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Solutions, not sales

Solutions, not sales

Sales. Usually, it’s the first thing that I encounter as a recognised “issue” with companies and healthpreneurs I work with. Comments like “we need more sales” or “our sales are too low” or “we need to companion sell more” scream that there is a perception of a sales issue. But did you notice that this is actually the last of the 5 pillars, not the first? Here’s why.

To get to the sale in the patient journey takes conscious and deliberate effort, discipline, grit and resilience in your Mindset, Leadership skills, Planning ability and Marketing acumen before a sale even occurs.

In other words, the patient journey doesn’t start with the sale. It’s usually the 2nd or 3rd last step. Before the sale, the patient needs to become familiar with the solution you have to their problem, and then ultimately recognise that your solution offers the best way to solve their issues. Only then are they ready to make a purchase.

In essence, sales is the art of creating an irresistible holistic solution, not pushing product.

Create solutions instead of selling products

For many team members within our businesses, the thought of “selling” is scary, foreign or even taboo.

Unfortunately too, it also comes with the negative connotation that we’re ripping off patients or selling them things they don’t need – something that has been driven by poorly thought out sales targets, “products of the month” campaigns and leadership styles that promote profits over patients.

Before we go any further, if this sounds like you or your business, this needs to change before anything else can. The culture within your business needs to shift from profits to the patient, and only then will you and your team truly embrace what it means to create solutions.

But if the thought is simply one of fear, we can explore this by first jumping back to our pillar of Mindset.

In order to be great at sales (aka creating solutions), we need to reframe our thoughts from thinking we are “pushing product” to instead “helping a patient solve their problems holistically”.

This reframe is critical to firstly remove the conscious barriers that we create when we’re on the floor working with our patients.

Secondly, we need to move away from “can I help you with anything” when approaching patients. Most will say “no I’m just browsing” to close the conversation, but ask yourself this – why are they “just browsing”? Now some patients might genuinely be just passing time, but many actually don’t know what solutions they are looking for to begin with.

Take the example of shopping for a new mattress.

It’s something that you will spend over a third of your life on, but what was your experience like when you purchased it? Take your mind back to a mattress store before you may have purchased one online and look around – they probably all look pretty much the same.

So how did you tell the difference?

Some might feel softer or harder. Some might look more refined and prestigious. Some might have features and benefits where others don’t. And lastly, some may cost more or less than others.

But who brought these points to your conscious awareness? Your own research or “browsing” may have, but it was likely the salesperson who pointed out the differences in the sea of white rectangles of springs and foam and curated a solution that matched your needs.

Now bringing this example into our world, look to the shelves of products you carry within your pharmacy. Use your skincare section for example. You’ll see a myriad of products that, to the patient, might resemble what it looked like for you to enter into a mattress store. They may all look pretty much the same, with subtle differences that need to be looked for, or guided to by an expert.

And while the patient may “just be browsing”, the solution that they might be looking for might not be the solution they truly need. They might be afraid to ask the questions needed to help guide them in fear of being judged. Furthermore, they might not know the questions to ask to begin with, so don’t dare ask them at all.

So thirdly, in order to create meaningful solutions, we need to remove the barriers for the patient to be comfortable in having an open and honest conversation with us.

Well, how do we do that?

  1. View your patient as a person to interact with, not transact with

  2. Offer an open and honest discussion with the patient to get to the root issues (ie. get permission to have a meaningful chat)

  3. Ask questions (remember questions are the answers)

  4. Always seek clarity rather than assumptions (assumptions are our own beliefs, and not theirs = friction if we get it wrong)

  5. Identify the root issues by asking why (often the patient will explain their surface level problem, but it’s usually a problem caused by another unresolved issue – just like the perception of poor sales explained before)

  6. Repeat steps 3 to 5, and mutually agree on their actual issues

  7. Quantify the impact of the issues to understand a sense of urgency to fix them

  8. Develop a holistic solution addressing their issues in the most effective way

  9. Handle any objections including budget by reframing and offering different tiers of solutions (Bentley, Lexus, Toyota)

  10. Close the sale but offer to nurture them through in-person and automated follow-ups to generate loyalty and advocacy (the next steps on the customer journey)

“Imagine your customer is your best friend – listen to their concerns, be a shoulder to lean on and then shift the focus from what went wrong to how you can help make it right.”

Now this might seem like a lot, but this process is usually completed in only a few minutes. The reason it’s so quick, is that we have one of the biggest, yet most underutilised assets in our war chest – the enormous trust our patients have for us even before we have greeted them.

This trust, when leveraged (not abused), can very quickly turn a simple product conversation, into a meaningful conversation about the patient’s overall health and wellbeing.

By understanding the patient, ensuring they feel heard, and developing solutions that will truly help solve their issues not only results in greater basket sizes, but builds longerlasting relationships, rapport and advocacy, thus ultimately leading to more sales.

Put simply, if we first shift our mindset to embrace our role to provide solutions to those that seek solutions, then we’re well on our way to improving sales.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Be transparent

As alluded to earlier, a significant function of our brains is to solve problems.

But unfortunately, as evolution has needed us to do, we are also wired to naturally jump to the quickest or what is perceived to be the simplest solution to solve our problem.

The issue with this, is that we sacrifice the quality of our solution by rushing to the first thing that pops in our mind.

The same goes for making assumptions.

When we don’t understand something, our brains quickly make assumptions to help fill the missing gaps of knowledge, and then come up with a perception or thought that we think is suitable to address our issue.

And then when queried how and why we came up with that solution, we often falter as we don’t have the evidence to back up our solution but rather just a list of assumptions as to why and how our created solution would solve the problems we thought we needed to address.

Assumptions in essence kill the sales process.

Not just from our ability to create the best solutions, but also our perception of why sales are important and necessary to begin with.

“The best way to prove the clearness of your mind, is by showing its faults; as when a stream discovers the dirt at the bottom, it convinces us of the transparency and purity of the water.”

I often come across team members who have made assumptions about the business and its performance, and through these assumptions, look at sales as purely transactional, rather than an integral pillar of the business.

Sales to them is often of little importance simply because it’s assumed the business is doing well.

Unfortunately though, this simply isn’t true, and for some, is realised too late.

At its core, sales figures simply show the dollars you are transacting in your business.

For some, particularly those with significant aged care contracts, plentiful account customers, or large volumes of high-cost drugs, sales, while it might appear as a large number on paper, doesn’t reflect the actual dollars that are entering the bank account.

For this to be truly relevant, we need to put the sales figure aside, and look at:

  1. When do we actually get paid (how far after we provide the goods or service)

  2. How much we do get paid

  3. What the difference is between what we got paid, to how much it cost us to deliver the product or service for

  4. How much effort we had to go through to get the payment we received And finally, and in my opinion the most important, where are the opportunities to (in reference to above):

  5. Decrease the time between delivering the goods or service and receiving payment in full?

  6. Increase this?

  7. Understand this and put our priorities into the most profitable goods and/or services?

  8. Evaluate where we get the best value for our efforts and focus there?

You’ll notice that these points are phrased as questions.

Questions that if answered together with your team will help to remove the assumptions about what your sales figures truly mean.

The team will have a greater understanding of how these levers (the 4 questions) impact your overall bottom line and viability of your business moving forward, and the role they play in manipulating those levers.

By being transparent, honest, and open about the financial performance of your business, the team has a chance to work with the leadership team to achieve the goals of the business. They understand their role, and they also understand the consequences of not stepping into the power of sales.

And through this understanding will come a sense of ownership and accountability that sales are truly important.

Then lastly, translate the word “sales” back to “solutions” and this is where we once again become aligned to our purpose which is likely related to helping others.

It’s no longer just about making money, but providing solutions whereby the rewards of those solutions are in fact, the financial success of the business.

But all of this doesn’t just happen.

It takes Leadership.

It takes Planning

It takes work.

Teach, practice, learn, repeat

To be confident in sales requires a confidence to understand the patient’s true issues, create bespoke solutions, market them, and close the interaction all within minutes.

If we break this down, we need to:

  1. Know what questions we need to ask and be confident in doing so

  2. Understand the use cases, features, and benefits of the products and services we have available and how they fit into the solutions we could create

  3. Be able to translate why the chosen solutions will work

  4. Avoid overcomplicating it – we want to stay out of the neocortex (this is a whole other topic but just thought I’d prime it here now)

  5. Efficiently and effectively guide the patient to a purchasing decision

As a leader, it’s imperative that you first need to recognise that these skills are not innate in most of our team. Time needs to be put aside so these skills can be proactively taught.

But you first must also possess these skills in order to teach others.

“Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking ‘what’s in it for me?”

Once taught, it’s all about practice. Run practice sessions between team members first to build confidence, and then expose them to well-known patients who will understand and appreciate your true intentions (purpose over profit, not the other way around).

From these practice sessions, review the interaction, provide feedback, and analyse what needs to be done differently next time. Identify gaps in knowledge, particularly with what solutions would or could have been offered and train in these areas.

Then repeat. But through the repeat process, have them start to reinforce these lessons by teaching others along the way too. Run larger sessions in front of larger groups of the team to help build confidence and drive encouragement.

Keep doing this and you will soon see that your efforts are rewarded far beyond the investment you made in time and energy to start this cycle.

You’ll soon see a cultural shift from one that perceived sales as “scary” or “about ripping people off” to one that empowers your team and business with the opportunity to be financially rewarded by helping others find and embrace the solutions you have to offer.

And through that, we are now no longer on a journey of simply improving our sales, but one of creating solutions.


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Zamil Solanki works with healthpreneurs – from individuals to large multi-national organisations – to help them overcome unique challenges and achieve their goals through curated training programs, and tailored holistic solutions.

Unlike other coaches and consultants, we pair global research and techniques with our own experiences, having grown our own pharmacy by $4 million and exiting it for 3x the industry average multiple. To do this, we focus holistically using 5 key pillars – mindset, planning, leadership, marketing and sales and specialize in workflow, innovation, automation and systems.

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