Selling Into Ever-Changing, Highly Regulated Industries: Healthcare Edition
Author: collin stewart
This is the second blog in the Selling into Ever-Changing, Highly Regulated Industries series featuring tips, tricks, and tactics from sales professionals selling into heavily regulated spaces from cybersecurity, to healthcare, to cannabis. Stay tuned for 2 bonus podcast episodes and an ebook on this topic coming soon.
Mac McKellar, a recent guest on the Predictable Revenue podcast, is currently the National Sales Director for Nona Scientific. Nona Scientific is a Florida-based, high complexity diagnostics laboratory that specializes in urine drug screening and molecular testing. When it comes to the healthcare industry, there’s very little that isn’t regulated. So Mac is no stranger to the effort required to keep up to date with these regulations and putting his knowledge to good use as a salesperson.
WHAT ARE THE REGULATIONS?
The regulations one has to worry about in the healthcare industry are numerous. From a laboratory standpoint, there are CLIA regulations (quality standards for laboratory testing performed on specimens from humans, such as blood, body fluid, and tissue, for the purpose of diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of disease, or assessment of health), CDC guidelines for COVID testing, and all sorts of reporting guidelines that dictate when and how a lab reports on their tests. In the healthcare industry as a whole, HIPAA compliance is hugely important (HIPPA is a Privacy Rule that establishes national standards to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information).
But salespeople in this industry have yet another layer of regulations to contend with.
- The Anti-Kickback Statute (a criminal statute that prohibits the exchange (or offer to exchange), of anything of value, in an effort to induce (or reward) the referral of business reimbursable by federal health care programs);
- Stark Law (a healthcare fraud and abuse law that prohibits physicians from referring patients for certain designated health services paid for by Medicare to any entity in which they have a “financial relationship”); and
- EKRA (enacted as part of a larger federal legislative initiative aimed at addressing the opioid crisis, the EKRA law prohibits recovery homes, clinical treatment facilities, and laboratories from accepting or paying kickbacks for referrals)
are all stringent regulations that illegalize the once common practice of salespeople or companies offering doctors and other healthcare professionals incentives, monetary or otherwise, to purchase and use their goods or services.
STAYING UP TO DATE
The responsibility of staying up to date with any changes in the regulations mentioned above falls onto the shoulders of management and the executive team at Nona Scientific, but they don’t go it alone. To make sure all their bases are covered, the Nona senior leadership team employs in-house counsel and works with lab consultants, doctor consultants, and a medical director. Additionally, Nona sends its people to trade shows where speakers share changes occurring to regulations and in the industry.
But it’s not good enough to just have the information. Nona employees are expected to do annual and quarterly trainings on the pertinent updates, and take tests and quizzes to demonstrate their knowledge.
Being proactive and having such a wide network of individuals who stay up to date are a couple of the ways that Nona Scientific keeps its salespeople in the know.
It’s important for Mac and his fellow leaders to keep not only the salespeople in the loop but every department. Trainings on ever-changing regulations are built into the onboarding process for every new hire, and continuous trainings are administered by each department head to their employees.
A special kind of synchronicity between marketing and sales must exist, however. It’s vital that as Non makes pushes on social media and talks about a particular test they offer, like their COVID molecular test, for example, that the information they put out is accurate, ethical, and legal. Everything the marketing team does is, as a result, run past legal and the appropriate consultants as well. Marketing is key to getting the word out and needs to be thought-provoking, but it needs to adhere to a certain standard in a highly regulated market.
The material that marketing creates then plays a key role in the sales process. Providing context and collateral for salespeople to leverage with their prospects.
RISK VS REWARD
The idea of running every single decision and every piece of content through legal and a slew of consultants may seem more time-consuming than valuable. But Mac assures me that is not the case. While there is a delicate balance between going through the necessary precautions and capitalizing on opportunities before your competition, the risk of making a mistake far outweighs the reward of potentially making a couple of extra weeks of revenue. Mac has seen companies time and time again who cut corners to try to launch quickly and make a quick buck, but when they get caught they get shut down and slapped with hefty punishments.
LEVERAGING RESEARCH TO BECOME A VALUED PARTNER
Being a resource to your prospects is the best way to differentiate in the healthcare space. Mac has always put a lot of pride into this particular aspect of sales, and he implores his salespeople to do the same. Medical professionals don’t want a “feature-dump” when you visit them to talk about your solution. They want an expert who can teach them something. If you are up to date on the specific regulations the particular doctor is up against (i.e. state and county laws), you may know more about this topic than the doctor. Compile the data that’s important to your prospects and bring it to their attention. In Mac’s experience, they always appreciate it.
REPUTATION IS EVERYTHING
Highly regulated spaces are often close-knit communities where word travels fast. As a result, your reputation as a sales rep and as a company precedes you. That’s why maintaining a squeaky clean reputation is a must. Some reps out there are still offering incentives to doctors in direct defiance of the various anti-kickback laws. But, as Mac puts it, for Nona Scientific “there isn’t one customer that would be worth losing that reputation.”
Nona’s reps win customers based on merit. They are transparent in every interaction. They are a trusted resource for their prospects and customers. They always have a list of references someone can call. They give straightforward answers on product, licensing, accuracy, and billing.
It’s difficult to sell into a highly regulated industry. Whether you’re selling into the Petroleum & Coal industry, Cyber Security industry, or, like Mac McKellar, the Healthcare industry: regulations are constantly changing, and your customers expect you to adjust and come out ahead of these changes at every turn. But if you don’t have a good strategy for keeping up to date on everything going on in your industry, you’re never going to build the trust you need with your prospects.
More on becoming a valued partner:
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