Death of a solution salesman . . . and long live social business to support innovation in healthcare

Death of a solution salesman . . . and long live social business to support innovation in healthcare

What do salespeople do in the era of ubiquitous information?

In the past, adept B2B salespeople mastered the art of discovering customers’ needs and selling them “solutions”—generally, complex combinations of products and services. But these days, organizations have sophisticated procurement teams that, armed with Google, are well positioned to define solutions for themselves. So it certainly follows that a lot of research is done long before the vendor’s rep is engaged, and the role of sales is to co-ordinate a response to a well-structured RFP.

Recognizing this fundamental disruption in the B2B world, the summer issue of the Harvard Business Review touts the virtues of the new breed of sales professional:

  • They target agile organizations in a state of flux rather than those with a clear understanding of their needs.
  • They seek out skeptical change agents over friendly informants.
  • They coach those change agents on how to buy, instead of quizzing them about their company’s purchasing process.

The HBR article generated a flurry of comments from sales professionals.

Looking at the issues from the innovator’s perspective, it seems that “insight selling” is especially appropriate in environments where knowledge transfer is high and the problem is not clear (let alone the solution). For example, innovation procurement in healthcare.

A report by Dr. Gabriela Prada makes a compelling case for innovation procurement in healthcare as a key tool for achieving sustainability.

After all, small and large companies develop innovations to enhance the efficiency, safety, quality and productivity of health and healthcare services. If procurement’s job is to achieve the optimal balance between quality and price, it is difficult to get there without an accurate appraisal of the value of innovation. The recently launched EXCITE program starts to address the issue in the area of medical devices.

But practically speaking, where can these intelligent, dynamic conversations between vendors and customers take place?—How can a true collaboration between the customer , the designer and the marketier—take place? What people need is qualified information, and Business need to have the customer involved in the design of products and services as technology refresh cycles can now be count in months rather than years. This is  where social business media can play a pivotal role.

If I have a problem, I can do only limited Googling, and then I get tired and reach out to folks who may have seen the same problem, and seek their opinion.

In June 2012, MaRS launched the Healthcare Innovation Network, a convenient collaboration space for exactly  this kind of dialogue. The Healthcare Innovation Network is an online tool connecting experts working in different healthcare organizations in Ontario (and eventually Canada) allowing all members to contribute ideas, discuss best practices and source solutions.

Specifically, it will accelerate progress in three ways:

  • It engages the social network effect, allowing practitioners to discover inter-institutional expertise, share best practices and knowledge and find leading-edge solutions in the local and international marketplace.
  • It will allow the healthcare system to be more intimately involved in key product design, validation and commercialization.
  • It fosters social learning, allowing healthcare workers to co-ordinate activities
  • It will allow the system to share the role of evaluation, and procurement on a much larger and efficient scale.instead of procuring on hospital to hospital basis
  • Scales procurement will improve standards across the system and will save vendors time and save the system money