Training on Healthcare System Dynamics
Selling Skills – By Krista Gerhard
Mention “selling skills” to field reps, district managers or sales training professionals, and a few things immediately come to mind, including ability to listen, message delivery, objection handling, negotiation expertise and business acumen. But too often, what’s less front-of-mind is how these skills — and overall growth in today’s environment — hinge on a strong working knowledge of the dynamics of the healthcare system.
It’s clear that these dynamics are complex. Less evident is how field sales should navigate that complexity to drive growth.
Understanding the Playing Field
Sales team members typically understand the general key players in healthcare: payers, integrated delivery networks (IDNs), pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), large employers and so on. However, most will readily admit that they’re far less aware of how those players interrelate, how market dynamics drive their decisionmaking and how those decisions can directly impact the reps’ business at the local level.
A closer look reveals that those relationships can and do have a significant effect on any sales rep’s ability to increase market share.
For example, a physician’s prescription-writing decisions can be greatly influenced by the IDN of which he or she is a part. No amount of traditional selling skills will get around that.
In another case, a product may be covered by a major payer at the national level, but that coverage can be affected locally by regional carve-outs or PBM decisions.
This can dampen a rep’s ability to drive utilization without them being aware of it. Large employer groups may contract directly with healthcare systems in a given area, which triggers a whole different set of factors.
4 Steps to Growth
First, they need a more detailed understanding of how the key players in the healthcare system interrelate and make decisions. It’s not enough to simply know whom they’re dealing with; they need to know how they’re dealing. Second, they must be able to apply that understanding to their local markets. Third, they need the analytical skills to derive market insights and identify barriers to growth (or opportunities). And finally, they need to know how and when to coordinate with colleagues who may be in a better position to affect changes to the environment (such as members of cross-functional matrix teams who call on payers, PBMs, IDNs and other organized customers).
Sales reps and managers who have the skills mentioned above can act far more strategically than those who don’t. The reality is that market conditions demand that reps and managers bring these skills to their roles and that they are more strategic in leveraging their understanding of the business side of healthcare to drive growth.
Simply put: It’s not enough for field teams to just be super-competent at communicating clinical messages and deploying other traditional selling skills. They need to be empowered with the knowledge of the healthcare system, as well as the critical and strategic thinking skills needed to navigate and succeed in this rapidly evolving marketplace.
Prioritizing this type of learning may present a challenge for learning and development teams with so many competing brands and stakeholder requests. However, it’s a worthwhile investment for the team looking to drive considerable new value for the future.
Krista Gerhard is head of client services for Salience Learning. Email her at