“The role of a tech salesperson has evolved in multiple ways and it’s continuing to evolve,” shares Tim Nash, Healthcare Head of Global Sales at Virtustream. In the “old days” sales success would be determined based on relationships established and cultivated over many years, it’s similar today but maintaining those key relationships is much harder…catch this interview where Tim shares some more interesting thoughts on the evolving tech sales space.
Can you tell us a little about yourself Tim? We’d love to know about your journey in technology sales- and your biggest highlights (and challenges) so far?
I’ve spent my entire career within the healthcare space, starting clinically in the Radiologic Technology area, focused on Diagnostic X-Ray, CT and Special Procedures. I moved into sales in 1991, before the boom in healthcare IT, selling X-Ray and Cardiology capital equipment. Healthcare IT soon skyrocketed and I naturally moved into that area, leading both small and large sales organizations, eventually spanning all aspects of healthcare IT. I’ve been fortunate to lead teams in both growth-stage and Fortune 500 organizations, which has been instrumental in the growth of my own leadership resume as both scenarios are quite different. My biggest career highlights have always been the amazing customer relationships while watching members of my team grow their own careers, moving into many leadership positions themselves.
Given the current pandemic and Covid-19 impact on businesses and healthcare, what have your observations been in terms of what health platforms/care providers need from their infrastructure as a service?
Given the current unprecedented global pandemic, our healthcare customers are going through an amazingly difficult time right now. Virtustream was quick to lean-in from the onset, to clearly set the tone for our customers that we’re here to help and support them in any way possible. For many, their revenues have dropped, plus they’re struggling with resources and patient influx in certain areas of their services. At the end of the day, we’re being present and proactive in offering our help. In addition to focusing on helping our customers, we’ve made proactive changes in two areas: product maintenance and product innovation. We also understood that as the coronavirus restrictions ease, a new normal may emerge. Consequently, we have used the time to inject innovative ideas into our product offerings, which align to our customers’ own vision.
Can you throw light on how some platforms (even Virtustream) have come to aid the healthcare segment during these trying times?
We have continued to drive innovation into existing cloud offerings as well as our professional and managed services to ensure our strategic value in the changing market environment – particularly when it comes to enterprise-level, mission-critical applications in the cloud. We have also initiated a new product offering that responds to rising customer demand for additional storage options for Virtustream Healthcare Cloud. Storage is one of the highest growth areas within the healthcare vertical, so providing innovative and flexible solutions in this area will continue to grow in importance. Within healthcare, each customer situation is unique and different. Most of our customers are dealing with cash flow difficulties, deferred payments, electronic health records upgrades and much more. We approach each customer with empathy and flexibility, including the potential to ease financial terms during this time on a case-by-case basis, as we look for ways to support their unique needs.
In your time in technology sales, how have you seen the role of the tech salesperson evolve? How do you feel that the impact of salestech has inspired this change in the way sales teams now approach their role?
The role of a tech salesperson has evolved in multiple ways and to be honest, I think it’s continuing to evolve. In the “old days” sales success would be determined based on relationships established and cultivated over many years. It’s similar today but maintaining those key relationships is much harder for sure. Customers are more educated than ever before and, in a lot of cases, they can help guide us on future product offerings and additional capabilities. Our sales makers have solid insights on our prospects which we consistently utilize to enhance our customer relationships and differentiate ourselves against our competition. We must establish our relationships early in the process as customers still want to buy from people they know and trust. At Virtustream we’re seeing a good amount of digital selling opportunities versus face-to-face interactions. I think our customers are beginning to prefer Zoom engagements. I also feel it can help make selling more fun and interactive, but the key is to personalize your customer communication as to not lose that personal touch. As I have already alluded to, people still buy from people, but the sales professional who does not prepare and does not do the appropriate research will routinely be left out of the game.
Given the current pandemic, what do you feel are the top qualities that every salesperson and sales leader in tech needs to focus on more today?
That’s a great question and one that is constantly changing based on the market conditions. At Virtustream, we ask ourselves this question routinely as to hold ourselves accountable to what our healthcare provider and payer customers are going through. How do we stay relevant to our customers? How can we provide more value to them in a meaningful and succinct way? What do they need from us as a strategic IT business partner? These are the questions we ask ourselves daily. When we meet with our customers, every sales maker needs to know how to clearly articulate the value add that we can bring to the discussion as well as the role we can play as a true partner in their success. Take the time to do as much research as you can on the current issues facing your client. Speak to other similar clients to see what challenges they face. Think outside the box on how you can comprehensively serve your clients. And if you can’t, then don’t waste their time. Telling a customer that you can’t help them is sometimes as refreshing as telling them that you can. It supports that old adage that all customers love: “I respect you and I respect your time.” Knowledge and preparedness are key to any successful sales endeavor, but the basics are critical, too, like presentation skills, good communication, being organized and knowing how to leverage your team members. Top sellers are ‘highly knowledgeable’ about their solutions, their customer’s business, and the markets they operate in. Elite sellers leverage that knowledge to teach their prospects and customers about how they can compete more effectively in the markets they serve. Given the economic impact of the pandemic, this skill becomes more important than ever because you might help enable a key stakeholder to get your project approved. Some sales leaders can be incredibly inspiring, but frankly most are not. A great sales leader needs to do much more than just motivate; they need to lean into the culture of the sales organization itself to help create, build and maintain a culture of true optimism and flexibility across all sales makers.
How do you see the rest of the year play out when it comes to technology sales, and how customers will be forced to rethink their tech stack, their objectives and the way they plan to function (given the Covid19 situation)?
Big financial commitments have come under greater scrutiny and in some cases will stall projects for 18-24 months. I’m optimistic that technology sales can still have a good year despite some buying decisions being delayed for now. Sales execution is critical as there may be fewer qualified opportunities to go after in the near-term.
Technology sales in a tighter financial market will have to be aligned to an organizational goal and strategic plan. The smart sales maker who is in sync with their customers can help them align those strategic plans to ongoing or new investments. Additionally, directly related to our current realities, I think customers will prioritize investments based on how solutions can enhance and enable their new remote workforces.
Prospecting is much more than just “cold calling.” Prospecting is hunting in the truest sense of the word. The rest of the year is going to be tough for sure on this front, but it will be the sales executives who are on top of their game and learn to use all the tools at their disposal who will win their share.
As a tech sales leader, in a challenging environment due to the Covid19 pandemic: what are some of the ways in which you enable a balanced remote work culture while maintaining motivation levels?
Our organization has had a WFH (Work from home) model for over a decade so it’s been business as usual for our teams. The slowdown in the market has unfortunately impacted many organizations in a negative manner, but conversely, there are many organizations that are growing in the new dynamic and we’re engaging with them to support their business needs. What were traditionally two-year digital transformation strategies for customers are now being compressed and expedited creating new opportunities for us. We’ve taken some of the additional time available to focus on education and training to further develop the team’s skillsets as well.
Tag (mention/write about) the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read!
Todd Hollowell, COO at Imact Advisors and Rod O’Reilly, EVP & President of Software and Analytics at Change Healthcare
Your favorite Sales quote and sales leadership books you’d suggest everyone in Sales reads…
I have two actually.
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” – Thomas Edison. I’m an Army Veteran and the first time I heard this Edison quote was from my drill sergeant during basic training a long time ago. It makes perfect sense in selling as it’s never over until the ink is on the paper, either our paper or the competitions. Never give up!
“Of all the hazards, fear is the worst” – Sam Snead. This quote hits home for me as an avid golfer for sure but also in sales. Successful sales leaders are never scared and use fear as the mechanism to hold themselves accountable to the strategy to win.
My favorite sales leadership book is Nuts and Bolts of Sales Management: How to Build a High Velocity Sales Organization, By John Treace
A few tips if possible, for sales (or marketing teams or businesses in general) trying to navigate through the current pandemic crisis.
First, have faith. We will get through this pandemic and will come out the other side with positive momentum. Second, stay true to yourself and use this “downtime” as a way of enabling yourself with the necessary tools and skillsets to be successful. Lastly, maintain as much customer interaction as possible. Everyone knows someone who has been touched and impacted in some way for sure, be sensitive to that and offer help as needed. At the end of the day, we’re in healthcare to positively impact people and patients’ lives.