Opinion: Practices need customised IT, not sales pitches

Selecting the best IT provider is perhaps the biggest challenge for practices that need to outsource their IT support or are simply unprepared to invest in their own IT team.

Initial interaction, whether by phone or in person, must involve a two-way conversation rather than a prepared monologue or quick elevator pitch from the prospective provider. Of course, the term ‘pitch’ also has its negative connotations, implying a means of falsifying the virtues of a product and service and is unlikely to generate a favourable reaction without advance research on the client issues that need resolving.

The reality is that clients are not interested in forming beneficial partnerships with so-called 24/7 customer service or cheesy promotional gifts if the core product or IT service offers little practical benefit. They want a solution that works, is cost-effective, solves a problem for them, or provides a function that increases efficiency. Rather than using the term ‘pitch,’ clients are more open to ‘suggestions’ or ‘recommendations’ that will benefit the business.

So-called sales pitches can vary widely, often failing to consider the actual requirements of the client or simply becoming the epicentre of a yawn-generating speech, with listeners often losing the will to live or comparing their predicament to attending a timeshare presentation in ancient Egyptian.

Sales professionals can avoid this situation by inviting audience participation in the form of questions or observations, by using visual aids that demonstrate practical knowledge of the client company’s processes and by identifying where improvement is possible.

No company will admit that their competitors offer more attractive options. In a world where everyone claims to be experts and guarantees personalised customer service or timely delivery, how can those seeking a competent provider actually make an informed decision?

A little research goes a long way and even the briefest of online searches will yield results that can be used as a shortlist. Each company can then be researched a little more. How does the website look? Does it speak to healthcare professionals? Are case studies and testimonials offered? Is contact information available? If the answer is “Yes” to all of these, then proceed to the next step.

Check with industry colleagues and contacts and ask their opinion, as they may have dealt with these companies in the past and have firsthand experience of the service provided. Case studies and industry testimonials are a valid indicator of expertise and local support is another key consideration.

If feedback is positive, make an initial enquiry. Most companies provide an information pack that will highlight the main service advantages, with poor quality marketing material acting as a warning. Any company that fails to produce professional brochures, catalogues or documentation is unlikely to inspire confidence, even if their IT services are top-notch.

The use of trials or demos can aid a decision but not all service providers offer these options.

Flexibility is important and sales executives need to tailor their pitch to their audience rather than work from a predefined template. Droning on about the technical advantages of a service means little to a non-technical audience. Management speak, legal jargon in contracts, and industry-specific terms only serve to confuse people.

Medical professionals should ask direct questions and test the claimed expertise of the provider. A service provider for healthcare customers will understand the processes involved, the hardware and software used and can readily suggest improvements once an audit has taken place.

Healthcare is a niche market and support solutions must involve providers that are familiar with medical IT requirement, processes and software. Some providers claim expertise but then recommend enterprise solutions or are unwilling to change processes, due to their own lack of knowledge when it comes to dedicated medical software, whether for billing, medical records or security issues for data storage.

Clinics and hospitals that identify their need for customised IT solutions due to problems with existing services will entertain alternatives that work, even when more expensive than off-the-shelf solutions.

Those without IT expertise in-house are unlikely to be impressed by a technical sales pitch. Similarly, those with technical know-how are keenly interested in the technical side of the service. Savvy sales professionals will know their audience and make their suggestions accordingly.

Most clinics are merely seeking a functional service that enhances remote collaboration, reducing costs and improving efficiency. The majority will agree that cost is not the only factor in the decision-making process and in many cases you “get what you pay for”.

By exercising due diligence and targeting providers that specialise in healthcare support, clinics are more likely to find the support they need, without being tied to a solution that simply does not work.

Rob Khamas is an eHealth solutions strategist with REND Tech Associates.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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