So, if patients are customers, how do you sell to them?

by Arlen Meyers

So, if patients are customers, how do you sell to them?

Consumerization of sick care is on everyone’s lips. I think patient consumerism, i.e. the belief that if given the right information, patient-consumers will make smart sick care choices based on value , is a myth.

However, since the holy grail is changing doctor and patient behavior to move sick care to healthcare, we should learn from other industry sales professionals about the best way to sell disease prevention, chronic disease management and compliance behaviors to patients. We are rapidly moving from telling to selling patients so we need to learn the tools of the trade.

So how do we get patients to be better shoppers? How about paying them? Researchers found that while only 8 percent of enrollees used the price shopping tools, that was enough to save payers around $2.3 million in the 12 months examined in the study (equal to a 2.1 percent reduction in the average price paid for services). When factoring in administration costs, the program savings totaled around $8 per enrollee over 12 months.

If you go to the next meeting of the Sales Enablement Society, here’s what you are going to learn from people with titles that will be strange to you.

Sales enablement is the process of providing the sales organization with the information, content, and tools that help sales people sell more effectively. The foundation of sales enablement is to provide sales people with what they need to successfully engage the buyer throughout the buying process. A big part of sales enablement involves equipping sales people with information they can use in sales cycles. This information might take the form of customer-facing content, sales best practices, and tools to name just a few examples. Regardless of the form the information takes, it needs to be easy to consume and reusable across the sales organization.

One of the sickcare jobs of the future will the be Director of Sales Operations, overseeing patient sales enablement. Here are 5 sales enablement best practices. In the case of sick care. that means you will need:

  1. Clearly defined KPIs e.g. better outcomes, experience and equity at less cost
  2. Data and analytics to subsegment the market by demographics and psychographics
  3. Improving the patient buying experience and the sales force selling experience
  4. Sales force training and development
  5. Creating high impact content and sales/marketing collateral
  6. Better marketing-sales integration and handoffs
  7. Sales operations monitoring the results and making the necessary adjustments
  8. Measuring the ROI
  9. Designing appropriate sales people compensation schemes
  10. Creating the most appropriate sales organizational structure and deciding whether to make or buy sales people

Here are 5 other things great sales people do. Unfortunately, most doctors don’t get sales and marketing.

Like the case in situational leadership, you need to practice situational sales enablement depending on the ability and willingness and confidence of the patient consumer.

Of course, solving every new challenge in sick care requires hiring new managers with many many multiples of the salary of those actually taking care of the patients. Thus, the rise of chief data officers and chief patient officers.

Medical marketing has grown, particularly direct to consumer pharmaceutical advertising and there are unique challenges when doctors and others stakeholders try to market to patients. Errant marketing efforts erodes trust and might run afoul of regulatory requirements and professional standards.

Patient sales will require rethinking the present structure of what we now call healthcare marketing and patient engagement. A recent add read, “If customers longer trust you, they are no longer your customers” If we are going to rename patients as customers, then we should treat them like customers and learn how to sell , instead of tell them, what’s best for them.

 
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Arlen MyersArlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at www.sopenet.org and co-editor of Digital Health Entrepreneurship

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