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How do Buyers in Health Services Differ From Other Industries?

May 12, 2015

By Andrew Macey


For any sales organization, understanding the buyer is most important.  This is why so much time is spent on developing personas and mapping out a buyer’s journey.  Aligning marketing content and campaigns with the typical behaviors of your target audience will undoubtedly result in an increase in qualified leads and sales.  For most B2B companies, buyers travel through a common sales cycle, which can be easily to adapted to.  In healthcare, however, buyers are different.  

As product or service provider, selling to healthcare organizations can be a real challenge.  Often, these buyers are inundated with sales calls and emails daily, which leads to a very competitive landscape.  Furthermore, the process in which health services buyers do their research and facilitate the sale is unlike many other verticals.  To effectively sell into this market, we must knows these differences and align our sales and marketing process correctly.

Understanding Timing

The most obvious difference with health services buyers is the time it takes to complete a sale.  Most buyers in healthcare are risk-averse and do not move very fast when researching new products or services.  Because of the numerous solutions available, there are often many products in the running, which are being weighed against one another.  This competition elongates each stage of the typical buyer’s journey and gives the buyer many more options to consider.  

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Additionally, health services have very different budget cycles.  Where many B2B companies can purchase solutions throughout the year, healthcare organizations deal in fiscal year budgets.  This means that if a product is being evaluated currently, it has to be able to fit into the next year’s budget.  Depending on when their year ends, this can significantly delay the close of a deal.

Internal Decision Makers

Another major difference is the decision-making process within health services companies.  Whereas many organizations have one key decision-maker, healthcare companies utilize committees.  This not only makes the process a lot slower, but adds many personalities into the sales process.  When a solution is being evaluated, there is a committee that has been tasked with researching and eventually endorsing one product to move forward with.  As you can imagine, these committees come with many questions and considerations, and rarely result in a unanimous decision early one.  Much like a jury, this group must all agree before taking next steps.  It does not stop there, however.  Once the committee has given a thumbs up, the final decision is to be made by an executive, either CEO or CFO, and in some cases, even the board.  To best prepare for these necessary steps, be sure to understand what this process looks like from the very beginning and find an internal champion to help sell from within.  

An Alternative Buying Option

In some cases, health services companies do not do the final purchasing themselves.  Many organizations utilize a Buying Group, or GPO, which helps to facilitate and negotiate contracts on their behalf.  If your leads use buying groups, it can  be helpful to understand at what point they get involved and what that process looks like internally.  It can still be advantageous to work with an internal employee as someone in favor of your situation who can help to encourage your solution.

Plan For Success

Now that we’ve discussed specifically how healthcare buying decisions are made, it’s important to adjust accordingly.  First and foremost, restructure your sales process to match your leads.  If you find that a particular set of leads have the same fiscal year, keep that in mind during sales conversations and follow-ups.  Additionally, as marketers, it is important to schedule outreach campaigns with these dates in mind.  

Lead nurturing can also be reworked to better align with these buyer behaviors.  Look into your recent closed business and identify common milestones and how long it took for them to be completed.  This timeframe can guide your nurturing emails and messaging and increase effectiveness of emails as well.  

Finally, be sure to know your competitions.  As the buying process is much longer in healthcare, there is a lot more time for competitors to be discovered and spoken to.  Additionally, as committees guide most of the decision-making process, they will most likely evaluate not just the solutions but the companies as a whole.  Conduct in-depth competitive analysis and identify talking points around your solution and company when compared to others.  

If your company sells products or services to the healthcare industry, be sure to do your due diligence and understand uniquely how your audience buys.  Knowing this information early in the sales process will allow you to adjust accordingly and increase the smoothness in your sales cycle.


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Topics: Marketing Strategy, Buyer Personas, Sales Enablement, Healthcare