The Growth Prescription for healthcare sales professionals | Episode 4

A value-based approach to sales

with Per Ståhle

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How do you unlock beneficial revenue growth for go-to-market teams at healthcare organizations?

“Think through one further step [for your clients],” says Per Ståhle, SVP and Local Partner, in this episode of The Growth Prescription. Per, René Groeneveld, Partner, and Alan Gentry, Senior Director, share ideas on value-based decision-making for healthcare organizations’ go-to-market teams.

Fearless Thinkers is produced by Gloria Breck and Aron Towner.

Special thanks to Joe Holeman, Chris Goodnow, Meghan McGrath, Roanne Neuwirth, and Nicole Hernandez for their invaluable help.

René Groeneveld: How do you drive market share and revenue growth [by] empowering your field sales organizations to drive business conversations, but also beyond [that], to build strategic partnerships?

We all know that the healthcare market continues to evolve, continues to change, to consolidate, and we’ve realized over the past years that it’s moving to a more and more value-based system, which means that there is less and less decision making on an individual healthcare professional or provider level. Leaders and sellers need to think more strategically and beyond the individual decision making from a sales point of view, but also how to address business needs and business acumen and almost challenge the clients or the customers.

Per, what do you hear from healthcare clients about value in the business?

Per Ståhle: I work with a lot of clients throughout the whole healthcare ecosystem. Everyone talks about, we need to understand how to create more value for our customers or patients. Everyone has a different definition of what that value is.

And every customer values it differently to create more value and understand another topic that comes up a lot is sort of leveraging real world data, who owns the data and who managed the data and who can access the data becomes more and more important defining that value.  for the customer in other things than just the efficacy of the drug.

As we see more and more “me too” drugs out there, like biosimilars or other drugs, that are competing with a slightly different value proposition — how do you understand how to create value for your customers with a differentiated value proposition that’s not just based on an exclusive product with higher efficacy?

Alan Gentry: When we narrow it down to just sellers and, for example, health care companies have key account managers. When they go to create value, they need to understand their customers’ desired outcomes in order to position their products, services, and solutions in a strategic way. They need to think strategically to differentiate themselves by challenging the customers with an innovative insight. And they need to be able to navigate their account ecosystems as well.

Ultimately, what this links to is their company’s business goals, such as how do we create behavioral change in the field within our sales organization? How do we improve in alignment with customers desired business outcomes? And then more importantly, how do we grow revenue in market shares?

Per: Everyone in the whole ecosystem talks about patient centricity and creating value for the patient. Data shows that only about 20 percent of [patient health] is directed by health care. The other things are things like socioeconomic factors, educational levels, and all those other factors that drive the health of patients. So, how can we actually include that in our thinking about creating a better life for our patients?

Over 70 percent of the cost of the healthcare system is driven by chronic conditions. So it comes into, how do I understand how to manage that? How do I think from a business acumen perspective around managing that? Avoiding people from developing new chronic conditions. Maybe, when you have a chronic condition, how do I manage that condition more, in the environment where the patient lives, to keep them from having acute episodes? And of course, when they have acute episodes, how do we help them increase the outcomes of those so that they get well faster?

So it’s all those aspects on driving the right behaviors throughout the whole ecosystem and understanding what role you play in that.

René: I just recently spoke to a big client in Switzerland here. The interesting thing they said, it’s about shifting mindsets, not just to be more business driven, but also to be more data driven. There’s still a strong focus on patient focus interactions and achieving results. But what was more and more mentioned was sales effectiveness. How do I get to a recommendation or prescription? Not with six visits, but maybe with four. How do I get to a new lead? Maybe not with eight calls, but maybe with five. So, it was all about productivity and efficiency as well.

Back to you, Per. What are healthcare organizations doing to ensure that they really create value for their customers, for their HCPs, for their patients?

Per: Understand where do you play in the ecosystem, and how do you  understand, more specifically, what each player wants and how they measure success. We’ve created a (sometimes) ecosystem experience where they get to play [different roles] within the ecosystem to understand what their big headaches [are], what their big challenges [are]. Going to market, understanding all the influencers in the marketplace, and, how do I leverage different relationships in the ecosystem? Of course, that looks very different in the U. S. than if you’re in Europe. And who are the actual decision makers or influencers when it comes to getting to the right people with the right value proposition?

René: Alan, you have a lot of experience working with big, complex sales organizations in the industry. How’s creating value impacted in these organizations?

Alan: As we look at companies, especially as they get more complex due to acquisitions, there’s multiple business units. And so what that means is we have multiple people selling into the same organization.

As far as that approach, there’s one person that’s usually leading, but they’re leading without authority. They face a lot of internal problems, like collaboration and coordination. That creates complexity for their customers, and not only the complexity for their customers, but then there’s also the chance that different units or different divisions are going to go their own way and not necessarily coordinate and collaborate with their partners.

The bigger the company gets, the harder it is to work with them. There are just too many voices trying to sell to the customer. And what needs to happen is, we need to take a step back, and understand what the customer is trying to accomplish, and coordinate our efforts in order to demonstrate that we are easy to work with. We can help them solve very complex problems by coordinating across all business units.

How are companies continuing to grow market shares and revenues in these complex go-to-market environments?

Per: It’s really taking a different approach from all the way from the top of the organization all the way to the actual salespeople in the field.

You know, it starts with a big customer understanding. Have that deep knowledge around the market, and differentiate how you actually deal with them based on what their role in the ecosystem is. Understanding their business model and how you can complement [it] with your actions and what you do. And what also helps that internal collaboration you talked about, Alan, is having that customer focus, and even the customer’s customer, which in most cases are the patients.

How do you actually help [by] thinking through one further step?  We do a lot of work with clients where they actually have to run their customer’s business to understand how they provide the value and thereby they get the insights and become a true partner and gain that trusted advisor relationship with more senior levels at their customers, rather than getting stuck in a procurement kind of situation. And those key account managers that Alan mentions, they become very instrumental in building those more senior relationships. But also senior leaders in the organization becomes part of the sales organization. They can go meet with the C suite of their customers.

René: What I hear from you, it’s about market knowledge (a given), business acumen, partnerships, senior or maybe even C-level relationships and key account management in the end. Alan, again, back to you. What level of business acumen knowledge is required for a key account manager in the healthcare industry today? Do they all have to be financial MBAs on top of their qualification, or what’s important?

Alan: There’s several questions that you’ve really got to ask yourself. Do I really know what my customers do, and what they’re really responsible for achieving? By understanding those things, it allows us to dig into the root cause behind what the data is telling us, and we can do that by being curious by digging in by asking great questions. Those high impact questions. It really allows us to understand the real why behind what the customer is doing, and why they need to do what they are doing. Once you understand your customer’s positions and their interest behind those positions, it allows you to challenge them with an insight and share relevant information to them.

Allocate your resources in a strategic way that really optimizes that return on investment. We often refer to this as individualizing and personalizing your approach to each and every customer because every customer has different objectives, different metrics, and different goals.

René: Per, why do customers struggle with building business acumen?

Per: Let me first talk about financial acumen and business acumen. People think about it as the same thing, and that [they’re] the finance department’s [or] the accountant’s role to manage that. But it’s not. Business acumen and financial acumen is really about the language of business.

Business acumen specifically includes thinking strategically, thinking in several levels down. How does what I do affect my balance sheet, my cash flow? But for a salesperson, not just understand how it affects my company. But understand how it affects my customer’s company.  To have strong business acumen, it’s really understanding, to Alan’s point, how do I impact my customer’s key metrics?

If you think about running a hospital system, very slim margins, so how can I get my customer to understand, by using my solution and my drug here, maybe it’s more expensive up front, but there’s a lot of avoided costs down the road. Your outcomes are going to increase, your patients’ lives are going to increase, the experience for the patient is going to be better.

How I can help my customer’s business, and not get focused on volume and price discounts? So many times I see in the pharma world, and also throughout the healthcare system, [that] people think price is the only metric to negotiate. But there’s so many other things you can help your customers with.

René: How can BTS support customers struggling with upskilling these sales organizations and struggling to really upskill on business acumen, as you’ve defined it?

Per: In order to get people to do things differently and apply skills, we need to change their mindset. How do I think about my relationship with my customer? What’s my role with my customer, and how can I help them become more successful? We did this for a large biopharma, for example, in Europe, where we had four different archetype markets that [clients] get to go in and actually think about, “How do I manage a drug that’s going LOE?” So, losing exclusivity at the same time as I’m managing a launch of a new drug. And how do I do that using all the internal tools I have? In keeping the length of that first product and keeping the margins up as long as possible, at the same time as you’re launching the replacement product, at the same time as you’re actually competing with biosimilars.

How do I manage that using all the tools I have internally at my reference, understanding what each different customers in each different market might value?

René: Can you summarize a little bit and give us your top three tips you want everyone to walk away with?

Per: Understanding how you fit in, what your role in the ecosystem is, and what your different customers or different stakeholders in the industry, where their role is, and then understand how you can. Demonstrate documented health outcomes with data, with real data, and what that looks like.  And then, how do I collaborate internally with that customer view on the world to drive internal collaboration? And understanding how that plays into the life of the patients, since healthcare only affects 20 percent of it.

René: Thank you so much for today’s session. Dear listeners, I hope you enjoyed today’s growth prescription podcast.  It’s the fourth out of a series, and there’s much more to come. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to us either over LinkedIn, Per Ståhle, Alan Gentry, and me, or of course, through

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