Healthcare Industry

Articles by sales expert and author Paul Cherry.
Topics focus on challenges, pain-points, and solutions relating to the healthcare industry, including medical device, biotech, and pharmaceutical. Other subjects covered range from life science and insurance organizations to lab equipment companies and hospitals.

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C-Suite Engagement: Selling to Healthcare Executives

Group of Hospital C-Suite Executives

September 26, 2019   By Paul Cherry   Leave a comment

Selling to healthcare C-suite executives can really have an impact on your sales success. But it takes change to cultivate these relationships — sales reps need to:

  • Re-invent their core selling strategies
  • Re-evaluate how they engage key prospects
  • Re-discover what it takes to become a strategic partner

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Today’s New Healthcare C-Suite

Healthcare mergers and acquisitions are on the rise. Value-based reimbursement models, shrinking hospital margins, and record-high spending are forcing hospitals to forge new partnerships to achieve efficiency and cost control. With these changes, leadership roles needed to maintain these new healthcare systems, are also evolving and becoming more complex.

But what do sales reps need to know in order to boost engagement with these new leaders in the healthcare industry? First it’s important to know just who these new executives are.  We all know the traditional definition of C-level executive. C stands for “Chief” — Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Operating Officer (COO).  In today’s healthcare market, here are some emerging administration titles to watch for:

  • Chief Experience Officer (CXO)
  • Chief Compliance Officer (CCO)
  • Chief Learning Officer (CLO)
  • Chief Medical Officer (CMO)
  • Chief Nursing Informatics Officer (CNIO)
  • Chief Innovation Officer (CIO)
  • Chief Administrative Officer (CAO)
  • Chief Revenue Officer (CRO)

For many salespeople, reaching the hospital or health system C-suite is the Holy Grail. If only they can get a few magical moments with these key decision makers, they’ve got it made.

At least that’s what sales reps think.  But it doesn’t necessarily work that way. C-level execs delegate operational tasks, which includes buying healthcare equipment, products, supplies and services. Often the individual who can say yes is further down the organizational chart. Nothing wrong with that… Go where the money is.

But when you have an opportunity to make a bigger impact on a hospital or healthcare organization — when what you sell aligns with high-level strategy and direction — the C-suite is where you want to be. And when you get that opportunity, you don’t want to be telling. You want to be asking.

Prospecting Questions to Ask Healthcare C-Suite Execs

When selling to healthcare C-suite executives, the key point to remember as you craft prospecting questions is — they’re always thinking about the hospital’s “big picture.”Like everyone else, they have day-to-day responsibilities. But their primaryjob — the reason they get paid the big bucks — is to set healthcare strategy and make sure it gets executed. They are thinking ahead, constantly figuring out where they want to lead their team.

In the C-suite, you don’t hear the kinds of excuses that low-level contacts are likely to give you. You don’t hear, “I’m just trying to get through my day. I can’t even think beyond what I’m doing now. I’m satisfied with our current situation, no need for change. Can’t wait for the weekend.”

Simply “getting through the day” is a foreign concept to top healthcare execs. They’re not even thinking about today. They’re thinking six months, a year, three, five years out. They embrace change — because they know, if they keep doing what they’re doing — the world will leave them and their organization behind. Healthcare C-level executives need to think about:

  • How to grow the hospital.
  • How to better differentiate what they offer versus the competitive options of their patients.
  • How to position their healthcare organizations for future success and secure their reputation in select specialties.
  • How to respond to emerging threats.

The biggest mistake sales reps make with hospital C-suite executives is to try to sell them the same way they sell to operations, clinicians, departmental or material management personnel.

  • “Let me tell you about my products and services, my features and benefits.”
  • “Let me tell you about our satisfied customers and why we’re better than the competition.”

Top healthcare C-Level execs have no patience for this.  They don’t want a sales pitch.  That’s a conversation you should be having with one of “their people.”

The only reason a hospital C-suite executive is willing to give you the time of day is because they think you might be able to help them with their job.

  1. They want you to think more creatively.
  2. They want to be challenged.
  3. They want to disrupt the status quo.
  4. They want new ideas.
  5. They want to know what they’ve overlooked.

Engaging C-Level Executives with Big-Picture Questions

One of the best ways to initiate this type of high-level discussion is with big-picture questions. These questions are built around some highly relevant and provocative insight or piece of information that offers a fresh insight about the hospital or health systems world or the issues they’re facing.

C-suite executives love these questions. They align perfectly with their high-level, strategic thought processes. Top execs love to talk about industry trends, new and innovative ideas, market changes, and challenges.

So prepare for these C-level big-picture conversations by doing your research. Find an article, journal, or industry problem that’s relevant to the C-suite’s healthcare environment.  Examples include The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, The Economist, Harvard Health Journal, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), to name a few. Additionally, you can easily reference a healthcare trade or regional meeting you attended.

Integrate your research findings into a clever opener:

I came across an article in JAMA that mentioned __________. Your name and organization came to mind. The reason is that the author talks about __________. I’m curious as to what you are experiencing in your healthcare systems environment?

I work with a number of Chief Medical Officers. All of a sudden, it seems as if everybody’s talking about __________. Some of my contacts are telling me __________. Others are saying that’s not the case, and it’s more about __________. I’m curious about your thoughts?

I was at a leading healthcare systems conference last month and one of the speakers said __________. I hadn’t really considered that idea before, but it makes a lot of sense. Is this issue something you’re seeing in your hospital?

Notice that these examples never mention a particular client or share confidential information. But they do show your keen awareness of the industry and that you, like the healthcare exec, are thinking about the “big picture.”


When selling to healthcare C-suite executives, put these ideas into action so you can start developing relationships with these key leaders and become their strategic partner. Get more of the sales revenue you deserve.

Additional Resource

Healthcare Sales Training:
Selling To The C-Suite Executive Using Power-Probing Questions

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