Many healthcare sales organizations are realizing that they must re-assess their sales competency model in light of today’s healthcare market
Sales competencies that are misaligned with customer expectations can impact multiple areas of an organization including talent development, hiring, and performance management. This, in turn, can lead to a decrease in the effectiveness of the sales team and the inability to achieve organizational goals.
So, what can cause sales competency misalignment? Typical causes are usually changes in the market that impact or change buyer behavior. The changes to the healthcare market have forced a change to both the business and practice models of those who make buying decisions in healthcare. This, in turn, has changed the buying behavior and forced a change in expectations of sales representatives. The result is a misalignment of sales competencies needed to be successful in today’s market place.
Before, sales organizations were successful using a short term, product-focused tactics based on a predominance of individual decision makers. Now, customers have a new set of expectations. They want sales representatives to deliver patient-centric, evidence-based solutions that provide solutions to critical clinical and/or business issues for the whole organization. Additionally, there are new stakeholders that must be considered. To influence buying decisions today, sales organizations must have the capability to work collaboratively with buying committees that include both clinical and administrative influencers.
To align with the needs of today’s healthcare stakeholders, the competencies that are typically in need of development are:
- Account management
- Clinical selling
- Healthcare business acumen
All one really needs to do is look at the changes in the market to see why these are key competencies that are out of alignment and in need of increased proficiency levels.
The era of the independent physician with great autonomy is giving way to widespread physician employment. A recent statistic shows that up to 60% of physician group practices are owned by integrated delivery networks (IDN) of some kind. This business model means centralized, multi-stakeholder decision making. This trend prompted a recent article in Pharmaceutical Executive titled, When Care Models Collide, in which the author stated, “In order to successfully segment and engage customers, strategic account management capabilities need to be embedded throughout the organization. This should be accompanied by restructuring sales models to enable selling in a more complex environment.” Sales representative must have the ability to sell collaboratively in a complex environment where they understand the stakeholders, their individual value drivers. Without account management capabilities, representatives may miss critical steps in the sales process that result in lower-than-expected results.
Many of today’s regulatory changes are focused on the use of Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM). This rationale is to provide consistent disease treatment resulting in better patient outcomes and decreased cost of care. To embed EBM skills in newly trained physicians, regulators now require medical schools to teach five levels of competency in EBM. Physicians are now taught how to critically appraise clinical data to look for bias, statistical significance, and clinical relevance. The impact is that this approach is influencing physicians’ expectations of sales representatives. Research shows that EBM holds the strongest customer buying influence, and over 90% of physicians want reps to make more use of clinical studies and EBM in their conversations with sales representatives.
The clinical selling skills needed to align with the expectations of clinical buyers require an understanding of the principles of EBM. This enables representatives to have a consultative dialogue that links key clinical findings to brand specific clinical or organizational solutions by using the language of the HCP.
Healthcare Business Acumen
With the advent of multi-stakeholder decision making, representatives must have an understanding of the clinical and business sides of the buying equation. In the morning, they may be speaking to a clinical influencer while in the afternoon, they may be speaking to a business administrator that sits on the value analysis committee. Both individuals have different value drivers but have an influence on clinical decisions. Representatives must be able to demonstrate the value of their product to both. That means that they need an understanding of IDN business strategies, outcome metrics, and healthcare incentive management in order to demonstrate the impact of their product on the value drivers of each stakeholder in the buying process.
Based on market research, these are most likely competencies to be out of alignment. Many reading this may think “my sales organization is fine” or “I am sure I would know if any of these were out of alignment.” In reality, they are ignoring the subtle symptoms of misalignment. Things like decreasing stakeholder access, weakening market share, stagnant sales, or less-than-stellar product launch performance. The good news is that there is a painless way to make sure that you are in alignment with the market.
If we look at best-in-class companies, we see they are working hard to mitigate the impact of misaligned competencies by leveraging advanced data analytics. This enables organizations to determine which specific competencies drive the business results on which they focus. Once understood, the organization can leverage the data to insure that the sales competencies are aligned with key business drivers and can develop the sales organization to the appropriate proficiency level for each competency. This will also provide a strong foundation for talent development, hiring, and performance management.
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