The Driver, the Navigator, and the Toll Collector

It sounds like the beginning line of a great joke, right? The formula is familiar. You’re expecting a funny story with three distinct characters. One character is clearly in charge (the Driver). One is determining the route (the Navigator). And of course, no joke would be complete without a potential spoiler (the Toll Collector). The only thing that might be missing to make this a legit joke is the added phrase “walk into a bar.”

But as strange as this sounds, this correlates nicely with what we saw in our recent research on health plan buyers and is a pretty spot-on analogy for what many of our health tech clients face when attempting to sell [their product or service] into health plans.

Findings from our research on health plan buyers show us that those who have a role in making tech purchases at health plans feel satisfied with the ease of the decision-making process for buying tech solutions (89% satisfied). Additionally, 89% also agree that everyone’s role in the decision-making process is clear.

The research confirmed our practical experience in helping our clients sell into the plan space. Unlike other sub-sectors of the industry, health plans probably have the simplest buyer ecosystem to understand. You just need to understand some of the different roles and make sure you’re interacting accordingly. And hopefully, our three-character story helps to simplify.

So, let’s start with character number one, the Driver.

We can all relate to this character. She or he is simply the person trying to successfully get their car to the proper and final destination. In the world of health plan buyers, this is the business (or P&L) owner. Their goal, and their own performance measurement, is very clear and focused on delivering business results. For health tech companies this means you need a believable story on the business value you promise and the proof to back it up – hopefully in the form of real success stories.

Our Advice: The Driver should usually be your primary target and will be the role [persona] who will be your internal quarterback (or not).


Next, we have the Navigator.

The Navigator can be likened to role of health plan IT decision-makers. I like to compare their function to that of WAZE (that’s right, the popular navigation app). IT is charged with determining the optimal way to get the driver from point A to point B. While they don’t determine the final endpoint, they CAN determine how the Driver gets there. Their expert understanding of the enterprise tech landscape allows them to identify the best path to get the driver to their destination. While they can be advocates for a particular route, like WAZE, they are wired to focus on avoiding trouble-spots in reaching the final destination. They don’t usually have incentive to force a particular path – rather, it’s about an efficient path that avoids hazards.

Our Advice: Health tech companies should view the Navigator as a skeptic, looking for threats and reasons to say NO to a particular solution. Your job is to show them how your solution minimizes their risk (time, cost, compatibility, etc.).


And last, we have the Toll Collector.

You can probably easily guess who this is! In the world of health plans, this is the Procurement persona. Procurement is about making sure that those using the road, so to speak, pay the appropriate toll. The toll comes in the form of ensuring a standard buying process and of course, cost efficiency. But typically, for unique tech purchases, we don’t see procurement playing the major decision-making role.

Our Advice: Ensure you pay respect to the Toll Collector – of course, you’ll have to negotiate. But, if you have the Driver and the Navigator on your side, the Toll Collector will simply collect the change.


My bet is you might have taken issue with my earlier characterization that “health plans probably have the simplest buyer ecosystem to understand.” The truth of this statement is in that they are simple to understand – and while making the sale is far from easy, by interacting with decision-makers in the right way, you’ll increase your chances of success.

To learn more about our research on health plan buyers, join us for our webinar on September 26th for a sneak peek into the only research of its kind, which will leave you with a new way of thinking about your buyer set.

September 12, 2019
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