The Bridge

How do trusted health system partners respond in a global pandemic? They go local.

by Ken Leonczyk, JD, Executive Partner

It's a particularly challenging time to sell to health systems, given their critical role in combatting the Covid-19 epidemic—but they need partners now more than ever, and if you can deliver what they need, you'll not only help the country recover from this crisis, you'll position yourself for future economic growth.

How Covid-19 will impact the financial outlook for the health care industry

A crisis that compounds an already difficult challenge

Selling to health systems is difficult in the best of times—and these are far from the best of times. The evergreen issues of selecting the right organizations to target, getting in the door, understanding the system's priorities, tying your value proposition to executives' top concerns, building trust, and offering a competitive price make commercial effectiveness a multi-faceted challenge.

And the Covid-19 epidemic has compounded these challenges. Suddenly, you're faced with running a commercial organization whose customers are hemorrhaging cash, suspending their most profitable services, and serving on the front lines of our nation's response to a true emergency, the Covid-19 epidemic.

You've been hard at work positioning yourself as a strategic partner to health systems for quite a while—and that work has increased your value to health systems—but what it means to be a partner may be changing in a Covid world. Here's how you can adapt.

1. Anticipate system executives' needs and recognize that systems face vastly different situations depending on geography

To help busy executives in this time of uncertainty and turbulence, you need to be able to anticipate their needs. However, the particular needs of a system will vary massively. A health system in New York City needs a very different kind of help than one in Austin, Texas, and you must adjust your assistance and your approach to the system's individual circumstances. Your charge, then, is to figure out how to help with their most pressing issues, while keeping an eye on future challenges.

Are they trying to tread water? Anticipating a surge? Seeking to recover volumes on the other end of the surge? Combatting a community perception that Covid-19 is not a threat?

And how can you help? Do you have access to supply chain solutions for critical shortages that are keeping them from being able to re-start their elective surgeries? Are you able to help them with workforce concerns, such as furloughed staff and burnout?

This is an opportunity to be innovative, to focus on them—not you. The specific needs of the health system will vary by size, location, and current Covid-19 case load, but all of your potential partners are looking to re-start their economic engine and keep their communities safe. This should be fertile ground for you.

2. Timing is everything: Know when to wait—but don't be afraid to reach out

Effective partners use their judgment about when to reach out—especially in a time like this. Here's the reality: There is no one-size fits all answer about when to reach out. Your approach to organizations facing a Covid-19 surge must be different than towards an organization that has furloughed its staff and seen procedures drastically decrease without any meaningful influx of Covid-19 cases.

A good rule of thumb is to match the speed with which you reach out to the urgency of their need. If you're offering a modest cost savings in a service line, you'll want to wait to make your approach until after they're no longer at the peak of their clinical crisis. If you have an innovative way to source PPE, or disinfectant, or to keep their patients safe—or any solution that is geared toward re-starting elective surgeries and bringing in patients—reach out now!

3. Practice active listening and compassion

Don't underestimate the human side of your interactions. Your goal in meeting with a busy executive or clinical leader is to help them during these trying times—so listen to them. Ask about them and how they're holding up. Ask about their business challenges. Ask about their teams. Ask about their concerns with patient care. Health care leaders run mission-driven organizations; so ask about their mission, and listen for the ways you can help them further it. By doing so, you're able to be compassionate—and human—in your interactions.

Do not shy from running toward the human side of this crisis. This will set the stage for the relationship of trust required of a true partnership, it will bring even more business down the road, and it's simply the right thing to do.

4. Root your relationship managers in regional market expertise, not just product expertise

Finally, in our Covid-19 world, your team will need to develop new competencies and new ways of delivering value. Where deep knowledge of your product or service's cost-savings potential was previously vital, now deep knowledge of the issues facing the health system, its executive leadership, and its surrounding community are paramount.

You should ensure that you are represented by individuals with insight into local and state politics, the ability to quickly pivot solutions to system's most pressing needs (regardless of how these align with your particular offerings), innovative problem-solving skills, and, perhaps most of all, a true spirit of generosity.

How Covid-19 will impact the financial outlook for the health care industry

As the country unfolds various plans to slowly reopen, health care leaders are shifting their focus from the short-term effects of the Covid-19 pandemic to the downstream impact they can expect in the months ahead.

To help health care leaders assess what the Covid-19 pandemic will mean for their organization, our team analyzed the critical factors that will determine the financial outlook for various industry sectors.

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