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A Post-HIMSS Checklist to Fixing Sales & Marketing

This week at HIMSS, it once again became painfully clear through a chance encounter how broken the sales and marketing model is. I had just finished a lunch meeting and was doing a quick email check when a gentleman approached me and interrupted my brief, heads-down moment.

“ReviveHealth?” he said. “You’re a health system?”

No, I explained to him – we’re an integrated marketing agency, focused just on healthcare.

“That’s OK: you’re in Nashville. So you’re in my region. I have something that will really help your company out in communicating to your physicians.”

“I’m sorry,” I interrupted; “we’re not a health system. We don’t employ physicians.”

“You’re in my region,” he repeated amiably, and without any further attention to my role or organization, he proceeded to clumsily (but enthusiastically) sell me on a physician email service that promised to change the entire way I do business.

(Let’s call him Peg – Physician Email Guy.)

I reiterated that this isn’t a relevant service for us, but Peg was dogged, insisting that everyone – health system or not – needs access to physicians email addresses. Taking pity on him, I allowed him to take my card at the end of the flawed sales effort, and heard him turn to his colleague and say, “let’s get her in Salesforce right away!”

Ah, me. Somewhere in his company’s post-HIMSS sales efforts, I’ll have unwittingly supported Peg’s HIMSS sales goals, my name will be inputted as a marketing-qualified or sales-qualified lead in Salesforce, I’ll get ushered into a Pardot or Hubspot campaign, and I’ll spend the next week struggling to unsubscribe.

What a mess. But I suppose this story isn’t new to you. So coming out of the biggest health IT event in the world, how do you fix the broken relationship between sales, marketing, and the customer experience for the rest of the year?

Here are five best practices to build a highly effective sales and marketing strategy for the post-HIMSS17 era – and beyond.

1. Focus on value, not quotas.

Every marketing or sales effort must begin with a commitment to deliver value to your audiences – teach them something, delight them with information, uncover a problem they hadn’t yet recognized. This only works if you know what is interesting or important to them; so start there.

Peg was the ultimate offender. If he really wanted to start selling his services into marketing or consulting shops, he should have done a bit of discovery. What do I care about? What are my priorities? From there, he could have engaged meaningfully and earned my attention – because when I get value from someone, sales person or not, I go back to them.

2. Make it about the customer’s business need.

Trade shows, especially HIMSS, fall down on this repeatedly. They create an echo-chamber of jargon and vague terminology. Yes, health systems need their data to be optimized – but why? Yes, interoperability is crucial – but how does that help them manage the bottom line? When you truly and deeply understand your customer’s business need, it becomes much easier to make a case for why you can help.

For example, if Peg had done a little due diligence on me or ReviveHealth, perhaps he would have learned that we do plenty of original research, we represent health systems like Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and we take a data-driven approach to strategy – and he could have customized a pitch on how his data could help us reach out directly to physicians as part of our research methodology. Alas.

3. Understand the customer journey.

Let’s imagine for a moment that Peg’s offering wasn’t just an email service, but instead a complex offering with a long, 12-to-18-month sales cycle. (Sound familiar?) We’ve all heard that in B2B marketing, you need somewhere between seven and 13 touches to deliver a qualified sales lead. But when? Where? How? With what message?

Peg’s marketing colleagues are setting him up for failure if they don’t map this out for him, complete with guidance on which influencer to engage at which point, and which pieces of content and personalized case studies to use at each stage. Creating a customer journey map is a win-win-win, because not only can it accelerate the sales cycle, it creates rich content for thought leadership and drives organizational alignment around common messages and goals.

4. Realize the C-suite isn’t a single block.

We work with a lot of health technology and services companies selling into the C-suite of health systems, health plans, and employers. But if you think it’s that simple, then there’s the answer to why your sales team isn’t hitting their goals.

When Peg goes into a complex sale, he likely needs very different value propositions readymade for each audience – backed up with case studies and references for each. We know that Chief Nursing Officers have very different priorities and motivators than Chief Information Officers. And perhaps more interesting, we’re finding that even similar roles – like informatics and IT leaders – care about different things as well.

5. Guide, don’t sell.

This will be easy if you’ve accomplished and institutionalized the above four best practices – in fact, it will be inevitable. But it’s not just about you: this also means leaning on your existing customers. Turn your case studies into powerful stories and anecdotes; show your prospect that they’re not the first organization undergoing this decision-making process.

For marketing leaders, the days after HIMSS should be a time for refocusing. While the sales teams follows up on the leads, you can reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and how to build a focused approach to carry you up to next year’s HIMSS and beyond.

(And Peg, if you’re out there reading this, I’m sorry – but thanks for the blog idea!)

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