How do you sell to the NHS?

This is a guest post by Health Foundry member Leanne Summers.

Selling to the NHS is akin to a dark art. The NHS is thought of as a single organisation, that you sell to once and magically you get nationwide adoption.

It turns out that it’s more like a collection of villages… And you need to sell to each one, individually (more on this another time).

So attending a Lunch&Learn at digital health space Health Foundry titled “How to Sell to the NHS” seemed like a good idea. David Lawson, the presenter is Chief Procurement Officer at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital. He has 15 years experience of procuring services for the trust. So you imagine he knows a thing or two about how to buy things.

He started by explaining that hospitals are ripe for improvement, not in their ability to deliver cutting edge medicine, but in terms improving their efficiencies. If your product is able to help them to achieve efficiencies then you are VERY likely to be listened too.

Tip: Think about how you word your value proposition — are you bestowing facts and figures about how wonderful your product is or are you cutting to the chase (almost regardless of the product features) to show improvements that your product will introduce to your customer’s scenario (i.e. saving someone in that hospital a chunk of time). The latter resonates.

I didn’t count the number of times that David said efficiencies, but it was a lot. Needless to say if you can prove efficiencies you are on to a winner. Seriously

So how do you sell?

1. Get a champion
You need someone within that hospital to LOVE your product and see the vision for it. Ideally this person also has access to a budget holder (or is the budget holder). This person will sell in your vision if you can build that relationship and share ownership of its success.

So how do you find this person? The advice from DrDoctor’s Tom Whicher? Network.

Get out there, meet people. There are loads and loads of events about health every week, check out DigitalHealth.london and Health Foundry for starters. Not to mention Digital Catapult, DHACA, Medtech Meetup, Innovate Medtech, Healthtech Women (note this is not just for women). Heck even join the Royal Society of Medicine and I’ve only just scratched the surface.

Next- how do you make sure that that person sticks around to help with roll out? Write it into the contract. Get a time commitment once per week in the contract — this helps to ensure adoption.

2. Access - make it easy to buy
Products: Make it easy for the hospital to buy you — if you have a product get onto NHS Supply Chain or a distribution list that already has access to hospitals. Note, that there was some talk that if you get to a certain size you may be able to contract directly, thus cutting out the middle man, but this was ‘talk’ not evidence based.

Digital: If you are a digital platform (and this was the focus of the presentation) then register for G-CLOUD 9 (deadline for this round 11th April 2017). This is not healthcare specific - it’s driven by GDS (Government Digital Services) and is how government departments can buy digital technologies, easily. It means the hospital can say… I’m looking for x, login in to G-Cloud and buy you, provided you are there.

Obviously, I’ve over-simplified that. You still need your champion and there is a good chance that the G-Cloud has not filtered down to every single procurement team in the NHS yet, but if you’re based in London and looking to sell to Guy's and St Thomas' it could be well worth your while.

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Health Foundry: Lunch&Learns
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