Healthcare Sales Leaders Talk COVID-19 Strategies

May 19, 2020

Chasm Partners recently convened a Roundtable discussion with ten leading commercial executives (see our participants below) addressing some of the challenges and opportunities companies are facing as we begin to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. These are all individuals owning go-to-market and revenue strategy, focused on selling healthcare technology into payers, providers, employers, and life sciences companies. We are pleased to share below four key themes that emerged in this thought provoking and interactive discussion. 

Virtual Will Be the New Norm — Face To Face Meetings Are Going Digital for Good
The way we communicate with colleagues, teams, clients, and customers has undergone a significant evolution since the world began sheltering in place. For many, the conversation has changed from why virtual solutions matter instead to which virtual solutions we should employ. The old paradigm of being in the room, in front of people, has given way to a new norm of the virtual pitch. One leader says, “We have changed our playbook; we are getting so much more done virtually. Our teams are more productive due to less downtime, and people who never Zoomed before are now comfortable with it.” With air travel at a near standstill, the efficiency of meeting virtually becomes self-evident. Pre-COVID, leaders often scheduled an anchor meeting for a top priority prospect in a city and then filled in with ancillary meetings for secondary prospects; now we are forced to truly prioritize where our time is best spent. 

One participant shared that one of her company’s largest sales last year was closed virtually, because the customer (a seven-hospital health system) wanted to move fast. What would have typically taken months to schedule multiple in-person meetings was done virtually and closed within a matter of weeks. In a competitive market, if you're not in front of them (virtually or otherwise), it's likely someone else is. 

Many are noticing the shift to virtual has had an impact on lead generation as well. Traditional conference planners are being forced to find new ways to sell themselves differently. Webinars and other web-based outfits are offering sponsorship and marketing opportunities with newfound reach. One participant’s company recently hosted a webinar for 2,500 attendees, netting 250 calls generating over 50 qualified leads for cultivation. Another company got creative and deployed guerilla tactics for lead generation, hiring college students studying healthcare and training them on the CRM and how to cold call; results have been resoundingly positive. 

Stay The Course or Adjust to New “COVID” Sales Quotas?
Interestingly, most of these commercial leaders have not yet revised annual targets but plan to do so by the end of Q2. They have asked team members to develop new scenarios and strategic plans taking into account real time learnings being experienced in the COVID environment. Regardless, almost everyone in the Roundtable said they are having more frequent board-level (many weekly) discussions regarding revenue expectations that will ultimately be considered for revised quotas. 

Several participants said that they have migrated their incentive plans to a total contract value mindset that enables sales teams to be aggressive on pricing in exchange for longer terms. Others are staying the course and not revising numbers per se but are shifting expectations regarding timing for contract closure. Maintaining open dialogue with customers to meet them where they are can lead to negotiating mutually beneficial scenarios. 

One company enjoying favorable market dynamics has actually revised expectations upwards, as their solution provides an essential and pandemic-proof health care service. 

Hiring Commercial Talent During and After COVID-19
While some are in a hiring freeze, or at least hitting the pause button, many sales organizations are seizing the opportunity to bring on a new crop of sales talent available in the market. One leader shared that they have implemented a hiring freeze for all positions except commercial, marketing, and sales resources. Yet another has put hiring on hold and reallocated those funds to sweeten incentive compensation for existing sales staff. The takeaway here is that the commercial function in these companies is largely being supported and the last to be negatively impacted with cuts.

Many companies plan to continue investing in their commercial teams in order to hit top line numbers, especially with the uptick of new, available talent in the market. In other instances, this is an optimal time to invest in upgrading versus adding incremental hires to manage cash burn.

For companies and candidates hoping to formalize hiring decisions mid-Pandemic, Chasm recently published a thought piece called Getting to "Yes" During Covid, sharing innovative ideas for navigating and de-risking hiring decisions when face-to-face meetings aren’t possible.

Embrace Fluctuations in Productivity and Morale – Some Are Surprisingly Positive
Many thought that going virtual would impede or stall productivity and morale, however the effect for some companies has been almost the opposite. Leaders are reporting that the performance of their teams has actually seen surprising productivity gains. Teams have quickly figured out how to work from home productively; this can have consequences however, as some are feeling traces of burnout given the challenge of maintaining work/life balance when working from home.

Many commercial organizations have experienced an uptick in morale by enduring the crisis together, building character and resilience. Widespread video conferencing has also led to a new level of informality across all participants, with both teams and prospects. The moments of levity derived by dogs barking on a Zoom call or children playing in the background has fostered vulnerability, and connectivity leading to positive culture building.

For any follow up questions or reactions, please feel free to reach us at [email protected]. We would love to hear from you and wish you well in the coming weeks and months. 

Chasm POV Roundtable Participants:
Terry Boch, CCO, Diameter Health
Cheryl Cruver, CRO, Sonifi Health
Adam Hameed, CGO, Cricket Health
Aereste Howells, SVP, Sales, Matrix Medical Network
Bill Meehan, EVP, Enterprise Sales, RecoveryOne
Dennis Shin, CGO, NorthStar Anesthesia
Martha Thorne, CRO, CareCentrix
Clayton Walberg, CCO, AspenRx
Troy Wasilefsky, CRO, Iodine Software
Eric Zerneke, CCO, CredSimple

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