8 points to consider while selling IT to Indian hospitals

By Indraneel Ganguly, Senior Assistant Professor, Xavier Institute of Management and Entrepreneurship (XIME), Bangalore
Indraneel Ganguly

Indraneel Ganguly

The Indian healthcare IT market is still quite nascent. While the number of sellers are many and varied, with each one seeking to articulate their ‘differentiator’, the buyers are still quite immature in their buying behaviour. Much of the buying is reactive in nature, except possibly in case of greenfield hospitals. Buying IT could mean a complex Hospital Information System to some or could mean buying point solutions like patient portals, mobile applications or an analytics suite to others. Either way, these are some of the factors to be kept in mind when devising a sales strategy for hospitals:

1) Be very sure of your target market: It is wise to spend considerable time and effort on ascertaining your target customer base and once done, sticking to it even in adverse situations. Parameters such as size of hospital (in terms of beds), annual revenues, location, IT budget, standalone/chains, years in existence, etc, can be used for the purpose of your segmentation exercise.

Of course, depending on the nature and scale of your product/solution, the size of your target base will vary, but spreading yourself thin will only result in a monumental waste of time, effort and money. Scrambling to meet your numbers by reaching out to prospects that are not in your target segment will not work, so don’t get de-focussed at the first sign of pressure. If you wondered whether you’d ever come across a customer/market segment that “cuts his coat according to his cloth,” your search has just ended!

 2) Pitch your wares to owners/promoters: Most Indian hospitals, irrespective of size, continue to be close-knit units, with owners having full control over its day to day operations. Family run hospitals are also common. Selling to such outfits would need to start with the promoter simply because it will definitely end there.

So, instead of pursuing a circuitous route of speaking to others in the organization and then being told that the owner is not interested in pursuing it further, no reasons assigned, it’s always better to pitch directly to the sole decision-maker. There will be others in the hierarchy who will evaluate your product/solution, compare it with others, maybe even give you valuable feedback but, make no mistake, all such people are mere influencers, not decision makers.

3) Is the owner a businessman or a doctor? This is important to know as it will make a difference to your pitch. If the owner is a businessman running a hospital with the sole criterion of making meaningful profit, he/she will be interested primarily in the monetary benefits your solution is going to bring to the hospital.

Often, you will come across hospitals being run by large conglomerates that have got into healthcare as another business line to add to their existing ones. Such outfits would look at the business benefits above all else and it’s best you position your solution accordingly, clearly articulating the cost-saving or revenue-enhancing aspects first. It’s not that owners who are doctors will not consider the monetary aspects, they definitely will, but they will also be genuinely interested in the “how will it ease my life as a busy physician” aspects.

4) Do homework of track record of IT investments: You will be surprised at the basic state of IT even in large, reputed hospitals around India. This is because IT is still considered by most managements to be a ‘cost’, ‘good to have’ because everyone else is investing in it, but still a cost with little or no chance of bringing in revenue for the hospital.

Hospitals would still rather invest in opening a new specialty, procure state-of-the-art medical equipment, or provision more beds, as these would result in almost immediate revenues to offset the cost incurred. But IT’s returns are more long term and often difficult to measure. This perception is changing, slowly but surely. So, you must align your product/solution to the customer’s maturity curve as there’s no point in positioning a high investment solution to a hospital that’s just started to automate their basic administrative processes – they would prefer to take one step at a time, so your solution will be an overkill and hence, not sell.

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