Welcome to the first of a three part series of blogs with an elephant theme, exploring software in the NHS. We’re starting with the “Elephant in the room” or elephants in this case, just two, so it isn’t going to get too crowded.
Let’s meet our first elephant, the IT sales person who’s always sending you newsletters, product updates, case studies, filling up your inbox, calling you after hours hoping to catch you as you are always in meetings during the day (how did they get your mobile number?), trying to come and see you and sell you something.
OK, luckily not all IT sales people are like this, but it is probably the stereotypical view and must be based on something, right?
What if we looked at a salesperson’s role at its most basic level? We can’t get away from the fact that their job, probably targeted and financially motivated, is to sell you something. How does a sales person achieve this?
For starters they need to understand what their product does, but most importantly they need to learn why it does what it does, what difference will it make to you, what are the benefits? If they don’t know why they’ll have no idea if it will add value to you. Of course, if it adds no value you won’t be buying it, if it doesn’t do what it says it does you won’t keep it, that’s not good business, it’s almost as if they really want it to work for you, isn’t it?
So how does a salesperson gain this understanding? Is it from their sales director, sales colleagues, marketing team briefings, tooling them up and then sending them off to hunt you down? Well to an extent yes, but there’s another very important part of truly understanding the value IT, or any solution, offers their customers.
A salesperson spends time with you, and all your counter parts, all around the country, learning how you do things, all of the “yous”; they do this all day, every day, seeing the different ways you all work, the pressures you are under, the ways you’ve solved them, the innovation you’ve implemented. This is the way a salesperson amasses the understanding, the knowledge, the problem awareness and how they can or can’t help you.
On the flip side, how do you gain an understanding in your role of how to solve your problem? You are probably part way through the latest advice from a think tank that has “spent 18 months researching your problem” and delivered a 100 page plus report you’ve no time to read. Or you may go to a conference, a few times a year, at which you have some case studies presented to you, a presentation from a national leader lifting your spirits (that’s important) and you’ll catch-up with an old colleague or two, chatting about their problems and solutions whilst balancing some warm quiche, an event bag and glass of orange juice in the allotted “networking session”. You’ll be doing all this with all the sales stands wedged in the corridor in your peripheral vision, but what do they know?
Your role is most likely juggling dozens of priorities, some set by your organisation, some by your commissioners at a local, national or Government level. You’ve targets to meet, patients and staff to keep happy, all that admin to do and that report to write too. You’ll have lots of projects on the go, you’ll be planning/firefighting and you need to stay abreast of best practices and the art of the possible when it comes to IT too; wow, you are stacked out busy!
Conversely the Salesperson has one focus, just your specific problem and how they can help you solve it, based on how others like you work and are solving that problem. The knowledge that a salesperson has is a rich, valuable and often untapped resource you could use. A salesperson is often extremely passionate, engaged and excited about the opportunity of helping you move forward, helping you be more efficient, deliver better quality, increase patient and staff experiences; basically helping you and your organisation. They probably even care about patients a bit too.
As if having one Elephant in the room wasn’t enough, let’s meet another one here…