(Editor's note: This is the second part of a two-part series. Part 1 is available here).
Disturbing the Equilibrium
The objective of insight selling is to make the status quo untenable, but without putting the client on the defensive. Marketers need to diagnose the prospect's situation and find evidence of the absence of value (a key point to understand and remember). This allows the representative to connect the significant impact of his solution(s) to both the customer's own performance metrics and those of the patients they serve.
As the conversation continues, the representative could add,
"Your colleagues have told me they want to do business with a lab that prefers to partner with them by providing more value -- within the guidelines of the law. They tell me they already receive the usual specimen pick-up with good turnaround time, result quality and EMR result connectivity. Those are the basics.
But they're also looking for a different kind of lab service -- one that will keep them abreast of newly developed tests and methodologies, help them stay current with clinical guidelines, provide CMS and CDC announcements, improve convenience for their staff and patients, and keep them updated with compliance regulations that could affect their business. They tell me, after all, they are competing with other providers, and they highly regard anything that would discriminate their practice in a positive manner.
Consequently, we have taken this feedback and augmented our services with these ideas that doctor's offices have expressed as important to them. Now, if you are not interested in this level of exceptional benefits, we may not be the lab for you. We are not a simple pick-up and delivery amenity that offers only the things on your fundamental list -- and if that's all you feel you need, there is no need for further discussion. I will leave you to other priorities.
But before I go, let me give you some examples of what I mean (situation-dependent responses here):
The CDC has just released a notice about a revised HIV testing procedure that reduces false-negative results. Ultimately, it improves patient care, and it's something in which our clients have shown a great deal of interest. Let me share this brief article with you ...
Another example is a special billing policy we have for self-pay patients. Here is a pamphlet describing ...
Another illustration is how we can help your patients with phlebotomy. Our phlebotomist at the local Patient Service Center uses something called a "Vein Viewer" for patients with hard-to-find veins. It is a state-of-the-art instrument that helps our employee locate the vein's exact position before venipuncture. This technology avoids the discomfort of multiple attempts, creating a no-hassle experience for the patient. Patients frequently tell us they like to come to our draw center simply because we offer quick, technically competent service. No other laboratory in the area has this advanced equipment. We welcome you or anyone else from this office to visit our service center and see for yourself. (A personal invitation makes the discussion more personal and stronger).
The above conversation is only an example, of course, but the point is the field person employs provocative insights that create a thought-provoking case for the decision-maker or highly influential person who is a "mobilizer" (i.e., someone who can make things happen). This type of approach addresses both client- and patient-specific topics under the overarching umbrella of improving healthcare, adding convenience, controlling healthcare costs, etc. It is proactive and leading. It challenges the prevailing viewpoint that labs present only a simplistic, transactional service. Finally, it should be remembered that solution selling targets tactical client problems; however, insight selling targets strategic issues the client has not given much (or any) thought to.
In addition to "talk-the-talk," it remains paramount to "walk-the-walk." The representative must use handouts to substantiate various points through company-developed collateral and information from the Internet (e.g., CMS announcements). Additionally, vendors selling equipment, reagents, IT solutions, supplies, etc. to the rep's laboratory may have marketing pieces they could provide the field staff to support their specific products (possibly even co-branded). Along with written documentation, something as an innovative type of transport supply (shown in comparison to a competitor's) can be an effective sales aid when properly positioned (saves money, provides better healthcare, more efficient, etc.).
Gaining client background information and inquiring about problems will always exist as a first-tier ingredient of the solution/consultative sales process. Should a client voice certain concerns, the rep has an opportunity to move forward with providing solutions.
However, when the prospect overtly asserts contentment (a ubiquitous situation), the seller becomes frustrated and disappointed -- and loses advantage. Such salespeople may not have been sufficiently trained in insight selling. In addition, they may not have demonstrated enough personal initiative to "mine" all areas of their lab and to research the disparities of their competition. Medical personnel from the laboratory (or outside vendors or consultant) can educate the company's field staff on technical items such as clinical background information of certain tests, methodologies, disease states, journal abstracts, clinical guidelines, CMS and CDC announcements, improved transport supplies, unique internal testing protocols, etc. Prospective clients (even hospital-owned practices) may find a number of these things interesting and helpful to their situation. Additionally, it also amplifies and strengthens the marketer's industry knowledge, which projects confidence and competence when face-to-face with customers.
It is always wise to gain the trust of someone within a prospective account and have that individual "coach" the marketer. However, insight selling takes a different approach -- there is a reversal of roles: the salesperson should coach the client on how to buy a value-driven lab service. Clients cannot recognize a laboratory's high-value solutions without the salesperson's assistance. Those representatives who ignore this coaching role will find themselves defenseless in the face of "we're happy with our lab" comments, as well as price competition in client billing. A marketer performs his or her job well by expanding the client's thinking and helping the customer reach a high-value decision.
Understanding and practicing this concept of insight sales seems like a tall order. And it is. For those who feel it's not worth the time and effort, simply remember: your competitors may be practicing insight selling, and it could very easily win them the battle. You could be on the outside looking in -- still, yet, again.
Peter Francis is president of Clinical Laboratory Sales Training, LLC, a unique training and development company dedicated to helping laboratories increase their revenues and reputation through prepared, professional and productive representatives. He has published more than 35 articles and regularly speaks at national industry conferences. Visit www.clinlabsales.com for more information.