In selling to C-suite executives in the health care industry it’s important that you’re calling on the relevant executive for your sales opportunity. The first thing salespeople need to do is “sit on the other side of the desk” and view their sales opportunity from the perspective of the client executive.
To start, think about the day-to-day complexities that C-Suite executives in the health care industry are continually dealing with. Attend seminars and workshops and develop your online knowledge using industry sites, professional organizations, Linkedin industry groups and other sources. Keep up to date with the latest changes in local laws and state regulations using tools like Google Alerts and other media monitoring services. Make certain you can “speak their internal company and industry language” using appropriate health care metrics and terminology.
Before you meet with any executive in the client organization, have a firm understanding of the hospital’s organizational structure, as well as its current financial position. How does this hospital, hospital group or other health care organization compare with its competitors in this arena? What’s their position in the industry? What makes them different and what makes them stand out from their competitors? Here are six steps to start selling to C-suite executives:
1. Identify the relevant executive for the sales opportunity
You can’t always start with a connection to the relevant executive, and it may take you some time to identify and align with that executive. However, keep the concept of the relevant executive in mind as you navigate the political dynamics of the client organization. Start by determining if your solution can address business issues associated with some of the key initiatives the client is pursuing. Test your conclusions by determining if the executive you have identified (as the relevant executive) does indeed have the most to gain or lose as a result of the application or project that’s associated with your sales opportunity.
2. Determine how best to approach the executive
The next step is gaining access to that executive. When executives were asked about the best ways to gain access to them, they responded that the best way to gain access was through a credible sponsor within their organization; either a lower-level executive or using the gatekeeper as a resource. About 84 percent of the time, those senior executives said they would grant a meeting to a salesperson if someone within their organization recommended they do so. That’s pretty compelling!
3. Perform the appropriate discovery prior to the initial approach to the executive
Here’s where many salespeople miss the mark. Make sure you’ve done your homework before approaching any key player in the client organization. Keep in mind that every interaction with an executive provides you with a chance to either advance or dilute the relationship. Do your homework before the meeting — focusing on what’s important to the executive.
4. Conduct an effective initial face-to-face meeting with the executive
Prove to the executive that you have done your homework and have insights that could deliver value to the executive. Think about how you will open the meeting. Develop an understanding of the client’s internal or external business drivers — those pressures that create the need for change — perhaps, the need for a new solution or a new approach. That’s where sales opportunities initially get forged.
Many executives said they expect salespeople to be prepared for their meetings with them. Moreover, executives use their first personal meeting with a salesperson to qualify the salesperson, just as the salesperson is trying to qualify the executive. Research conducted by International Data Corp. in 2014 determined that more than 63 percent of senior executives are using Linkedin as a resource in key buying decisions — so make certain your Linkedin profile reflects the value you could deliver to executives.
5. Demonstrate a consistent level of integrity and capability over the long term
Credibility is the intersection of capability and integrity. Demonstrating both of those traits over the long term enables the salesperson to become perceived as a trusted advisor to the executive. Don’t expect credibility to be gained on the initial call. You will have to earn the executive’s trust over a longer period of time. Do this by demonstrating your technical skills and your personal integrity, focusing on the client’s business drivers and key business issues. Frame your value in the context of the client’s world.
6. Consistently communicate your value to the executive
After your solution has been installed and delivering value to the client, make certain that you communicate that value to the executive. Don’t assume that the executive fully understands the value your solution has delivered. In fact, take it a step further and find a way to consistently communicate your value on an ongoing basis, using the client’s metrics and terminology. Make certain the executive fully understands your past value contribution — the value you have continuously delivered to the client organization.
In a critical meeting with a C-suite officer of a Fortune 500 company, we asked, “Why would someone at your level ever agree to spend time with a professional salesperson?” The executive’s answer was simple:
“In my experience, professional salespeople offer me suggestions about solutions to business problems that even people in my own organization can’t develop. Some of these salespeople have encountered similar problems in other organizations and have creatively addressed them. That’s what I expect from salespeople who want to have a trusted advisor relationship with me.”
In this simple answer is the code that will unlock almost everything salespeople need to know about selling to executives. In today’s wireless world, executives know more about your offerings and your competitor’s products than you can tell them in 60 minutes. Executives want salespeople to be professional, be conversant with the executive’s business problems (or opportunities), and prepare a call plan that delivers some level of value to them.
Use these six steps as a framework to the way you interface with C-suite executives in your health care accounts. Internalize this process and put it into action in a structured, repeatable fashion. Take the time to review these steps with your manager or other sales executive to determine if they have any additional suggestions that can help you leverage your relationships with C-suite executives.
Stephen J. Bistritz, Ed.D. is president and founder of SellXL.com, a sales training and consulting company, and author of the best-selling book, “Selling to the C-Suite: What Every Executive Wants You to Know About Successfully Selling to the Top.”