Remember back before the COVID pandemic in 2020 when making in-person sales calls to healthcare providers was the norm?

Yeah, neither do we.

It’s probably hard to imagine right now, but only 36% of healthcare providers preferred virtual meetings before COVID-19. Nowadays? 61% of healthcare providers prefer virtual meetings.

61% of HCPs now prefer virtual meetings, up from just 36% before Covid-19.

Source: Accenture Healthcare Provider Survey

Limited Access Is Here To Stay

Challenger has studied the evolution of buying and selling across 100k+ sales processionals since 2008. The pandemic brought one of the most dramatic shifts to buying and selling in healthcare that we’ve ever observed.

Even before COVID-19, healthcare providers found it difficult to give optimal patient care. Managed healthcare prescription coverage is complex, regulations constantly change, the system is consolidating, and there is a rapid rise in the number of treatment options.

COVID-19 has only magnified the complexity associated with these issues.

A crowded and noisy information landscape makes capturing provider attention and mindshare nearly impossible.

In many instances, the best a sales rep can hope for is a perfectly timed drop-in between patient visits. But what happens when you have an abundance of sales reps “dropping in”? Providers are overwhelmed and each rep struggles to communicate their message in a way that makes a difference.

Like in other verticals, providers prefer to do their own research, delaying the buying process. And recent data shows that their pre-pandemic preference for in-person sales has dropped significantly.

If your organization wants to sell effectively to physicians and healthcare providers, you must evolve beyond traditional selling.

Traditional Sales Approaches Don’t Capture Attention

Healthcare suppliers historically enabled sales reps to sell in one of two ways: The “features and benefits” approach or the “relationship” approach. Both have merit but fall short on their own in today’s environment.

The “Features & Benefits” Sale

Sales reps differentiate their products by highlighting their features and benefits. Sales leaders justify the strategy by thinking, “If our reps can be experts in articulating what makes our solution stand out (e.g., better clinical outcomes, superior patient preference, cost savings), we’ll differentiate ourselves, and sales will follow.”

This approach has potential with a captive audience, limited distraction, and ample customer attention span, but that’s not the situation reps encounter today.

Providers are bombarded with information. Features and benefits pitches only resonate when delivered at the exact right time. As a result, most features and benefits sales presentations just create noise in an already crowded landscape.

The “Relationship” Sale

Relationship selling has been part of healthcare for decades, a transactional approach aimed at befriending and positively influencing those who can connect sales reps to clinicians.

But an effective experience today involves far more than being first in line with a smile to meet with someone in person. Every moment of access is precious. Using limited time to build relationships — but not necessarily create value — puts a sales rep at a disadvantage.

It’s also true that reps don’t have a second chance to make a first impression. If a sales rep doesn’t bring tangible value to the conversation, it is far less likely they’ll gain access a second time. More than building relationships, sales reps must bring compelling insights that healthcare providers can use.

But What is Useful?

Product information — often easily accessible from a company’s website — is not a useful insight. To truly stand out, a rep must bring information that addresses something that providers feel is missed or underappreciated. Your reps need to demonstrate how your product makes things better for providers, their organizations, and the patients they serve.

Go-To-Market Strategy in Healthcare is Evolving

Beyond a lessened interest in in-person visits, two other industry changes have disrupted traditional selling approaches. One, healthcare providers have access to information via professional educators, including pharmacy benefit managers and health insurance plans. Two, the pandemic accelerated the evolution of account-based selling.

Most sales reps now struggle with the complexity of influencing senior stakeholders who want them to deliver unique insights in a compelling way. We’ve witnessed this shift firsthand, as illustrated in the chart below, and cannot stress enough the increasing importance of an insight-based sales approach in healthcare moving forward.

How to Excel When You Sell in Healthcare With Limited Access

As the landscape evolves, we’ve observed:

  • Growth in the number of senior-level stakeholders in the buying group increasing the complexity of the sale
  • Difficulty engaging more senior stakeholders with features/benefits or product expertise alone
  • Value propositions and sales messages failing to resonate with new, more senior stakeholder audiences

The experience that many of today’s sales reps deliver fails to reach the high bar that healthcare providers have set. This bar continues to rise with the proliferation of available information, the rapidly expanding size of decision-making groups, and the involvement of more senior and strategic stakeholders.

What High-Performing Sales Reps in Healthcare Do Differently

Today’s buyers look for sales reps who assertively bring unique perspectives to solve issues they care about. They are also reluctant to spend time answering questions so that the rep can discover these issues.

Our research found that the sales experience is the single greatest driver of customer loyalty — and sales conversations serve as an organization’s greatest opportunity for building a better experience.

Loyalty, in turn, boosts advocacy, a supplier’s most effective form of marketing. This compels credible providers to push peers who trust them towards suppliers they trust. Healthcare providers, now more than ever, value someone who challenges their thinking to improve their practice and patient outcomes.

The Challenger Selling Approach

Sales reps who perform best in complex sales environments have a distinct set of behaviors and skills that allow them to meet complex customer needs. They’re known as Challengers.

Challengers know the keys to patient throughput, understand how their customers make decisions — from diagnosis to treatment — and they look for opportunities to help providers by understanding exactly how and where they fit in the value chain to support appropriate patient care.

Ultimately, Challengers help the provider recognize a potential clinical gap or opportunity to improve patient care and do so in a way that leads back to them.

The missing piece for most suppliers in today’s complex landscape is true commercial insight. It is the nucleus of a sales message that creates access to otherwise inaccessible healthcare providers by demonstrating a deep understanding of beliefs and perceptions that ultimately drive and shape their approach to patient care. It’s mandatory for suppliers to teach clinicians something new about their own practice and plot a clear course of action.

Put simply, commercial insights educate and influence healthcare providers by:

  • Challenging assumptions and introducing new perspectives
  • Leading to unique strengths by disrupting current thinking
  • Catalyzing action by providing a compelling reason to change
  • Demonstrating credibility with tailored context
Listen to episode #64 of the Winning The Challenger Sale podcast for a deep dive into commercial insights

Invest in Your Team When the Market Gets Competitive

Success in today’s increasingly complex healthcare landscape requires organizations to adopt a go-to-market approach that equips teams with messages that challenge the status quo, the skills that lead to high performance, and a strategy for mobilizing customer action.

It’s time to ditch the old way of selling in healthcare and arm your sales reps with a better approach to engaging providers in a limited access environment. If that sounds interesting to you, let’s have a conversation.

win the complex healthcare sale with Challenger

Challenger, Inc.

Challenger is the global leader in training, technology, and consulting to win today’s complex sale. Our sales transformation and training programs are supported by ongoing research and backed by our best-selling books, The Challenger Sale, The Challenger Customer, and The Effortless Experience.