Posted by on Jan 10, 2020 in Integrated Marketing, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Acquiring Lab Customers: Demystifying the B2B Sales Process

Brandwidth Solutions - Acquiring Lab Customers: Demystifying the B2B Sales Process

by Larry Worden and Deb Harrsch

Do you know why you lost that big sale to the hospital lab? Chances are you don’t. Not really. All you know is that you submitted the RFI/RFP response and…nothing.

MDxI (Market Diagnostics International) surveyed a sampling of laboratories and found that the main reasons vendors weren’t chosen to provide services were:

  • Failure to meet the basic requirements of an RFI/RFP
  • Delays and lack of focus on the customer’s evaluation process
  • Absence of a solid relationship with decision makers
  • Ability to meet the customer’s requirements efficiently and economically
  • Challenges in prior service delivery
  • Aggressive sales tactics or personnel
  • Lack of appropriate assays

If anything here rings a bell for you, then you’ll want to dig into the following information.

How Customers Make Buying Decisions in Hospital Systems and Laboratories

M&A in the hospital and laboratory space has increased in the last several years, leading to fewer opportunities due to consolidation. But, the vendor selection process hasn’t changed. The length of the buying decision for lab and hospital laboratory systems has also remained the same – a nine-to-24-month time frame.

MDxI reports that virtually all labs have a similar 13-step process for identifying needs and potential vendors, producing RFIs & RFPs, evaluating vendors, and ultimately choosing a supplier. As a sales rep, you’ll want to study this process to ensure that you understand what your target customers will expect from you.

Behind the Scenes in the Lab – 13 Steps to Successful Vendor Selection

  1. Identifying the Need: Lab staff drives the process when older equipment needs replacing.
  2. Establishing an Evaluation Team: Participating team members typically include the lab manager, section supervisor and key medical technologists. Team members may also include the medical director and an IT representative. The lab manager is the team lead.
  3. Gathering Preliminary Information: Team members research and identify potential vendors through web searches, laboratory trade shows and conferences, and conversations with lab colleagues.
  4. Notifying Potential Vendors: Once the evaluation team has qualified a selection of vendors, they invite those companies to present to the team.

When can you ask to be included in the evaluation process? If your company already sells to the lab in question, or if you have developed a relationship with the potential customer, you can ask to be included in the evaluation process at this stage.

  1. Developing and Prioritizing Evaluation Criteria: The team will create a categorized list of requirements in order of importance.
  2. Issuing the RFI: During this key phase, all potential vendors are provided the lab’s list of requirements. You may need to visit the lab to ensure your company thoroughly understands the lab’s layout and workflows. You must make detailed recommendations on how your solutions will address the customer’s needs.
  3. Sourcing Additional Input: The lab’s evaluation team will continue to gather information on all the potential vendors. They’ll tap third-party resources to validate your claims. Sources could include: CAP proficiency survey results to review equipment performance, adverse incident/recall information, MD Buyline service ratings, and site visits to labs which use your equipment.
  4. Rating Vendors: After gathering all of their research and your RFI answers, the lab evaluation team begins ranking the potential vendors against their requirements.
  5. Narrowing the Playing Field and Sending the RFP: Once the rankings are completed, the team sends out the RFP. Typically only two or three vendors are in the running at the time of RFP.

If you have a strong relationship with the lab manager and your company is not invited to participate in the RFP, you can ask to be included in the RFP process. But, be warned, it may not be in your best interest to participate. Many labs prefer to restrict the RFP process to only those companies they believe best meet their needs.

  1. Vendor Presentations: Vendors may be asked to present their responses to the RFP directly to the evaluation team.
  2. Assessing the Finalists: If the finalists are tied or if none of them can provide the perfect solution, the evaluation team requests additional information or alternate solutions from the vendors in question.
  3. Selecting the Best Vendor: When all the information has been submitted, including the financials, the evaluation team meets to vote on the winning vendor.
  4. Negotiating and Signing the Contract: Once the team has selected the best supplier, the contract is then negotiated and signed by the business manager or procurement department.

Knowing your customer’s process allows sales teams to add value at critical stages of the buying process.

What Your Sales and Marketing Departments Need to Do

Now might be a good time to review what ‘customer acquisition’ means. As BusinessDictionary.com states, it’s “The process of persuading a consumer to purchase a company’s good or services.”  Yes, there’s a cost associated with customer acquisition as well, but what we really need to think about here is the process.

The process involves both sales and marketing. The sales team is responsible for the customer relationship and driving the sale. MDxI shared that there are certain do’s and don’ts to sales rep actions.

Do

  • Communicate monthly or quarterly with your contacts. Ask your contact which they prefer and follow directions!
  • Connect by email or make an appointment.

Don’t

  • Don’t assume a phone call is better. Customers report it’s hard to get on the phone.
  • Don’t show up without an appointment and expect your contact to be available.
  • Don’t go around laboratory decision makers. Executive teams, administration, or purchasing will not help you get your foot in the door.
  • Don’t try to visit your contact too often – they’re busy.

Marketing is responsible for making sure that sales has everything they need to nurture and close the sale – from marketing collateral to white papers and case studies to web content the customer may access prior to speaking with a sales rep.

Marketing needs to work closely with sales. Regular communication delivers a crucial understanding of what the customer needs to know. With that information, marketing can design exactly the right tools to enhance your sales efforts.

How to Win at Customer Acquisition

What happens when sales and marketing work together? Sales success. When MDxI surveyed labs to understand what was behind successful sales, they found that the key drivers were solid relationships and time and attention to detail.

  • Relationships: When sales establishes a solid relationship with all the key decision-makers in a lab system – and maintains those relationships over time – regardless of their status as a customer or future customer, they are invited to bid. These relationships provide the sales rep with inside knowledge of open bids. They also allow sales reps to ask decision-makers to participate in upcoming vendor selections. If you can’t bid, you can’t win a sale.
  • Time and Attention to Detail: It takes time to develop a relationship. It also takes time to respond to an RFI/RFP thoroughly – and ensure that each step of the acquisition process is completed by the deadlines requested. Customers are watching and they will notice if your team doesn’t meet expectations. You need to show decision-makers that you value them and their business. If not, guess what? No sale.

But, don’t assume that these are the only keys to winning new lab customers. MDxI found that breadth of product lines, automation capabilities, and other contracts with the customer also played important roles in driving vendor choice. While you may not be able to do much about current contracts with a health system, your marketing and sales teams can certainly ensure that your potential customer understands the scope of your product line and advantages of your automation solution.

Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, energy, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – who want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately, sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.

Larry Worden co-founded MDxI in 2006 and is now the principal at IVD Logix. Larry has spent 40 years in the fields of medical and scientific marketing research and syndicated data services. Today, he focuses on the in vitro diagnostics marketplace, providing market information solutions to clients using qualitative and quantitative market research methods. Contact Larry at 214.434.1923.

Read More

Posted by on Oct 13, 2014 in Marketing Tips, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Marketing Budget Season Has Arrived!

Business Hand Clicking Budget Button On Touch ScreenIt’s that time of year when every marketing manager has to look into their crystal ball and determine what the marketing communications spend will be for the next year. It can be a very daunting task to try to figure out how you will spend your precious marketing dollars – and also show your boss how this year’s spend produced quantifiable results!

How to Define Your Marketing Budget

You need to start with the Assessment. My first suggestion is to take a very deep breath and review what you did during this last year. Dig into what marketing tools and channels worked and find out what could have worked better. This yearly marketing assessment process will lead you to discover the even more important answers to what did our company not do that we should have?” to produce better results

Here are a few marketing assessment questions to get you started:

Assess

  • What was last year’s budget and where did we spend it?
  • What were the core and key components to last year’s spend?
      • How did we measure them?
      • Did we course-correct when our measurements showed steps weren’t as productive as we wanted?
      • How would we have done things differently?
  • What works best?
      • How will we know
  • What tools did we use in the MarCom Elements Wheel?
  • Where is our audience going for their information?
  • Are we moving with them?
  • Can we show direct lead to sales, and what were the sales amounts?

It’s only after you’ve assessed the performance of your marketing success throughout the past year that you can truly create a realistic marketing budget for the next year.

What You Need to Develop Next Year’s Marketing Budget

To develop the overall plan for next year, you’ll need to start thinking about the big things such as the channels you need to use. After that, you’ll need to look at company planned events, refine your channels and fill in the details. One of the key ingredients to any MarCom budget is showing what worked based on your measurements matrices’. These measurements enable you to prove what worked, what didn’t and how you will adjust your spend.

Here are some questions to think about as you develop your budget:

  • What elements do we think we will need? Choose from broad stroke categories like:
      • Website updates or development
      • Public Relations
      • Conferences
      • Collateral
      • Social Media
      • Advertising
      • eMarketing
  • What are our objectives and matrix for measurement for each component?
  • What is the cost per element?
  • Can we course-correct if needed?
  • Are there any big product/service introductions for next year? What is the launch budget?
  • What MarCom elements will we use for this launch and what is the cost per element?
  • How will we measure success?

Marketing Is Constantly Changing

We all know that marketing is changing, and you need to determine how you’ll handle it going forward. That’s why doing the assessment is so important. You’ll also need to remember that social media will likely play a big role in your plans because that is one way people learn about products/services. Social Media doesn’t preclude using the other elements at all. It’s those other elements that help feed your social media.

The best part of developing next year’s budget is you get to find out what worked and what didn’t. Once you have that 20/20 look-back, you can plan for the future. It also enables you to show that – while marketing is considered an expense category for accounting – you can drive leads that sales people use to close business. With the right tracking tools you may even be able to show actual sales based on leads you brought in.

What is your biggest challenge in creating your marketing budget?

For over two decades Debra Harrsch has been providing marketing expertise to Fortune 500 and other companies and contributing to brand recognition and profit growth, even in a declining economy. Serving in executive, directorship, and consulting positions in healthcare, life science, biotech, energy, and chemical industries, Debra has structured research, marketing and PR plans, and online and print media advertising campaigns.

As CEO of Brandwidth Solutions, LLC, Debra provides marketing and brand management expertise to domestic and international companies, often driving paradigm shifts that contribute to significant and unanticipated growth.

[subscribe2]

Read More