Are Pilot Programs and C-Suite Access Overrated in Health Tech Sales?
Follow the money is pretty standard advice when it comes to a health tech sales strategy. But when reaching the right decision makers, you may want think again if you’re planning a B-Line to the C-Suite or pitching a pilot program.
At least that was part of my takeaways from panelists at the MedTechTX 2016 Summit who offered advice for startups seeking buy in from key stakeholders.
Before I begin, a nod to Laura Lorek for her blog post which was invaluable in capturing which panelist said what.
B-Line to the C-Suite
Sitting on the panel, C-Suite: How Much Should They Matter to You, Chris Thierfelder, director of research and development at Halyard Health summed it up this way,
“There is no earthly reason to talk to C-level executives first. They are not managing decisions.” With limited dollars, Startups are better served by the R&D clinical staff to build support and understand the guidelines and relationships. For him the “C” to focus on is the capital requirements and contracts – especially for medical devices.
For Dr. Dan Peterson with Alafair Biosciences, the key “C” is a clinical champion. “It’s the clinicians that will be using what you are putting out there.”
Dr. William Rice with St. David’s Healthcare the “C” is having a constituency of users who can evaluate your solution.
Another source of support is to see if an organization has a patient council.
Pilot Programs: Differing Points of View
Pilot programs are often recommended for health tech companies looking to get a foot in the door. A pilot program, also called a feasibility study or experimental trial, “is a small-scale, short-term experiment that helps an organization learn how a large-scale project might work in practice.”
During the Summit, Dr. Peterson suggested a pilot program as a way to test out a solution before taking it to a large organization. He suggested that companies look to critical access hospitals. They are small, innovative and may be possibly open to a pilot.
Unfortunately, pilot programs are rarely a revenue opportunity. Their value is validation.
Which is why Jason Bornhurst has a different take. He is a young, successful entrepreneur. His company PatientIO was recently acquired by athenahealth.
He’s wary of the free model especially if there is no bridge to take that pilot into the overall hospital system. It’s also hard to raise money based on pilots. “Everything that I do someone must pay me for it.”
Jeffrey M. Bullard, MD, CEO of Vault concurred. “We stopped doing pilots as well because there is no skin in the game.”
The R Word
Right audience: Dr. Rice shared that once someone came in and tried to sell him a service aimed at reducing hospitalizations. Except they are in the hospital business. That person needed to go talk to someone else, he said. Maybe an insurance company.
Risk Sharing: Yvonne Van Dyke, MSN, RN, chief nursing officer at Seton Family of Hospital emphasized the importance of risk sharing — especially if there is a good cultural fit.
Rules, Play by Them: Kevin Cook, CEO, University of Mississippi Medical Center Health System offered the following advice. Play by the rules in whatever organization you’re trying to get into. His organization is bureaucratic, complex and difficult so it’s critical to play within assigned rules and roles. His organization is a state entity and has regulatory requirements to comply with. The quickest way to get shut down is to try to do an end run around those rules.