As the health IT industry continues to grow, healthcare software sales jobs are increasingly popular. MedReps.com recently sat down with Tom Brunelle, Enterprise Vice President of Care Logistics, a hospital consulting and software solutions company, to gain insight on how healthcare software sales jobs are different from other healthcare sales jobs and what it takes to be successful selling healthcare software.
MR: Tom, over the next two years, many provisions of the ACA will be kicking in, specifically the implementation of electronic medical records. How is this impacting the Health IT sector?
TB: Well, the industry as a whole is being affected in significant ways. The healthcare reform Act (ACA) and the HITECH bill that went into effect previously, push medical providers and hospitals to meet certain mandates to overhaul their electronic infrastructures. The laws also provide some federal funding to support those upgrades. Organizations are working to meet the federally defined conditions of “meaningful use.” If they do those milestones, they then become eligible for enhanced payments, if they don’t, they will be penalized in the form of payment reductions. The whole idea of these bills is to encourage institutions to move to Electronic Health Records and digital networking in order to improve overall patient care and safety. At the same time, we are seeing explosive growth in other areas of technology throughout the healthcare sector, and this is creating tremendous opportunities in IT and software sales.
MR: Is it fair to assume this boom in health IT will also create healthcare software sales jobs? What will those jobs entail?
TB: While there is no doubt that the industry will create sales jobs, it’s important to know that the job can be very different from many other types of sales roles. Selling healthcare software requires the ability to manage a “complex sale,” which involves many players. If a person is selling a single use product, they deal basically with a single customer directly. In healthcare software sales, they deal with many people who influence the decision making process, such as a hospital’s chief executive officer, chief financial officer, chief information officer, nursing leaders, medical staff and multiple other end user department leaders. It’s also a long process. A typical sale, which for Care Logistics can be in the $2 to $3 million range, doesn’t happen overnight. It typically takes between 12 to 18 months from initial contact to closing.
MR: What do sales professionals need to know about health IT if they want to break into the field?
TB: That it is a constantly changing and complex industry. The software that I introduce to a potential customer today will be significantly different by the time that the contract is signed and the implementation is complete. Our company is always making changes to improve, expand and upgrade systems. Technology is advancing so quickly and our developers are continuously working to keep up with those changes. Sales representatives also need to know that their job is not over once they close a deal. At Care Logistics, for example, we then work with the customer for about 8 months before we even install the system to make sure they are getting the best possible product. My job is to act as a liaison and problem solver for the life of the five year contract.
MR: What type of experience will companies be looking for in a healthcare software salesperson?
TB: Well, when Care Logistics was a small start-up some years ago, they manned the staff with seasoned salespeople and quickly learned that approach didn’t work. Because they were failing to connect with their primary buyers, hospital CEOs, they knew they needed to hire sales support that had strong healthcare backgrounds, especially in hospital administration. Basically, the CEO of a hospital won’t take a call from a salesperson, but they will take a call from someone who understands their side of the industry. My point is that the background, experience or education of a candidate will need to have some connection to the buyer’s area of responsibility within the healthcare organization. Interested candidates should seek ways to learn about specific end user needs and stay focused on learning how to help those individuals achieve their goals with the software being offered.
MR: As far as qualifications go, what sets an applicant apart from other candidates when it comes to healthcare software sales?
TB: Candidates should understand that they must either have a proven track record, or some compelling element that demonstrates their ability to understand and relate to the primary customer base for the product. From my perspective, a good sales rep is well educated, knowledgeable about their industry, articulate, able to forge long-lasting relationships and able to close a deal.
MR: What types of healthcare software companies should candidates focus on in their search?
TB: There are a tremendous number of companies involved in healthcare software. Nearly every device and process in the healthcare industry is software driven today. A great source of information about what is happening and which companies are expanding is the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. Candidates need to network with as many people as possible about what they should do to break into the industry. They need to get their name and face out there. Job seekers should not be afraid to call a target company directly and just ask for 20 minutes of time to get advice – everyone loves to give advice! They should be asking company experts how they can position themselves properly to find the right work.
MR: Tom, if you had just one piece of advice for a healthcare software sales applicant - what would it be?
TB: I just want to let them know that it’s really important work. They have a chance to have a positive impact on the lives of others. They can sell a product that assists nurses, doctors and hospitals in providing excellent care to their patients. Even non-clinical software systems indirectly serve the cause of providing patient care. Sometimes those patients end up being our loved ones. It’s a job that has very real and positive social impact. I also will tell you that I am having the most fun at this job than I have had at any other time in my career. I get to travel the country and meet really interesting, intelligent, dedicated people. I get to meet some of the most dynamic and brightest minds in the healthcare field, and that is a really great thing.
Enterprise Vice President of Care Logistics, Tom Brunelle has 40 years of experience in the healthcare administration field, serving as chief executive officer at a number of different hospitals before transitioning into sales.