How to sell to senior hospital management

Teri L. Louden

How to sell to senior hospital management

Have you included strategies and tactics to reach senior levels of hospital management in your marketing and sales plans? Do your sales representatives and senior executives feel comfortable talking with hospital management? Are they trained to present a positive impression to them? If you answer no to these questions, then you may be missing what is fast becoming an increasingly important customer segment.

A growing influence

Hospitals’ senior managers haven’t always been a customer target for medical product companies. In the past, hospital administrations had the luxury of deferring most purchase decisions to physicians, nurses, other clinicians and materials managers. However, the growing financial pressures and margin squeeze faced by many hospitals is forcing management involvement in nearly all areas that can impact costs and revenues.

Management’s involvement necessarily varies by product area, with high priced capital equipment and large and lengthy contracts attracting the highest levels of attention. Increasingly, however, middle managers (associate administrators or vice presidents) and senior or middle-level financial managers are involved with more product and contract decisions.

They may now sit on committees to evaluate products and contracts and may be part of special task forces to look at ways to reduce budgets, enhance quality and service or evaluate department or program efficiency. In particular, hospital financial managers may be involved in helping with cost/benefit analysis of existing or new products and contracts.

Management’s significance

As hospital management involvement in product decisions grows, it is increasingly important for product manufacturers and distributors to determine whether individuals within this customer group represent relevant purchase influencers.

Management’s importance to your business will necessarily vary depending on your product line and by specific market segment.

It is important to determine which level of hospital administration may be involved with issues related to your products, the extent of their involvement, and whether they are more or less involved depending on the size or type of hospital. Keep in mind that while they may not be an influencer today, their influence may expand in the future as hospital margins squeeze even tighter and as hospital management begin to share their experiences at industry conferences and events.

How to reach them

Determine which level of hospital administration you need to target and the priority each level will take in your marketing and selling efforts. Your targets might include top managers (CEO, COO); finance (CFO, others); associate administrators/vice presidents; and/or other management personnel.

Conduct some selected research to determine the level of involvement they have and expect to have in regard to decisions about your products and service. This research should also be used to determine which approaches will work best to reach them, including ideas they can give you based on examples from previous work experiments.

Finding out how they perceive your organization and your competitors will help you develop strategies to reach this customer segment as well.

Develop a total plan of how you are going to reach these customers. Options to consider include:

* Producing targeted seminars on topics relevant to their needs,

* Developing a formal presentation to be given by your senior management,

* Attending their respective annual association meetings and trade shows,

* Developing and offering special value-added services or education programs,

* Providing special training for your sales managers and possibly sales representatives to call upon and present to these customers,

* Hiring or promoting focused marketing and sales personnel to support this effort and

* Including them in company tours or other events.

Note that every company needs to determine which level of investment it can afford to make to reach these customers. It may be advisable to test several of these communications options before launching a national program to determine which options yield the greatest benefit for the investment.

Whatever communications options you decide to pursue, make sure you set up some mechanisms to track their results and value over time.

Best approaches

Obtaining hospital administrative support requires careful planning and targeting to make the most of your investment. Since formal strategies to reach this group are relatively new to many companies, approaches should be researched and tested as much as possible prior to the full launch.

While pursuing these management personnel, don’t make the mistake of letting up on historical efforts to maintain and build relationships with end-users and materials managers.

The best approach is to maintain what you have been doing in the past while focusing on building relationships with more senior levels of hospital management. Help them by providing valuable information and education and make sure these efforts are well coordinated with your marketing and sales tactics for end-users, materials managers and other hospital customers.

Key influencers

In the changing and competitive health care marketplace, medical product companies must look to build and strengthen relationships with a variety of customers. So, although hospital administrators may not be the final decision makers for your products or services, they may slowly but surely become key influencers.

Now is the time to evaluate if, how and when your organization will reach this evolving customer segment. The sooner your organization makes this evaluation, the better the chance you will have to increase sales and profits.

COPYRIGHT 1990 J.B. Lippincott Company

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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