By Philip Green, Commercial Director
At SAF, we’ve worked with suppliers since our inception, helping them successfully sell their products to the public sector. We have spent years building and establishing effective relationships with suppliers in the healthcare sector, supporting them with acquiring the commercial expertise needed to successfully sell into the public sector.
Our Commercial Director, Philip Green, has more than a decade of experience in supporting our suppliers with closing out their sales cycles and making their products and services widely available.
It’s no secret that the public sector has complex procurement processes and tight budget restrictions, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With this in mind, Philip has shared some of his top tips on how to approach selling to the NHS…
1. Consider that the NHS doesn’t like being “sold to”
Consistent interaction and relationship building are a more impactful way of engaging with NHS Trusts. This approach will likely have a more positive outcome when convincing decision-makers that your product is better than a competitor’s.
Effective relationship building is crucial when selling into the public sector, as this allows you to demonstrate your understanding and consideration of the challenges faced by the NHS. You want to assure your contact that you have the flexibility to make your products available to meet demand as and when new challenges arise.
2. Know your audience
It may seem obvious, but knowing exactly who you’re selling to is crucial in any sales cycle, especially in a public sector setting.
While it’s important to build relationships with stakeholders at all levels and across various roles, it’s vital to understand that all NHS departments have a business management team. These are the people in charge of financial management who influence the allocation of budget.
Building advocacy with other stakeholders certainly holds merit and will help promote your product or service when the time is right, but getting your message in front of the financial decision-makers remains key to success.
3. Budget considerations
It’s no secret that NHS budgets can be problematic to navigate, so if you’re going to sell to the Trusts successfully, you’ll need to have an educated overview of the complexities of their budget processes.
Often, the NHS won’t have the budget immediately available (and most have a capital wish list totalling millions of pounds), which is why it’s advisable to put all options to the Trust at the start of the sales process.
Many suppliers also choose to leave the flexible finance option as a last resort, rather than bringing it into play from the very beginning. Don’t be shy to offer several options upfront, as this will demonstrate your flexibility and make a potential sale more viable.
4. Get on an NHS procurement framework and get on the NHS suppliers list
Suppliers who sit on NHS procurement frameworks, such as NHS Supply Chain, are considered to have already undergone a comprehensive check that has deemed their products, equipment or services as being fully NHS compliant.
Being on a relevant framework means you’ll be able to speed up the overall procurement process, allowing NHS Trusts to benefit quickly from the goods or services you’re offering.
5. Offer a flexible finance option
Many NHS Trusts won’t be aware that flexible finance is an option for them, so making this option available from the offset is important. A bespoke finance solution means the Trust can benefit from equipment straight away, eliminating the constraints associated with finding the capital outlay upfront.
SAF work with suppliers’ sales teams to share our expertise around public sector funding and design and develop bespoke finance options that can provide a more consistent sales stream. It’s also an effective way of reaching NHS Trusts with limited upfront capital who need to invest in facilities and equipment.
For more information on our finance options and how we can support your sales team, why not get in touch with a member of the SAF team.