margins and revenue growth. The budgeting process sets clear expectations for growth; sales hiring is meticulously rigorous; accountability is excruciating at all levels. Compensation programs are often an open-ended opportunity for sales people to produce. Operations meetings begin with market analysis, product trends and sales projections. The key person at the table is the CMO and the COO.

The operations-driven company also begins with the end in mind; the end being delivering a quality product. The budgeting process is often a laborious process to determine how to deliver the product and still make a profit; sales hiring practices are a de-centralized function concerned more with team matches and customer service attributes than with producing revenue. Compensation programs are viewed as expected but unnecessary. Operations meetings begin with a cost and budget analysis by department in painful but necessary detail. The market /sales discussion may be moved, delayed or hurried at the end of the meeting. . The key person at the table is the COO with no CMO.

Healthcare is an operations-driven organization. This difference in healthcare’s focus reverberates throughout the company. It shines a laser-light on clinical issues, human resource issues, turn-over and regulations. It is not that sales expectations are unimportant; they are simply far down on the list. There is often a tendency to believe that we would exist happily without a sales focus; a sort-of “build it and they will come” attitude. Heaven help the Pepsi, GM or BMW CEO who tries to compete with this mindset