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How to sell technology to hospitals

Veronica Combs on June 20, 2012 Source: MedCityNews.com

If you are having no luck connecting with the right people in a hospital’s technology department, consider this advice from a children’s hospital chief information officer, a help desk manager and software vendor.

Don’t start with a meeting invite

“If you send me an Outlook invitation and try to schedule 30 minutes on my calendar and I have no idea who you are, I will delete it,” Mitch Bryant said at the Digital Health Summit in San Diego. “Also, don’t tell me you need 15 minutes. It always takes longer than that.”

Bryant is the enterprise support manager at Norton Healthcare and writes RFPs, works with clinicians to identify new technologies and manages the help desk.

Do use LinkedIn

Vice President and chief information officer at Children’s Hospital Central California Kirk Larson said he accepts almost all invites and uses the networking site as a reference list for promising products.

“I wish there was no limit on the number of groups you could join because there are so many good ones,” Larsen said. “Even if I don’t need your technology right now, I want to know how to get in touch with you when I do.”

Do more listening than talking

“Ask lots of questions,” said Dayna Neumann, vice president of marketing and strategy of The Fetter Group. “If you let the customer do most of the talking, you’ll have a much better idea of the problem he or she is trying to solve.”

Neumann, Bryant and Larson spoke during the “Selling into Hospitals” panel at the Digital Health Summit June 14 in San Diego.

Neumann also said that taking the long view of building a relationship with a customer sometimes means admitting that there is not a fit between customer and product.

“If there is a good fit, though, you’ll have insight into how they want to grow their business and how you can help them do it,” she said.

Don’t assume you are getting the brush off

Larson said sometimes it makes more sense for a vendor to talk to one of his direct reports first. “Many salespeople think that I am blowing them off if I ask them to talk to a department manager, but that’s not the case,” he said. “Also, if a vendor can work with my assistant, she can organize the information for me and file it so I know how to find it when I need it.”

Do bring your own super geek

Once you have secured a second meeting, be prepared for a grilling. “When we do a deep dive into a new product, I will be in the meeting for 10 or 15 minutes and then I turn it over to my team,” Bryant said. “I have seen some vendors get torn apart, so you have to be prepared for the tough questions. Vendors should bring their most technical people to answer questions from the most technical people on my team.”

Larson and Bryant both said they have a very short list of strategic partners who they trust and will work with through the inevitable problems that come up. “Vendors are a dime a dozen, it’s partners that we want to work with,” Bryant said.

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