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2 Phrases to Never Use When Selling to Hospitals

I have seen just about every vendor pitch known to humanity.  For over 19 years, I was Executive Vice President at Georgia Hospital Association, and one of my five areas of responsibility was leading the entrepreneurial subsidiary that endorses outside vendors.  So I had a string of vendors regularly coming through my office.


The concept of pattern recognition teaches that, given enough data, you begin to notice certain things repeating over time.  And my 19+ years of hearing companies pitch their products definitely honed this skillset.  Most did a fine job presenting their products, but I learned to screen out potential vendor partners as soon as they uttered one of the following phrases:


"We're the only company that has . . . .”  The first few times I heard that, I naively believed it, but as I dug around after those meetings, I learned that most of the time, that claim was a stretch at best or a complete fable at worst.  I'm not that smart, and if I figured that out, you know that hospital leaders will also see through the fog.  Uttering those words may gain you some immediate interest, but once your sales prospect figures out that your claim is akin to stating that dark chocolate is a health food because it has a tiny amount of anti-oxidants, your credibility tanks. 


Unless you are truly first to market in a given niche, the chances that absolutely no one can offer what you can is pretty remote.  Technically, you may be the only vendor with a very specific approach, but there is a good chance another vendor may offer a parallel approach that substantially overlaps with yours.  Don't utter those words.  You will be ratted out!  By all means, talk about your product's superior features, but don't claim that no one else can do the same unless you can document that.


"All you have to do is . . . ."  I recall one vendor who came into my office and stated that he had spent eight years studying supply chain issues in the automotive industry and had just figured out how inefficient hospitals are.  Now he was applying his knowledge to solve hospitals' miserable performance.  "All you have to do is . . . . ." 


Sorry.  Game over.  Thanks for playing.  That phrase betrays a woeful underestimation of healthcare's complexities.  Management genius Peter Drucker famously identified healthcare as the most complex industry to manage.  With countless layers and overlaps, dozens of competing agendas, and professional rivalries of all kinds, the word "complex" may be an understatement.  So uttering, "All you have to do is . . . ." immediately pegs you as an industry outsider and implies that you think you’re smarter than the highly educated professionals who have invested years in the industry.


By all means, promote your product's uniquenesses, and be sure to point out how your product will streamline operations.  But don't overstate your case, and don't blow your credibility by underestimating the difficulty of retooling healthcare's processes.