Upside Down Focus Group: Marketing and Selling to CIOs
By Rebecca Scholten, Specialist, Business Development
Sarah Richardson, CA Market CIO, DaVita Medical Group, and Drex DeFord, Digital Health Leader, gave an engaging talk on behalf of CHIME Technologies, Inc. at HIMSS18 in the CHIME booth.
Richardson and DeFord are both faculty members of the CHIME Tech Speakers Bureau. CHIME Tech Speakers Bureau connects companies throughout the CHIME Foundation and beyond with talented, thought-provoking speakers for presentations at company meetings, webinars or internal training sessions on the buying cycle and selling and marketing to CIOs, along with a number of other industry topics.
The HIMSS18 presentation, “Upside Down Focus Group: Marketing and Selling to CIOs” offered insight on what CIOs respond to, and what turns a CIO off when it comes to marketing and selling tactics. A consistent theme of the session was the importance of acting as a resource and partner to the CIO, rather than focusing on the end sale. DeFord suggests vendors “participate in industry events; sponsor opportunities to learn and socialize with peers; all with ‘With No Strings Attached.’” Understanding the pain points of the CIO, along with having empathy for their intense schedules, proved to be a key success factor. Richardson highlighted the struggles of renewing a contract: “When an established vendor [with me] has a contract renewal coming up in three months and we are in negotiations, pushing to the deadline [contract expiration] annoys me. We know six months in advance. Let’s walk through it and talk about it. Ideally you are building your contracts with your partners that have the ability for the extension to continue. So let’s just say we don’t get to an agreement for the extension, but the intention is to do that; build in the month-to-month option at the same price of our original contract so that there is a continuity of operations.”
Both speakers highlighted the importance of participating in organizations like CHIME and HIMSS. “I want to elaborate on the relationship with CHIME and with HIMSS. For me, that is where I learn about all my [partner firms], all the things I need to do, and all the connections I need to make.” Richardson said. “If you want to get to us, if you want to have conversations with us, the best way is by being there [at CHIME/HIMSS] all the time, and not always being in [closing] mode. We get to see you, we get to know you, we’re involved with you on committees. We get to see how you work, what you do, and how you deliver. And all of that ends up turning into a relationship. Once I have a relationship with you, that builds trust, and that really is the bottom line on what you should do.” DeFord said. On the subject of gift giving, DeFord and Richardson offered suggestions for avoiding compliance issues. “If you feel compelled to give a gift, give it to our foundations,” DeFord said. Richardson suggested following the limit of $50 for a gift, unless it is a shareable item for her team.
Also a powerful component of the booth session was the open Q&A session. Questions asked included: “How can I, as a partner firm, communicate to a CIO that we have run into an issue or problem with our service, without harming our relationship?” And “Tell me about your best partner firm experience, describe how that relationship developed.” Many firms choose to host an open discussion like this during an Advisory Services engagement, to allow for unfiltered conversation and to gain an appreciation for the needs of the CIO. When asked “How should a partner firm contact a CIO/how do I start the relationship?” DeFord answered “Most health systems have some kind of an agreement with an integrator or reseller, and we’ve had long-term agreements with those companies. Maybe your best route in is to have a conversation with [the integrator] and, again, figure out what we’re really struggling with and what we’re doing. Someone like that is going to partner with us for a long time and really knows us inside and out. They can help you create a better message and maybe even set up [a meeting.]”
You can view the full recording from the Upside-Down Focus Group session on Facebook here:
A few of the key tips and tricks provided by Richardson and DeFord:
- If you pitch me as soon as you connect with me on Linked-In/Twitter, etc., you’re begging to be blocked
- Build a relationship; let’s get to know each other; creates trust – I buy from people I trust
- Be consultative, help in other (non-sales) ways if you can
To see the full white sheet of tips and tricks, please send an email to [email protected]
More Foundation Insight Volume 2, No. 3:
- CHIME CIO Members by the Numbers – Some Helpful Demographic Statistics – Rose Lucas
- Save the Date – Mark your Calendars for CPES18 Sept 5-7 – CHIME Foundation Team
- Perspectives Across the Healthcare IT Field – Arika Lycan