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A Healthy Dose talks to three of the top leaders in healthcare sales

By Steve Kraus 6.20.19

This week we had the honor of speaking with three of the world’s top healthcare sales leaders:

Mark Briggs, Validity

Mark is a healthcare industry veteran with over 25 years of experience building and leading high-growth technology companies. Mark currently serves as chairman and CEO of Validity. Prior to Validity, Mark was the CEO of Ability which was a massive HCIT success story that grew under his leadership from less than $10 million in revenue to its ultimate acquisition for $1.2 billion by Inovalon.

Renee DeSilva, The Health Management Academy

Renee has nearly two decades of healthcare industry experience. Renee was the long time head of sales and marketing at The Advisory Board and currently serves as CEO of The Health Management Academy.

Steve Kahane, athenahealth

Dr. Kahane has spent over 30 years on the front lines of healthcare driving growth and profitability several healthcare IT businesses. He most recently served as the President of Enterprise Services Group at athenahealth and is widely acclaimed for the company’s impressive sales traction over the eight years he led athena’s commercial organization.

In this episode, we cover diverse topics such as:

1. The greatest advice and lessons each healthcare sales leader learned early on in their career.

All three sales leaders agreed when it comes to sales, “silence is your friend.” Study after study has shown the most successful salespeople ask three times as many questions than they answer. Top-performers are always seeking to understand a prospect’s business, needs, goals, and objectives. If you aren’t listening to deeply understand your customers, you will never sell effectively or efficiently.

2. How to spot a great first sales leader

The leader running your sales organization is often not the person who can generate the largest bookings. A strong sales leader requires a different set of skills to run a successful sales organization. This includes the ability to attract, hire, and retain fantastic talent, message the product well, and have a very deep understanding of data and metrics.

Smaller companies often seek to hire a sales leader with less experience, but a candidate they believe will try hard to figure it out. Mark, Renee, and Steve caution against this and recommend companies “pay up” to bring on an experienced sales leader that has successfully done this before.

3. How to spot a great sales representative

Your sales representatives will hear no 80 to 90% of the time. Therefore, grit is the key to success. You must find and retain people that will remain positive despite hearing no more than they hear yes. Once you hire the next key to success is ensuring you have a very structured approach to onboarding and training. This structure allows you to see early on if certain expectations are not being met and part ways. Mark, Renee, and Steve agree that you should know within the first three months if a new sales representative will excel or not.

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“Don’t hire for a Rolodex because it always has a short shelf life. Hire for grit”, says  Renee.

4. Must-read books for every sales leader.

The Challenger Sale

“It’s all about finding the coach and the advocates in the organization. You can teach it easily to a broad sales organization and get the whole organization around a common vocabulary.”

The First Three Minutes by Steven Weinberg

“This book is about the first three minutes of the big bang. It’s a problem-solving book about how to think through really hard problems.”

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

“It’s about evolutionary biology, and how to understand motivation.”

Cryptonomicon by Neil Stevenson “This is a fiction book, but when you talk about human interplay and the way people communicate, there isn’t a book other than Hemingway that does a better job than this one.”

Beyond The Summit by Todd Skinner

“Todd was a world-famous rock climber and the book is all about the preparation, and the execution of an ascent. It teaches people about the sales process. You’re going to get beat down, you’re going to get nos, but you’ve got to get back up and put one foot in front of another.”

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