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  • The Collaborative Sale: Solution Selling in a Buyer Driven World
    The Collaborative Sale: Solution Selling in a Buyer Driven World
    by Keith M. Eades, Timothy T. Sullivan
  • The New Solution Selling: The Revolutionary Sales Process That is Changing the Way People Sell
    The New Solution Selling: The Revolutionary Sales Process That is Changing the Way People Sell
    by Keith M. Eades, Keith Eades
  • The Solution Selling Fieldbook: Practical Tools, Application Exercises, Templates and Scripts for Effective Sales Execution
    The Solution Selling Fieldbook: Practical Tools, Application Exercises, Templates and Scripts for Effective Sales Execution
    by Keith M. Eades, James N. Touchstone, Timothy T. Sullivan
  • The Solution-Centric Organization
    The Solution-Centric Organization
    by Keith M. Eades, Robert Kear
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Healthcare's Changing Business and Practice Models...Implications?

Authored by Brad Ansley, SPI Director, Life Sciences

In today’s healthcare environment both the business model and practice model for healthcare providers have changed. In keeping with the law of cause and effect, these changes have forced practitioners to re-calibrate their expectations of sales professionals in the healthcare market. Successful sales teams align themselves with these new expectations to deliver credible solutions to critical practice or patient issues that are based on the best available clinical evidence.

To understand what the new expectations are and how to align to them, we first need to look at the market pressures that are driving the changes.

From a business perspective physicians and healthcare organizations (providers) must improve patient outcomes while decreasing the cost of care to maximize reimbursement. This means focusing on coordinated care to decrease redundancy and waste. From a practice perspective, they are charged with using the latest clinical evidence to drive consistency and use of the best treatment practices. In fact, U.S. regulatory changes provide both “push” and “pull” pressure to drive providers to adopt this model.

To pull providers into the model, the Medicare Shared Savings program from the Department of Health and Human Services creates incentives for provider networks (i.e. Accountable Care Organizations or ACO’s) to take on financial risk for the care they deliver and the population they serve. In return these organizations can earn up to 50-60% of the cost of care savings that they create. To insure quality care these organizations must meet 33 specific quality standards within the year and meet several criteria like “… define, establish, implement, and periodically update its processes to promote evidence-based medicine”.

To push providers to this new model, U.S. regulators have amped up the production of clinical evidence to provide clinicians with the data they need to practice evidence-based medicine. In fact, new regulations called for the creation of the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) and allocated approximately $5B in funding over a 10 year period to fulfill their mandate. The “mandate of the PCORI is to improve the quality and relevance of evidence available to help patients, caregivers, clinicians, employers, insurers, and policy makers make informed health decisions.” This means a significant addition to the amount of clinical data available in the market.

In light of the additional emphasis on clinical data, consider this: in 1996 the British Medical Journal published an article that touted that “medical knowledge would increase four fold during a professional [medical] lifetime”. If multiple sources report that physicians are already overwhelmed with the amount of clinical data available, imagine the impact that an additional $5B in comparative effectiveness research (CER) will have on their ability to keep up with the latest clinical evidence.

So, what impact do these changes have on the expectations of providers in the healthcare market?  With limited time, an overload of clinical data and quality standards to meet, providers expect representatives to deliver value by doing more than selling a product.  They expect representatives to help them achieve success by having a higher level of customer intimacy or situational fluency.  This means understanding the organizations goals, treatment protocols, and practice characteristics as well as understanding the impact of any recommended changes on the organization.  They also expect representatives to have multiple touch points, marshal appropriate corporate resources and provide objective clinical support based in the principles of evidence-based medicine for any recommended solutions.  Keep in mind; physicians are trained in medical school on the process of evidence-based medicine to analyze clinical data for validity, statistical significance and clinical relevance.  Additionally, they are being held accountable to integrate this process in their overall practice.  However, in today’s fast paced environment, they have little time to incorporate EBM into their daily practice.   This is an opportunity for representatives to provide value to the provider.  In fact, a recent white paper titled Selling on Outcomes from Boston Consulting Group stated:  “Hospitals, drug companies, and device makers that cannot demonstrate that their procedures, medications, and products genuinely add value will suffer.  Winners, by contrast, will be those that build sustainable competitive advantage through better access to, and analysis of, clinical data; through deeper insight about how to improve outcomes.” 

Can your representatives accomplish this?  To answer this question, Life Sciences companies today are finding that the use of data analytics provides the needed understanding of the competencies that drive business.  Once understood, they can then assess the proficiency level of their sales team for those competencies.  This provides a clear, defensible picture of areas of developmental focus that can be measured.  Companies are also reviewing (or adapting) their sales process to make sure it is aligned with the new buying paradigm of healthcare stakeholders.  Additionally, these companies want to make sure that their representatives are speaking the language of their customer:  the language of evidence-based medicine.    

To learn more about how you can align your sales team to the new expectations of healthcare stakeholders click here.

Connect with Brad Ansley on LinkedIn today! >>> 


Clinical Conversations Matter!

If you’re a patient suffering from Type II Diabetes, which statement would you trust more to increase your quality of life? “My drug is the best because it stimulates the body to produce insulin,” or “In a clinical study titled, ‘Effects of a dietary supplement A on abnormal glucose levels in Type II Diabetes patients…,” published in New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Houser found that dietary supplement A effectively regulates blood sugar levels with fewer side effects than therapies X, Y, and Z in patients suffering from Type II Diabetes.” For most patients, health care providers (HCPs) and clinical sales professionals, the latter elicits objectivity, adds genuine value, and instills confidence, which lead to fostering credibility. And yet, only a fraction of the life sciences sales professionals have evolved from the ostentatious “American pharmaceutical [and medical device] salesperson” to the trusted clinical advisor.

In a world where health care is becoming increasingly personalized, the need for objectivity in treatment outcomes is critical. Clinical conversations founded on the principles of Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) minimize the risk of prescribing treatments based on biased research and/or clever sales tactics, and truly focus on the best possible care solutions for the patient. The 2014-2015 Sermo Survey results indicate that HPCs want to engage in clinical conversations with sales professionals who provide meaningful and unbiased information “using a high science sales approach that seamlessly incorporates clinical study results into a dialog to address specific issues concerning each physician’s practice.” A clinical sales professional who is committed to objectively presenting relevant clinical data in support of a care solution will be recognized among his peers and valued by HCPs.

The question that life sciences sales professionals should address, is how can they provide value in a technology-driven environment where approximately 94% of HCPs use smartphones and 77% use iPads for personal and/or professional needs? The majority of those same physicians (55%) desire for their sales reps to engage with them virtually. HCPs are zealous for clinical conversations grounded in EBM and focused on clinical research. Evidence shows that clinical sales representatives who leverage technology to engage is such clinical conversations will add value and excel in what some critics have touted “a dying profession.”

Synonyms of “credibility” include words like trustworthiness, reliability, dependability, reputation, and integrity. To embody these characteristics, clinical sales professionals must be objective in presenting clinical evidence and consistently add value when engaging in clinical conversations. According to Hoovers, to achieve the status of a trusted advisor, sellers in general must understand their audience, be relevant to the buyer, and approach the sale organically. For clinical sales professionals, this means researching your target HCPs and their patient demographic, sharing clinical data that is germane to their practice, and understanding how your product fits within their current treatment paradigm.

Recent market trends suggest that clinical sales representatives can still add value, but the days of the sales rep who walks into a clinical setting, drops off a business card and a few drug samples, and receives a call back from an enthusiastic physician are long gone. In today’s changing health care environment, the “hybrid” clinical sales representative who leverages technology to connect and share unbiased, relevant information will add value and ultimately become the sought-after trusted advisor.

To learn more, visit


Analytics, analytics, analytics!

Authored by Scott Runkle, SPI Sales Consultant

SPI attended the Sales Management Association’s fourth annual Sales Force Productivity Conference in Atlanta, Ga. Held each fall, the conference serves as the centerpiece of the Sales Management Association’s event calendar, with topics ranging from sales strategy, alignment and operations effectiveness to motivation, incentives and organic growth priorities.

SPI executives, Dave Christofaro, Director of Sales Talent Optimization, and Dr. Shane Douthitt, Director of Sales Talent Analytics, gave the keynote presentation at the conference. They focused on how sales leaders could overcome the odds, meet or exceed goals and increase ROI, providing the audience with a clear understanding of how to objectively assess sales talent and measure the ROI of sales training and enablement. Mr. Christofaro and Dr. Douthitt also led an interactive workshop and presented a concurrent session titled “Increase the Quality of Sales Hires by up to 67 percent.”

Mr. Christofaro identified two themes that arose for him during his time at the conference: (1) the overuse of the word “analytics” and (2) weak foundations.

“It seems that the biggest struggle for a sales executive seeking a solution best aligned with their company’s strategic initiatives would be the huge amount of vendors marketing their platform as analytics-based,” states Mr. Christofaro. “The overuse creates confusion on what analytics really are.” There are four levels of analytics - gap analysis, correlation, regression and structural equations modeling; only structural equations modeling shows causation. As can be seen in the figure below, the other approaches are based on guesses and assumptions but not truly driven by data nor analytics.

Next, Mr. Christofaro recalls a conversation he had at the conference with a head of sales in which the gentleman fully admitted that the criteria/model by which his company had to develop or hire people was weak. “Unless you start with a sales competency model, then you have a weak foundation,” says Mr. Christofaro. “If you’re using an off-the-shelf personality assessment for sales hiring, you have a weak foundation. If you’re trying to develop people and you haven’t defined what good looks like, you have a weak foundation. We urge companies to put in place a role-based sales competency model (strong foundation). That’s the starting point for everything related to sales talent.”

With regards to the sales competency model portion of the presentation, Mr. Christofaro noted that many attendees were seeking the silver bullet; several asked which competencies were most important. “A one-size-fits-all competency model is flawed. It’s important to keep in mind that each company is unique, and its competency model should be as well,” affirms Mr. Christofaro.

When working with its clients, SPI assesses and analyzes a team to statistically identify critical competencies for that particular team. During the conference discussion, it was apparent that the majority of attendees conducted personality assessments, a few tested on knowledge and even fewer used behavioral assessments (and these were never tailored for the business). “In essence, it’s as if these individuals are saying that they’re going to take whatever shoes you give them and wear those even though they aren’t individualized to the company or the role,” says Mr. Christofaro. “So you’re starting with a flawed, generic model rather than defining what size shoes you should wear and using that as the basis moving forward. Sales initiatives based off of a weak foundation won’t be effective.”

When SPI discussed hiring new sales talent, it was evident that most of the attendees conducted unstructured interviews, utilizing either random questions or a generic personality assessment. SPI warned of the ineffectiveness of unstructured interviews. According to Mr. Christofaro, “You might as well take a coin out of your pocket and flip it because the likelihood that you’ll find the right person is as statistically good. This analogy really resonated with the audience and we saw many heads nod in agreement.”

The solution to weak foundations and flawed models? A truly analytics-driven, one-size-fits-ONE approach (based on structural equations modeling). SPI’s approach uniquely identifies the specific causal drivers of sales performance for each organization. Through advanced analytics, sales leaders can statistically prove, based on analytics, which sales and leadership competencies drive business results. With this powerful insight, sales leaders can provide targeted development plans for each individual to accelerate and optimize business results and ROI. Isn’t that what everyone is truly seeking?

To learn more, visit:

Connect with Scott on LinkedIn >>>


Thriving in a Sea of Change; Selling in the Post ACA World

Authored by Mark Hood, Life Sciences Consultant at SPI

Sales success in today’s life sciences market comes to those individuals who are nimble and able to adapt their selling approach to a changing market.  The healthcare market is a fluid environment, stretched to capacity by emerging competitive threats, expanding industry dynamics, and constricting regulatory changes.

Expiring patents coupled with a lack of new blockbuster drugs are eroding profits and stifling growth in the pharmaceutical field while medical device firms continue to consolidate and outsource R&D overseas. An ever increasing aging populations coupled with an exploding rate of chronic disease states has forced biotechnology, pharma, and medical device, firms into an accelerated sense of focus in order to react to this new challenge. Finally, the ACA, (Affordable Care Act), is expected to provide healthcare to more than 30 million new patients in FY 2014 under a smothering mound of governmental regulation. The 2.3% medical device tax is funding the vast changes we are experiencing; no wonder your quota continues climb!

How does one reach or exceed his or her sales target in the midst of such chaos?  Many of our clients are thriving in this new paradigm by providing solution oriented offerings that improve patient outcomes.  Demonstrated outcomes grounded in clinical evidence allow sellers to navigate this tumultuous environment aligning with nurses, physicians, administrators, and “C” level executives.

Imagine possessing the Situational fluency that allows you to have conversations with healthcare practitioners, (HCP’s), managers, and executives, citing evidence, and driving outcomes-based solutions to key business issues.

Evidence-Based Medicine is a key component in building situational fluency in today’s healthcare environment. In fact, the ACGME requires certification in evidence based medicine for all post graduate medicine programs. Additionally, ACO’s must demonstrate the use of evidence based medicine in order to maintain accreditation.

In closing, know that in a sea of change, Evidence-Based Solution Selling® arms you with the knowledge and fluency to separate yourself from your peers and have unique, cogent, and relevant, conversations with HCP’s and administrators alike.

Mark Hood, Life Sciences Consultant, Sales Performance InternationalTo learn more about how your sales team can successfully and consistently sell to all levels of the healthcare decision tree and demonstrate fluency around evidence and outcomes, click here.

Would you like to talk with an expert? Connect with Mark Hood via LinkedIn:



Conquering the Fear of the Unknown Sales Candidate

Written by Dave Christofaro, Director, Sales Talent Optimization

Last week I had a conversation with the SVP of Sales Operations for a multi-billion dollar, global company.  They need to hire hundreds of new sales reps over the next 6-9 months as they revamp their sales force.  Their market has changed so much over the past 5 years — and it’s going to continue — that they expect upwards of 35-40% attrition.  But they’re dealing with a potentially derailing cultural challenge; sales managers are holding onto under-performing reps because they’d rather deal with the certainty of what they have, rather than the uncertainty of trying to hire a replacement rep.

Although the SVP’s comment just doesn’t make good business sense, I understand that hiring talented sales professionals is indeed a daunting task for managers.  First, there’s a global shortage (per Manpower’s annual Talent Shortage Survey).  Second, sales is such a complex role that the full suite of competencies, attributes and experience is tough to find.  And finally, sales people sell themselves well, which make it difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.  So how does sales leadership conquer this fear of the unknown sales candidate and make better hiring decisions?  By obtaining better data and applying Sales Talent Analytics. 

First, you need better data.  For many companies, data about candidates is based on the results of a personality assessment, plus subjective feedback from unstructured interviews.  Personality assessments have their place, but their effectiveness is limited since they typically only account for 3-5% of the variance in performance.  The most impactful way to get better data is by using structured behavioral interview guides aligned to sales skills.  These skill-focused guides have the greatest impact on improving validity of the hiring process; a 4x increase!  Next, reduce the reliance on subjective feedback by gathering objective data on the candidate.  Sales knowledge assessments (i.e., situational judgment) are one tool for gathering objective data, by testing an individual’s knowledge of sales best-practices.  And of course, historical sales performance data is another form of objective data.

To cut through the complexity of the skill set and pinpoint exactly which 2 or 3 competencies or attributes are most important, apply Sales Talent Analytics.  This sales-specific form of analytics will statistically identify the competencies of your top-performers that set them apart from the rest of the team.  With this insight, sales leadership can narrow their interview process and tools on what is proven to drive success at their company. 

Dave Christofaro, Director of Sales Talent OptimizationBetter data, combined with Sales Talent Analytics, is statistically proven to improve the quality of new sales hires by up to 67%.  So rather than fear the unknown sales candidate, leverage the technology of today’s information age to conquer those fears.  

To learn more, visit:

Connect with Dave on LinkedIn >>>