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Three Skills Healthcare Sales Representatives Need to Be Competitive

Improving win rate

2022 healthcare sales competencies

30 May 2023Blog

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Over 14,000 healthcare sales representatives completed Richardson Sales Training. After their experience, we asked them what additional training would be of value. Their answers represent the core skills needed to win in today’s competitive market. Here, we look at the top three.

1. Negotiation Skills for Healthcare Sales Representatives

Labor expenses in hospitals are up over 19%. Drug expense per patient is up almost 37%. This does not account for the revenue lost due to supply chain issues and rising inflation. At the mid-point of 2022, margins for hospitals became negative and are predicted to stay that way. This struggle prompted leaders to renew their focus on controlling costs while pursuing consolidation in some cases.  In this cost-conscious setting professional representatives need to be able to:

Establish the Value of the Relationship, Not Just the Solution

Negotiating starts before anyone discusses price. The negotiation begins when the customer starts to form their opinion of the representative. During early moments of the pursuit, the customer begins to see the professional representative in one of two ways. They see them as either a person trying to sell or a person trying to solve a problem. The most effective negotiators take this opportunity to present themselves as problem solvers.

Use the Principle of Control

Control is the skill of addressing customer demands without relinquishing valuable terms. Effective professional representatives do so by first converting the demand to a need. This skill is crucial because a demand is an ultimatum, but a need can be addressed in several ways. When the representative understands the underlying needs, they can explore several ways to address it. This also allows them to do so without reducing the price or scope of the sale.

Treat Value Persuasion as a Process

Professional representatives who develop rapport early create context for the give-and-take of negotiations. Additionally, representatives who take the time to understand the customer’s deeper needs early create a context for reinforcing value later. These practices must happen repeatedly because so many factors change over the course of the sale. Rapport must be built across numerous stakeholders.

2. Presentation Skills for Healthcare Sales Representatives

Research from ZS Associates determined that nearly half of prescribers restrict healthcare sales representatives from gaining access to them. In certain fields, like oncology, doctors only grant access to 19% of sellers. With these limitations, representatives need more meaningful and immediately impactful presentation skills. Representatives need to present information that connects to the stakeholder’s needs. Developing a presentation that wins means focusing on three skills: Developing a presentation that wins means focusing on three skills:

Right-size the Data    

Too much information can overwhelm the buyer. Unnecessary data forces the listener to sift what is relevant from what is not. This work distracts the physician or medical professional from seeing the value of the solution. The strength of the solution is not in the number of its features but in the degree to which a few features address the customer’s needs.

Focus on the Key Differentiators of the Solution

Differentiation is in the eyes of the customer, not the representative. Therefore, the professional representative must sense what the buyer thinks. They must view it as both different and relevant. A differentiator does not always need to be a patented technology or a protected piece of intellectual property.

Create a Messaging Snapshot

Creating messaging snapshots ensure that communication focuses on the critical business issues of the target audience. Additionally, they emphasise the key capabilities of the solution.  Like any narrative, a messaging snapshot has a flow in which each part builds on the last. First, the representative explains what they have learned about the customer’s challenges. Then, they discuss the emerging industry trends and their relevancy to those challenges. Finally, the representative shows how the solution addresses these issues, and how to measure its efficacy.

Read our brief to learn how to engage healthcare professionals using agile messaging

3. Consultative Selling Skills for Healthcare Sales Representatives

Many sellers have marketing content that does not speak to the specifics of the customers. According to research from Indegene, 55% of HCPs are overwhelmed by promotional content. This statistic illustrates an opportunity for sellers. By becoming more customer-centric, a representative will immediately stand out and earn the right to the HCP’s time. Survey data from Accenture shows that 88% of HCPs would be twice as likely to meet with reps who deliver a customised experience. Bringing this kind of engagement to customer interactions means doing three things:

Leading the Conversation with a Plan

Leading the conversation with a plan means knowing the HCP, the value of the solution, and the call plan. To know the HCP, representatives must understand the stakeholder’s core pain and its effects on the organisation. Knowing the value of the solution means understanding what solution differentiators resonate with the customer. Finally, knowing the call plan means focusing on a key objective. These include gaining access to decision-makers, quantifying the value of the solution, or building consensus among stakeholders.

Developing Agile Capabilities

The HCP’s buying journey never resembles a straight path. Therefore, the healthcare sales representative needs agility to move with the turns. Doing so means developing a mindset that welcomes change. The representative needs to use unexpected developments as opportunities to adjust their approach. They have an obligation to seize these changes and engage the stakeholders in a way that resonates with their new thinking.

Learn more about the benefits of using agility in our white paper “The Agile Sales Leader Playbook.”

Moving Through the Sale with Selling Sprints  

A selling sprint is a repeating, three-part approach to selling. These parts – prepare, engage, advance – enable the seller to move the sale forward. They allow sellers to continually learn about the customer. Additionally, sellers gain the customer's incremental commitment to next steps. Selling sprints provide structure for sellers as they achieve core selling objectives. This includes understanding the customer’s challenges, accessing stakeholders, creating a buying vision for the customer, establishing the value of the solution, and driving consensus. Download Richardson’s brochure to learn how to improve your win rate using Sprint Selling.

To help healthcare sales representatives, Richardson offers training programmes based on these skills. Explore our healthcare sales training programmes and learn how our customised, scientifically backed approach improves performance across entire organisations.

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