As economic pressures continue to mount on healthcare providers and payers alike, sellers continue to be pressed to demonstrate the impact their solutions will or might have once implemented. Demonstrating what benefits the solution will imbue is a core element of value-based selling.
As such sellers commonly develop case studies based on what current clients have accomplished with the implementation of their products or services. Examples in healthcare include such things as:
- Increase revenues of X%
- Decreased costs of X%
- Shortened length of stays of X days
This is even more critical when selling something truly innovative. By definition something innovative is “new” and therefore there will be limited industry-wide knowledge of how such a solution might effect the customer’s sought outcomes (i.e., increased revenues, reduced costs, etc.).
Conversely, when it is well understood how a product or solution type will impact an organization, it is ostensibly not “new” and therefore not “innovative;” it will have become commoditized to some degree.
This important transition from “innovative” to “commodity” is subtle, but critical for sellers to understand, and directly relates to the “chasm” well-researched and documented by Everett Rogers (“Diffusion of Innovations”) and Geoffrey Moore (“Crossing the Chasm”). It is also often-times mis-aligned with what is reported in a seller’s case studies.
When a solution is truly innovative – the first of its kind in the market and not well understood in terms of potential impact on the customer’s business – a case study expressing what outcomes were achieved by early adopters makes perfect sense, and is necessary to successfully sell. In fact, “selling” of such innovative solutions is more related to educating the market on the benefits and resulting value, than is commonly attributed to transaction-focused lead generation and selling.
However as competitive solutions then enter the market, following the path initially forged by the innovator, these same reported outcomes may no longer apply to a particular solution but to the entire category of solution types. This in turn means your case study purporting benefits of savings and new revenues may actually be helping your competitor’s make the case with an uninformed prospect.
By way of example, when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440 it may not have been too difficult to demonstrate to publishers how it would save time and money. But as soon as Gutenberg faced competition from other ‘similar’ printing presses, his case studies as to the benefits immediately applied to all sellers of printing presses, and no longer helped Gutenberg differentiate his device from others. His claims of saving time and money would apply to any derivative of his initial design. So when Stanhope created an “innovative” version of the printing press that doubled output relative to the Gutenberg version he was savvy enough to know that his claims and case studies regarding impact needed to compare not to manual printing, but to Gutenberg’s claims. Stanhope was able to demonstrate 2x the productivity gains of Gutenberg, and thus capture significant market share.
We frequently find that sellers mis-understand or simply don’t appreciate how innovative – or not – their solutions are. As such their case studies and the purported benefits of their solution are mis-aligned to what the customer is considering. Again by way of example if selling a chronic disease management solution to a health system or physician practice the seller should consider if they are the needing to convince the practice of the value of a CDM solution (a concept new to the practice; innovative), or convince them of the relative value of their (the seller’s) solution in particular.
Far too many case studies and “value propositions” we see are conveying the value a solution – any solution of the same type – might imbue for the customer, but fail to convey how the seller’s unique solution is uniquely positioned to deliver a greater value than the competition. As we dig deep into the reason for this, its often because the seller is unaware of the competition and under the belief that what they are doing is unique. We touch upon this in a blog from 2019 entitled “True Innovation Requires a Unique Sales Approach.”
Furthermore, it is not uncommon that a customer may first need to be convinced a solution type has value and thus warrants a purchasing decision before embarking to understand how the different solutions of a similar type are in fact different and thus will deliver different outcomes. Put another way, a customer needs to first decide to buy something to solve a particular problem before they decide what specific thing to buy (a specific vendor’s solution). This is something we discussed in another 2019 blog entitle “Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast.”
When truly innovative – “before the chasm” – a case study and its reported benefits will both show the benefits of a solution “like yours” and your solution in particular. Because your solution is the only one like it (aka, “innovative”), to obtain the impact reported the customer must implement your solution; its the only option they have. But the moment other solutions similar to yours enter the market your case studies may be helping those competitors sell their solutions as much as selling your own. While that may make you a thought-leader and an innovator you will need to update your case studies and begin reporting on the relative value of those things that make your solution unique when compared to the competition, or you stand to lose market share or margins as pricing pressures mount as the key differentiator among commodities.
So what do you’re case studies convey? Are they demonstrating the impact a solution like yours might have on the customer’s business? Or are they conveying the impact only your solution can deliver relative to competitive solutions?
Furthermore, when considering the competition are you broadly consider all potential solutions to the specific problem? Or only solutions “like yours?” This is where “do nothing” often-times wins out in the end.
This is why competitive understanding and differentiation is so crucial. And why it should be problem-centric and not solution-centric. It is also why ongoing account management efforts can be crucial as well as we continually update the library of use-cases and impact studies that inform our case studies. Without these efforts as part of the business, you might find yourself like Gutenberg discussing how you can improve productivity of printing while ebooks put you out of business. Or perhaps a more modern example, you may be the Blockbuster competing with Netflix. Does anyone even remember Blockbuster?