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Background and Brief

Vanguard HealthcareVanguard Healthcare is the leading supplier of mobile healthcare facilities. This includes premium turnkey mobile theatre, ward and clinic capacity, facilities, staff and equipment to the NHS and independent healthcare providers. Vanguard’s services are a key component in the effort to minimise waiting lists while maintaining high clinical quality standards. They also support trusts and hospitals during theatre/ward refurbishment and estate redevelopment, maintaining standards of patient care, efficiency, safety and surgical compliance.

Vanguard sales had fallen significantly behind the growth plan previously agreed with their private equity investor when David Cole was appointed CEO. David wanted to understand all aspects of the company’s sales operation and the sales and inside sales teams’ strengths, weaknesses and potential for improvement in addition to an action plan to improve performance.

David asked Sales Plus Profit to perform a rapid and comprehensive Strategic Sales Review and Plan to gauge the performance, personnel and processes of the sales function and benchmark them against best practice. The aim was to get the teams ‘match fit’ to enable them to meet the Board and investor’s goals.

Strategic Sales Review and Plan Methodology

  • 18 Sales Health Checks completed online by staff across the business working in or with Sales
  • 9 x 1-to-1 interviews conducted with Board members and senior sales, marketing, finance and operational personnel
  • In-field customer visits with the Strategic Account Managers (SAMs)
  • Extensive review of company accounts and sales performance figures
  • Extensive review of sales and marketing data, plans and collateral
  • Attendance at a monthly sales meeting and an Inside Sales meeting
  • Creation of a comprehensive Strategic Sales Review and Plan report and a 6-month Plan of Action

Top 10 Challenges

  • Sustained sales growth
  • New company proposition and sales vision to drive motivation, activity and market approach
  • Creation of core Value Propositions for all the key offering/customer combinations within the context of the competitive landscape
  • Partner and routes-to-market strategy and action plan
  • Sales management including:
    • Establishing individual SAM sales targets and plans
    • SAM ownership of goals and accountability
    • Improved forecasting, KPIs, performance management and financial reporting
    • Instructive, interactive and better-managed sales meetings
  • Quality and skills of the sales personnel including coaching and training on:
    • Relationship-based and consultative solution selling
    • Key account management
    • Clinical governance
    • New account targeting
  • Specification and implementation of a fit-for-purpose CRM
  • Strategic engagement with senior NHS executives and clinicians
  • Review of salary, bonus and commission schemes
  • Inside Sales team:
    • Closer collaboration with Sales
    • KPIs (e.g. ‘What is a good quality lead?’) agreed with Sales

Strategic Sales Review and Plan Highlights

Vanguard’s Marketing Director commented that “being interviewed by Steve Parr was like being interrogated by Columbo”.

Company Proposition and Sales Vision

There was an urgent need for a new company proposition to align with the current commercial landscape, which included a reduced focus on waiting list times in the NHS. It was also vital to ensure that the entire company understood the company’s aims and strategic goals. A new and clearly articulated company proposition would significantly improve motivation and teamwork in pursuit of Vanguard’s goals. The company would benefit from leveraging its strong and extensive track record to broaden the proposition and become a flexible healthcare solutions provider. The new proposition would also drive the creation of a new sales vision and plan.

Value Propositions

There was a need to define the core Value Propositions in each of the key sectors within the NHS and with independent health providers. This would ensure that Vanguard addressed real customer needs such as the recovery by the NHS of tariff revenue ‘lost’ to independent providers. The process would also need to be completed for target areas of health and social care.

This would move sales engagement and negotiations away from pricing and reposition them toward defining custom solutions with potential customers and ahead of their formal requirement. It would also enable the SAMs to match customer needs more precisely and maximise the value and differentiation of their solutions.

Partner and Routes-to-Market Strategy and Action Plan

A clearly laid out partner strategy was needed to determine which potential partners could:

  • Support the Value Propositions that Vanguard are aiming to deliver (e.g. partners with complementary products and services)
  • Facilitate market access (e.g. marketing and channel partners)
  • White label Vanguard services

To enable the creation and implementation of a clear action plan Sales needed to move beyond:

  • Relationship matrices
  • Signed NDAs
  • Raising awareness
  • Good relationships
  • ‘Being on everyone’s radar’

The action plan would include:

  • Generating a deep understanding of target partners’ commercial needs in order to gauge the potential to deliver joint and strategic Value Propositions
  • Mapping potential partners’ presence within key target sectors and customers

Sales Management

It was crucial to set individual sales revenue and performance targets and plans. This would involve the SAMs fleshing out the detail in line with the company’s sales goals and financial requirements. Involvement of the SAMs in this process would also drive SAM ownership and accountability. These targets would then form part of a suite of sales management forecasting, KPI and performance management indicators.

Sales meetings tended to be ‘led from the front’ rather than being interactive and they missed the opportunity for upskilling and education. Meetings lacked formal minutes and actions, which are especially important to a geographically spread sales team that gets together monthly.

The Quality and Skills of the Sales Personnel

Coaching and training were required on:

  • Relationship-based and consultative solution selling
  • Key account management
  • Clinical governance
  • New account targeting

On-going education and upskilling could take place at the sales meetings. Key topics could include:

  • Sales strategy and planning
  • Establishing customer value
  • Strategic goals of the NHS
  • Compelling business cases
  • Clinical pathway and estate management pain points

These insights could be provided by external clinicians, NHS managers or NHS Procurement.

Customer Relationship Management

A major limitation in the management of the sales operation was the lack of a fit-for-purpose CRM system. A professional sales and marketing CRM tool would allow:

  • A company ‘Sales Performance Dashboard’ and individual SAM sales dashboards
  • Pipeline reporting and revenue forecasting
  • Effective Target/Key Account Management and planning
  • Information sharing esp. between Sales and Marketing
  • Marketing campaign management

Graphical (rather than just ‘data-in-a-spreadsheet’) reports/dashboards on performance would give a clear indication of the team and individual performance/shortfalls.

A professional CRM system would also greatly aid information sharing and teamwork between Sales and Marketing. Such a culture change would need to be sponsored by the CEO and led by the Sales and Marketing Directors.

Senior NHS and Clinician Engagement

Vanguard’s sales and marketing teams needed to ‘raise their game’ and engage with senior NHS executives and clinicians. Lack of engagement had resulted in the occasional reluctance of clinicians to sponsor Vanguard solutions.

It was also recommended that Vanguard appoint a part-time Clinical/Medical Director to guide and represent Vanguard’s clinical leadership. A medical advisory group, or a more formal Advisory Board, would also support Vanguard’s sector leadership.

Inside Sales

The Inside Sales team had been hired to create quality sales leads and team members had a good set of complementary skills. It was recommended to raise team effectiveness by cross-fertilising these skills across the team including:

  • Telemarketing
  • Understanding of the NHS
  • Experience of Vanguard’s mobile units

The SAMs wanted to pursue high-quality sales leads and this upskilling would increase the effectiveness of team members in generating such leads. To underpin this there also needed to be an agreement with Sales about what qualified as a quality sales lead or prospect.

It was also recommended that collaboration with the SAMs should be increased by pre-agreeing target bodies and individuals. The Inside Sales team would research the targets to gather intelligence, map the accounts, speak to them if specific information was required and then support the SAMs with a professional approach to potential customers.

Further key elements of the Strategic Sales Review and Plan were:

  • A comprehensive report on the sales team members’ strengths and weaknesses, including their performance on the infield customer visits
  • A detailed 6-month Action Plan
  • Indicative Project Plan and Timeline
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