Outside-In Marketing and Sales

Start Looking from the Outside In

One of our practice areas is the Healthcare industry and we have worked with many companies in the medical device field. I was recently reading a business plan for such a company that’s in the early stages of looking to attract investors. The section of the plan on sales and marketing stated “The product is of such a nature that traditional sales and marketing will not be required. Once the CEO of a hospital understands our product, they will direct the organization to acquire it”.

I can understand the logic and indeed the optimism behind the statement because the company’s product – a good one – reduced hospital acquired infections (HAI’s); always a major concern. The product had been thoroughly tested and had solid credentials attesting to its efficacy. The company could quantify the return on investment and demonstrate that a hospital could recover their upfront investment in a matter of eighteen months. So there it is, a straightforward bulletproof sales approach in four steps:

  1. Get in front of the executive.
  2. Explain the offering.
  3. Prove the value.
  4. Take the order.

Although I understand the logic that leads to this thinking, I can unequivocally state that the logic is dangerously flawed. I know it is flawed because we have talked to hundreds of buyers who did not buy when confronted with such a sales approach. So why do so many buyers not take advantage of a seemingly guaranteed ROI on an offering of undeniable quality? It’s only by going behind the scenes and looking into the customers’ buying journey that the buying logic – as opposed to the selling logic – is revealed. Taking the example of this company, let’s look at just a few of the points that can stop such a sales approach from being successful.

• In today’s world it would be extraordinary for a single executive to act alone in making a decision. The executive is supported by many individuals and teams that have been empowered to make such decisions.
• How then do you manage that network of decision influencers, and do you know everyone who is involved? In the example above we would have at least the Chief Nursing Officer, the Infection Control Committee, Material Management and several others who will all play a role.
• How do you displace their current priorities? If the reduction of hospital acquired infections is on their agenda – and yes, it probably is – they won’t be idly waiting for you to come along. They will most likely have dedicated considerable time and effort to addressing the issue and will have some sort of plan already in place.
• How do you become a priority? They are busy people and they have already planned what they are going to invest in and where they are going to spend their time. How do you jump over all the other initiatives (and sales reps) and become a high enough priority to even get air time?
• It may be hard to believe but you are also one of hundreds of offerings that are all aimed at the same problem and they are all viewed, at least by their supplier, as best in class.

The list of external factors goes on and on, all paying scant regard to any “no-brainer” sales approach. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the customer buying journey can be predicted. Most hospitals, and indeed most companies within any specific market will go through very similar buying journeys when faced with the possible acquisition of a new offering. It is imperative that the selling organization be fully aware of that journey and cognizant of the inevitable friction points that need to be mitigated or resolved between stages 3 and 4 of the sales approach given above.

Successful revenue generation must start with looking beyond the internal sales process to the external reality of how customers actually buy. There must be a comprehensive understanding of the Customer Buying Journey and mapping out of all individuals, forces and roadblocks that are likely to be met along the way. A strategy then has to be developed for making that buying journey as frictionless as possible by managing and supporting each step of your customer’s journey to a successful conclusion. Yes, it is more work than that simplistic four-step approach, but there’s a big difference – it will be successful.

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