In 2017, KLAS leadership placed in my care one of its newest efforts to measure the provider voice: Decision Insights. These evaluations track hundreds of buying decisions in the HIT market. But it’s about more than just market-share data; after all, a typical Decision Insight includes not just the who, what, and when of a buying decision, but also the why and how.
These details, taken straight from providers’ mouths, have helped KLAS see what makes for a smooth and satisfying sales experience — and what makes for a rocky and frustrating one. The easiest way to create a positive outcome may be to prevent the most common missteps. To that end, I’ve compiled a list of three of the biggest mistakes made in buying decisions, as well as a few ways that vendors and provider decision makers can avoid them.
Mistake #1: Failing to Set Clear and Realistic Expectations
KLAS’ Decision Insights data is littered with examples of expectation problems leading to current vendors being dropped or potential vendors being dismissed. These expectation problems can originate with both vendors and providers. They include ineffective marketing, uneducated customers, overpromising, vague contracts, and poor follow-through.
One heartbreaking instance of miscommunication involved a vendor who, despite their new cloud offering, lost several customers who apparently left to find a vendor that offered a cloud product. I’ll bet those customers would be happily using their original vendor’s cloud tool if the vendor had been more vocal about their road map or the providers had done more research.
Recently, KLAS has begun working on a Decision Insights Population Health report, which includes buying-decision details for a market segment that’s infamous for its undefined expectations. Too often, vendors take advantage of the vague definitions of population health functionality and claim that their tools can do everything under the sun. Providers who don’t know what questions to ask — of both the vendor and current customers — may be convinced into buying a tool, only to find it doesn’t do everything they assumed it would.
This outcome doesn’t leave the vendor in a good position, either. As I’ll cover in the next section, vendors who don’t satisfy their customers are more likely to lose current customers and market energy. Overpromising to secure one customer today will lead to unhappy customers and a poor reputation tomorrow. Both vendors and providers must strive to settle any questions of functionality up front and include specific language in their contracts.
Mistake #2: Ignoring the End Users
My wife recently sent me to buy her a car. It was a wonderful experience; the salesman treated me well, the dealership knocked a couple thousand dollars off the original price, and I got in and out of financing in less than an hour. I brought the Honda Pilot home with a huge smile on my face.
Then my wife checked it out. “Where’s the DVD player?” she asked. “I have to keep the kids occupied back there. And what about the heated seats you promised me?” I had learned a painful lesson: Even the best buying experience won’t keep the buyer happy unless the end user is happy.
CIOs are often given a similar responsibility when choosing HIT tools. Unfortunately, there is often a disconnect between the CIO and the end users, which usually leads to angry clinicians. At best, this will mean extra work and frustration. At worst, it could lead the organization to rip out the new tool and start the decision-making process all over again. We’ve seen many examples of this in our Decision Insights data. Ultimately, leaders who don’t make the end users a key factor in a buying decision always regret it.
Vendors understand all too well that they can’t make a sale unless they appeal to the CIO and other decision makers. What they may not understand is that appealing to the end user is just as important. In the end, vendors who don’t please the end users always lose customers, whether they are current or prospective customers. And so I offer this advice. Tell potential customers how your tool helps end users. Use your sales pitches to show the CIO how your tool will make him or her a hero to the clinicians.
Mistake #3: Misjudging the Weight of a Demo
One tidbit in KLAS’ Decision Insights data that stuns me is the number of vendor that do a terrible job with presale demonstrations. In fact, poor demos impact as many as 30 percent of the buying decisions in certain market segments. This shouldn’t be an issue. Demos are among the easiest things to control — vendors should have it down to a science.
What can go wrong during demos? One of the most common provider complaints is that when they invite an incumbent vendor to demo a product, the vendor brings little more than lip service. The buying decision process is not time to rest on your laurels. Incumbent vendors should take nothing for granted, no matter how well they think they’ve done in the past. After all, happy providers rarely consider replacing their current tools.
Some providers leave demos disappointed — not because their vendors don’t try, but because their vendors don’t address the right people or issues. This problem may fall on the shoulders of both providers and vendors. A vendor that doesn’t yet have a relationship with a provider can’t know the organization’s concerns or whose input will be important in the decision unless the potential customer speaks up. Providers should clarify before demos exactly what they are looking for, and vendors should structure their demos accordingly.
Finally, if I had a CIO in the midst of a buying decision standing in front of me, I would give him or her this piece of advice: Don’t let one bad demo knock a vendor off your list.
Even some high-ranking vendors struggle to consistently deliver flawless demos, so unless a provider organization sees other reasons to show a potential vendor the door, it may be in their best interest to let the vendor know what went wrong and offer them another chance.