Selling 101 from Lennox Huang

Lennox Huang, MD 
Chief Medical Officer, VP Medical & Academic Affairs
The Hospital for Sick Children

Selling A Solution:

1. Consider the Decision Maker’s Pain Points

Understanding your prospects’ business pain is key. The better your understand, the better your ability will be to service their needs. A customer may call in with a simple issue like, “I can’t access my wireless router.” A very simple answer could be “reset your router”. However, the same challenge could be the result of a larger business pain. Perhaps their wifi network isn’t producing a signal. This can lead to a considerable amount of lost productivity. It would only be through probing questions and simply inquiring as to the extent of the challenge that you can gain a better grasp of the prospects needs.

2. Engage, Then Inform

When first contacting your prospect, ensure your message targets the business pains the prospect is facing right at the beginning. You want to try to capture that person’s eye (or ear) right away whether it be via email, InMail or telephone. The goal is to encourage your prospect to read and/or hear more about what you have to offer.

3. Focus on Solutions, not Products

A product or service sale results from solving a problem. Whether it be a person or a company, you don’t buy the bottle of vitamin water because you like the colour. You purchase it as a means to quench your thirst. The drink is a solution to being thirsty.

4. Highlight Your Differences

Just because your solution can solve their business challenge, it doesn’t mean you have the only solution on the market. You need to be able to position yourself against your competitors and convince the prospect that your solution is the best one. Be sure to highlight how you can help, your differences and be specific. Don’t make statements like, “We have the best customer service.” These statements mean little and are overused. Add some quantitative measures into your pitch. This could be a customer service rating or perhaps a link to the product reviews on Google+ or Yelp.

A better example is:

“We have 12 customers in the healthcare space and on average each customer we have been able to reduce their utility expenses by 54% with no capital cost. This is a tremendous savings.”

The other point to make is that even if there is is not a direct competitor to your solution, remember, there are indirect competitors and everyone is vying for a share of the budget.

5. Sell the true value

We often recommend to customers that when building your value proposition focus your attention on hitting core items that show a business value. We believe a solid value proposition needs to be underpinned on one or more of these four fundamental business drivers.

  1. Drive revenues
  2. Reduce expenses
  3. Create an efficiency
  4. Mitigate a risk

When building your story, quantitatively include metrics that would resonate with the customer and are hitting on one or more of the four key areas above. One of our industrial clients has developed a new solution to an industrial challenge that is 50% more expensive. The traditional solution cost $500,000 while their new solution cost $750,000. That sounds negative, but it isn’t. In this case, when the customer needs to have this aspect of their plant fixed, it costs $1 million per day when the operation is down. Under the traditional method, to repair and then get this part of the plant up and running again it can take 6 to 10 days. So that downtime cost is between $6 and 10 million plus the $500,000. The new solution reduces plant downtime to 3 days. So the total downtime cost of the new solution is $3 million plus the $750,000. So what is the better option for the plant owner – $6.5 million as a best case using traditional technology or $3.75 million using this new solution? The answer is pretty clear but the key here is that you have to explore the whole story, the real value to the customer.

When the answer is no…..

You identified a problem and you framed it in terms of the organization’s strategic priorities.  You proposed a solution that promised meaningful improvement and a positive ROI. Unfortunately, organizational decision makers did not agree to fund the proposal.

Now what?

You might decide to give up and not pursue the initiative, but if you truly believe the proposed intervention will improve patient care, there are other options.

  1. Work to gain a better understanding of why the proposal was rejected.  It is most helpful to understand from the decision maker what the perceived weaknesses are. If you have identified a champion/advocate for the proposed intervention, that person may be willing to seek answers from the decision maker. If that is not possible, seek insights from someone who is one level below the decision maker.
  2. Some common considerations:
    • Were all the relevant stakeholders included in the proposal? Whose perspectives are missing?
    • Was the problem and the proposed solution truly and visibly aligned with the organization’s strategic plan?
    • Is the proposed intervention feasible? Is the implementation plan reasonable?
    • Were the proposed outcomes/ metrics meaningful and appropriate to the intervention?
    • Is the timeline reasonable?
    • Is the ROI/ economic analysis realistic
    • Is the intervention sustainable?
  3. Are there competing demands that supersede your proposal
    • You may have a great proposal, but there may be competing priorities that are more pressing than the problem that you have identified. In that case, you may need to modify your timeline but use the interval to strengthen the proposal.
  4. When you resubmit:
    • Ensure that all key stakeholders have reviewed and support the proposal
    • Identify champions or advocates who have influence with the decision maker and support the need to address the problem urgently as well as the proposed solution.
    • Identify that the proposed metrics are meaningful and realistic
    • Seek outside expertise, if needed, to ensure that the ROI calculation is appropriate.

Go back to Identify a Decision Maker or…

When ready move on to Measure Outcomes and Milestones.