Saving your time and your money.
It has been said that the most important word in business is clarity. Being the ‘new boy’ has its challenges but also its advantages. One is not burdened with history. One has not become immersed in the culture, however good. Everything is new. Pardon the pun, being new you gain ‘Insights’. First we should look at the Buying Cycle.
What is the Buying Cycle?
The Buying Cycle is defined as the series of predictable steps purchasers go through from need identification (awareness) to purchase and ideally re-purchase.
That’s wonderful, thank you for the definition, but why should I care?
It’s a fair question. If you are responsible for projects that require vendor selection. If your time and budget are important to you. If you have worked on complex projects in the past, then maybe you should read on.
Insight number 1.
It can take twice (or even three times) as long to find/select an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) vendor as it takes for that vendor to deliver the EMR solution.
This ratio was surprising to me and surely not the optimum use of time or resources. Is there an opportunity to save your time, your hard won budget and generally lower your stress levels?
Insight number 2.
Happy customers, mean more happy customers. Smart vendors are on your side.
People love to buy, but they hate to be sold to. The days of ‘strong armed’ sales techniques are thankfully long gone. Business today is about understanding customer true needs, delivering an appropriate solution and developing an ongoing and ideally long term relationship.
Good vendors will really get to know their customers. Understanding pressure points, budgets, timelines. Understand the various players in each transaction. A bit like a good marriage, open and clear communication is key.
In my first week with Sláinte Healthcare I was very fortunate to be invited to the launch of a Vitro Electronic Medical Record (EMR) at LauraLynn, Ireland Children’s Hospice. At the launch event the CEO of Laura Lynn, Sharon Morrow, and Kerry McLaverty, Acting Director of Clinical Services both spoke in genuinely glowing terms about Vitro and the Sláinte team.They and others have become our best calling card. A happy customer will tell 2-3 others. Win, win. We are already scoping out phase 2 of the Laura Lynn project.
Insight number 3.
Vendor & Customers want the same things.
No one likes surprises, particularly when dealing with complex projects. We all want to be successful and work in as stress free a way as possible. Excellent project management will ensure expectations are set, managed and ultimately delivered upon. If timelines slip, budgets overrun, expectations are missed - everyone looks bad. A dissatisfied customer will tell 8-10 people. It is in everyone’s interests that expectations are understood and aligned.
Insight number 4.
You had me at hello, but the problems began before we met.
This is the crux of this ‘Insight’. A Vitro EMR Implementation can take less than 6 months. Great. However the buying cycle, from initial vendor discussions to vendor selection can take up to a year or more in many cases. Not so great. Your time and money invested in a long sales process could possibly be better spent on other projects.
How can clients and vendors work together to reduce the Buying cycle?
There is no secret formula for a complex project or vendor interaction but below are some questions that may help frame your thinking, shorten your timelines and remove some stress from your no doubt already stressful lives.
- Don’t get lost in the detail, initially at least
Keeping things high level initially will allow you to be prepared to dive into the detail when you need.
- What exactly are we trying to achieve?
- What is the organisation need?
- Who do I need to engage with both internally and externally?
- What will my core team look like?
- Who is going to be my Project Champion?
- What is my ideal timeframe for implementation and what’s driving this?
- What does the internal decision making process look like?
- What does the buying process look like? Do we need to put out to tender?
2. Early engagement with vendors
Get vendors engaged in the process from the outset as you formulate the parameters of the project. It’s ok to have informal conversations with multiple parties. Good vendors will help you frame your thinking, identify project milestones and processes. They will even identify the competition and their relative strengths and weaknesses. (You may need to take at least a pinch of salt with this – but it’s a valuable process none the less.)
3. Don’t be afraid to say, ‘I don’t know’.
No one has all the answers to all the questions. It sometimes takes courage to say, I don’t know. But these three words at the beginning of a project can save a lot of heartache in the implementation phase.
4, You can take a test drive.
Making a vendor selection can be an anxious time. You can lower your anxiety by dividing the purchase into digestible chunks.
a. Request a vendor presentation. The chemistry between you and the vendor will be important. Usually vendors will roll out the ‘top brass’, for the initial presentation which is fine. Also request to have the Project or Customer Relationship Manager who you will be working with, present too.
b. Request a customised Demonstration. This will not only allow you to understand the various offers and how they might meet your needs, you can also use this demo to sell the project / shortlist vendors ‘up the chain’.
c. Client references. As well as getting the client references, don’t be afraid to ask for names and phone numbers. Talking with previous clients can be extremely valuable. What worked? What didn’t? What would you do differently? What advice would you give?
d. Consider a phased approach. It is often possible to divide the project into phases. In our experience rather than slowing the overall project, dividing the elephant into bit sized chunks, can actually speed up overall implementation. Lowering your risk at the same time.
In summary, a well spent hour at the early part of a project can save weeks or months in implementation. Good vendors are on your side, use them to help as you evaluate options. No matter how great the product, the key to a successful implementation is people. If the chemistry and communication are right, you are half way to a quick, cost effective and ultimately successful project.
Finally, at a certain point you just need to make that decision. A good plan today is better than a great plan tomorrow. With the right preparation it’s possible to have a great plan today!!
Paul Mooney - Business Development Director ROW, Slainte Healthcare
Paul is a former Vice President of International Sales with DenMat, Director of International Marketing with Allergan and Senior Director of International Marketing with Mentor Corporation.