Like many start-up executives, Rick Ferreira was not only passionate about his offering, but knowledgeable about his market. Alliance Healthcare, Rick’s medical device reprocessing company, was an early mover with a seemingly unbeatable value proposition for healthcare providers. It was always cheaper to reprocess devices than purchase them new, so every time a customer used his services, they saved money – guaranteed. Yet, just as investors were expecting an exponential jump in revenue after early years of consistent growth, everything stalled.
When Novelty Is No Longer Enough
Whether you have started your own company, launched a new product, or entered a new market, there almost always comes a time when the low hanging fruit is gone, and traction starts to slip.
This tipping point is where many executives turn to the “tried-and-true” options: sharpen the value proposition, acquire new tools to better demonstrate ROI, or embrace the latest the selling fad. Nevertheless, each of these strategies suffer from the same false assumption that reinforcing why a customer should buy will eventually lead to success.
The lasting solution to this growth conundrum lies in one, surprisingly obvious, place. If you want to discover what is really happening in a particular market, and what is creating or blocking sales success –ask the customer. Even for individuals, like Rick, who have a good grasp of their product and target market, do not always have a deep understanding of how their customers buy and why they don’t.
Alliance Healthcare and the Buying Journey
With profits still stagnant, Market-Partners Inc. was brought in by Alliance to decode their specific market’s Buying Journey. After interviewing their customers, we were quickly able to identify patterns within the buying process, as well as pinpoint the unaddressed concerns that led to hesitation in adopting Alliance’s service.
Armed with the knowledge of the how Alliance customers buy, we were able to develop a Market Engagement Strategy and Outside-In™ Selling Approach for the company. Rather than use a generic sales process or methodology, the Alliance sales force received the Customer Buying Journey Navigator. This simple tool, along with the expanded Playbook, gave each salesperson an effective way to recognize where a prospect was in their overall Buying Journey, as well as their actions items at each step.
“This sales approach has really lowered the level of the water, so you see the rocks right away – you know who’s doing the right thing consistently and who’s not. When I see an account that’s not performing well, I can go to the Navigator with the account team, walk through the Buying Journey stages, and see what they’ve done.”Rick Ferreira, Managing Partner at Alliance Healthcare
Sustainable Growth with Outside-In
Rick’s passion for his offering and market was matched by his passion for this common approach to manage his sales engine. Outside-In allowed Alliance to quickly align departments across the organization and provided a universal language in which to communicate. That is why whenever Rick picked up a call about a difficult account, the first questions he would ask is, “What stage is the customer at in the Buying Journey?”
“It helped us put a process in place that was scalable, so I could add more accounts and more people. The account management model was fully scalable, so it would produce predictable results if I did the same key activities in Hospital A or Hospital B.”Rick Ferreira
This repeatable nature has also benefited the Alliance sales team by addressing inefficiencies. On prequalifying prospects, Rick explained, “a hospital that will not give us access to the C-suite or to physicians isn’t a good customer,” noting these difficulties will inevitably cause problems and impede future sales. Additionally, the Buying Journey Navigator has also enabled Rick to weed out salespeople who take what he calls “the cowboy approach” to selling, rather than following the proven methodology.
The impact of Outside-In was immediate. Sales growth was reignited and the company was successfully acquired by Stryker four years after our engagement.