I’ve talked a lot about sales adages that miss the mark—but one that tends to be pervasive among digital health startups is this: “Talk to anyone who will listen.”
Don’t get me wrong; sales is not an industry to be shy. But you can spin your wheels chasing after misaligned leads and never get anywhere: Too often, startups try to work laterally or too low in the hierarchy with deals stalling out or dying because the org chart is so massive and the politics so entrenched—especially in a complex health system.
That’s why I always emphasize the importance of finding and pursuing the ideal client entry point. Patiently awaiting contact with those in the decisionmakers’ immediate orbit is a much better use of time, and it also accelerates the sales cycle.
Determining the Ideal Entry Point
The ideal entry point represents the person most likely to carry your solution through to implementation, and it’s typically a clinical or business champion, like a physician or director. They’re the people you want to start with from the outset, rather than a close contact down the chain or in the wrong department who you hope can get you to the right person eventually.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that point person will always answer your outreach. If they’re not, consider these tips:
1. Go one degree removed.
If you can’t get on your point person’s radar, try their boss. Do you have any investors or partners connected to that person? If that doesn’t work, go one person down the ladder, but resist going farther down the pecking order than that. And lastly, you can try approaching the contact laterally through a peer from another department or group, but keep in mind this next point:
2. Beware of internal politics.
Most people coming from outside an organization can’t fully appreciate the petty politics that affect major decisions—so if you’re hitching your wagon to one contact, know that you’re also attaching yourself to all of the political ramifications associated with them. Even if a champion is smitten with you, the deal can’t go far if they have no political currency internally. Try to sniff out potential red flags in casual conversations with prospects before deciding they’re your entry point.
3. Find innovation champions.
Many healthcare systems have people responsible for procuring and advocating for new digital solutions—and these can be perfect entry points because they’re well established and connected to decisionmakers throughout the organization. Look for buzzwords like “innovation” and “digital health” in job titles.
4. Approach as a partner.
The word “sales” has a stink to it, but everybody loves a partnership. If you approach prospects from a mutually beneficial standpoint, it’s a little more palatable and easy for contacts to continue talking. Or start the conversation from an exploratory place. You could say, for example, “Look, I’m not trying to sell you a thing. Will you just help me understand more about your organization or other health systems?”
Patience is a Virtue
It’s okay to be eager, but action bias can bedevil us all. Effective sales leaders are willing to do what it takes to identify, network, and connect with the ideal client entry point. Though it may be hard to muster up the patience, it’s worth it in the long-run: It can take months or even years to undo the damage of going after the wrong person.
But I promise, get that right person to pick up the phone, and you’ll be thankful you held out as long as you did.
Have a question about your sales process? Reach out and ask us!