Crocodile EHR Sales – All Mouth, No Ears

I’m a regular reader of a number of venture capital bloggers. I love entrepreneurship and consider investing a hobby that I love learning about. One of the best VC bloggers out there is named Mark Suster. I recently saw one of his posts titled, “The Danger of Crocodile Sales.” While Mark takes his post in a few different directions I think we have our fair share of Crocodile Salespeople in the EHR world.

Before I get into some thoughts, here’s how Mark describes a crocodile salesperson: “My favorite was when a guy told me to beware of Crocodile Salesmen. What’s that? ”You know, big mouth and no ears.””

I know I’ve been in some EHR sales presentations that were off the charts good at selling and demoing an EHR product. Based just on that sales presentation I could see how a physician would be very interested in buying that product. Everything went like clock works. They hit so many of the buzz points for doctors that make for a really compelling sell.

The problem comes that with half of the things that are said, in the back of my mind I’m thinking…and now let’s hear the rest of the story. Or the related…what about this, this and that nuance?

Don’t get me wrong. I think there are a lot of really good EHR salespeople who have the best interest of the physician at heart. Plus, there are a number of EHR companies that support this type of sales process. The challenge as I see it is helping the doctors to ask the right questions so they get the right information.

A crocodile salesperson, as described above, makes it a challenge for a physician and their practice to get the information they really need. In some cases you can see why an EHR salesperson exhibits the crocodile characteristics. Some of them just don’t have the in depth knowledge of their product to be able to veer off their sales demo script. They’ve nailed the sales demo, but fall apart when you veer into uncharted territory.

This is exactly why a doctor should make sure to take the EHR salesperson off script. You don’t have to be a jerk about it in the process. You just need to make sure that the sales presentation covers the points that you need covered. Do it in a polite and appropriate way and great EHR salespeople will be happy to go the direction you want to take the presentation. I know doctors time is limited, but it’s worth taking the extra time to get the right information. Ask any physician who’s switched EHR software if they’d wish they’d spent a little more time understanding their first EHR selection. I argue that it is the most important part of an EHR implementation.

My best suggestion to a doctor is to always consider how the EHR software being demonstrated will work in their office. Don’t get so caught up in the bells and whistles of what the product could eventually do in your office that you forget about how you’re going to do your regular tasks. Another common error is for physicians to be so rigid in their requests that they’re not open to any deviation from the processes they’ve used for the past years. No EHR will fit every physician workflow in every way. Consider whether you can see reasonable alternatives to your current processes.

If you want some other suggestions on asking good questions during your EHR sales demo, check out my e-Book on EHR selection. There’s a whole section of it devoted to the topic.

Selecting the right EHR is a hard thing to do. Getting the right information about an EHR and how it will work in your practice is critical. So, be sure to ask the right questions and don’t let crocodile salespeople waste your time and theirs. Make sure that they understand the specific needs of your practice before they start showing you how their EHR software solves those needs. You’ll both be better for it in the end.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

6 Comments

  • Selling EHR’s is certainly a completely different ballgame from selling many products. Having a desk next to three EMR salesmen in a small office has certainly enlightened me on this point. The ‘script’ is certainly utilized but they always try to route any unanswered questions appropriately, occasionally to myself.
    The amount of knowledge that our senior salesman possesses is amazing to me. He was not ever required to know these things, yet chose to do extra homework about the industry and field in order to keep our clients informed and satisfied. Its unfortunate that these “Crocodile Salesmen” will try to sell a product that doesn’t fit a physician’s practice. In the end, this does more harm than good for both parties.

  • A couple of thing to add for finding out how you will be served:

    o Tell the sales rep what you expect to see demonstrated and what’s important to you.

    o Ask exactly who will handle your support calls. Will there be someone dedicated to you or are you served by a committee? Ask how they track support issues and what their standards are for escalation?

    o If there is a user group run by the company or independently, see what the members issues are and how well they are served.

  • I agree with Carl B from your blog. I am a EHR Vendor with almost 30 years in the PM business (the company not me) This is how we approach this issue:

    1. Ask the Provider what they would like covered in the demo prior to meeting.

    2. Ask questions throughout the demo to make sure they are engaged and we are still on-track.

    3. If showing integrated notify staff members when it is their time to participate or can be excused. Example: “okay we covered the billing portion of the demo so if Sally needs to get back to her desk…or we would love if she stayed” This way we are not wasting anyone time.

    3. Here is the big one: I include the support staff member (expert) that would be training the clinic IN THE DEMO. In-fact many times the support member is navigating the demo while I drive. This seems to be a huge selling point with smaller or rural clinics that don’t appreciate the “sales” approach but the “help/ support” approach.

  • What I don’t understand is why I can get a demo version of just about any product on my own computer, but I need a salesperson to demo an EMR. I know more about what an EMR should do than any salesperson. A company that is confident enough to put it in my hands—not for 30 minutes, but for a month—is much more likely to make a sale to me.

  • Brian,
    More and more EHR vendors are moving to full systems that users can use and test. I personally like a mix of a demo from a salesperson and a hands on test drive of the system. That way you get some of their knowledge, but also see how it works for real.

  • Brian/ John,

    Yes! I offer potentials the opportunity to test drive the system after the demo. It does make sense to hold the demo first, then provide a temporary user name and password for the provider to view the system after. There must be a “salesperson” or Admin on the Vendor side to qualify the provider and to make sure they are not allowing competitors into the system for R & D.

    Brian would you like a test drive?

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