Relationship-Building in Health Systems

Relationship-building in health systems is a tricky but necessary part of any marketing or sales strategy. This week, I talk with Amelia Roberts about how to build these partnerships with health systems.

Amelia is a registered nurse by trade, entrepreneur by passion and expert silo hacker. She facilitates collaborative relationships and partnerships that help busy professionals thrive mind body and business. She can be found at

In our chat, we cover:

    • Part 1: What People Get Wrong about Selling to Health Systems (13:19)

Discover what vendors get wrong about selling to health systems – and how timing and relationship-building make all the difference.

    • Part 2: How to Get Your Foot in the Door at Health System (12:29)

Learn which committees are essential to getting your solution into a new health system – and what they are really looking for.

    • Part 3: How to Help Health Systems find the Money (8:42)

Discover ways you can help health systems access funding – so they see you as a partner, not a salesperson.

This is an episode of the Leading with Health podcast, formerly titled “Healthcare Lead Generation.” In this podcast, healthcare IT disruptors, innovative healthcare providers and health sector company leaders join host Jennifer Michelle to discuss growth strategies and navigating change.

Jennifer Michelle, MPH, EMT is a marketing consultant specializing in the healthcare sector. President of Michelle Marketing Strategies, she has a Master’s in International Health & Epidemiology and currently volunteers as an EMT. Her unique background allows her to bring unexpected insight and depth to every interview.

Part 1: What People Get Wrong about Selling to Health System (Podcast Transcript)

Jennifer: 00:01 Hi everyone, I’m Jennifer Michelle of I specialize in helping healthcare IT and provider organizations get more leads. Today on Healthcare Lead Generation, we are talking with Amelia Roberts of Solutions by Amelia. Amelia is a registered nurse by trade, entrepreneur by passion and expert silo hacker. She helps healthcare professionals move lifesaving products into the hands of people who need them, and she can be found Now, for those of you new to the Healthcare Lead Generation podcast, each interview is divided into three parts. Today, those three topics are what people get wrong about selling to health systems, how to get your foot in the door at health systems and how to help health systems find the money. So now let’s dive into Part One, what people get wrong about selling to health systems. Amelia, welcome. It’s such a pleasure to have you on the podcast.

Amelia: 00:52 Hi there. Thank you for having me. Happy to be here.

Jennifer: 00:55 Awesome. So let’s talk about this because I know you have a nursing background, which gives you a great deal of experience about how health systems actually work with vendors and I wanted to start with what people get wrong about that. I’ve not been on it from the inside like you have as an RN. I’ve been on the outside helping vendors connect with the health systems. But what do you see as what people don’t understand?

Amelia: 01:21 Well, there are a few things that could use improving, but I’ll break it down into a few points. I’ve found that some people don’t really understand timing. That goes back to not really understanding their ideal client or being clear on their personas; they’re not understanding about how purchases are made. They’re not paying attention to buying cycles when it comes to large pieces of equipment. For example, a lot of healthcare systems, they’re simply not buying large pieces of equipment every single year. So I encourage people to think as part of market research, when was the last time this client or this potential client, when’s the last time they made this purchase? Are they due for a new one? Do they make this purchase every so often? And I’ll stop there, but I could keep going.

Jennifer: 02:17 Let me ask you this. Why do you think that they are misunderstanding that? Is that just something that they’re not thinking about when they do their research to start selling their product? Or are you finding that they’re used to selling in other industries and may be crossing over?

Amelia: 02:35 It has to do with really not understanding or not getting into the head of their ideal client’s needs. Say the company is selling a diagnostic pieces of equipment. I definitely appreciate that that company wants to get that diagnostic piece of equipment in every single hospital in their zip code. I understand that, but taking the time to do research and have that conversation could get someone farther than they think. Even having curiosity, conversation that doesn’t necessarily lead with “I’m trying to sell you this thing” but leads with “Hey, this is a problem that we solve. I don’t know if this is something that could serve you right now or how often you have this sort of need” and then just having that conversation.

Jennifer: 03:27 I think that’s one of the things that you really excel at because that’s really the relationship-building piece. That’s what any kind of healthcare marketing or healthcare sales is going to have to be about because these are not tiny purchases. People are not going to buy an MRI machine because they’re checking out and it was right by the machine, you know, it’s not a last minute decision. So I think those relationships are critical. Tell me more about how people can foster those relationships. I know you are a nurse and how our nurses involved in that?

Amelia: 04:06 I think it goes back to who is involved in the decision and where does his pain originate from and how does the pain put out there. How does the diagnostic tool company know that there is a need. A lot of times, purchasing decisions are first just seeing – once a facility decides to make a purchasing decision, a lot of times that decision is initiated by the request of the user. So, what is the user requesting? What is it that they need? Who’s making these user requests? Many times, those requests initiate from nurses. A lot of times nurses, not a lot of times, but nurses spend more time with the patient than any other provider. And professional nurses are the largest group of healthcare professionals. When a company, whether it’s a medical supply company or any other company – say IV Supply Compan – when they first decided that they wanted to develop a relationship with the facility, sometimes they overlook the value analysis committee. They overlook finding out how often do they make these purchases. And also getting to know the supply chain, purchases over a certain amount needs to have certain approvals or a certain process. Purchases over a certain amount have to go through but purchases under a certain amount, sometimes you don’t need as much buy-in as one would think. And sometimes companies who are savvy, who decided to develop that relationship and find out what it takes to come into a facility. They might find out “Hey, you know what, if we were to change the buying or the pricing model, we can bring it in under amount.” I don’t want to say all that is needed is a handshake. I hope that makes sense.

Jennifer: 06:08 It does. In fact, something I have found a lot, doing marketing in this field as well, is the role of the champion. If there’s that one person who really loves whatever it is that you’re providing and who talks you up when you’re not there, it makes the whole sales cycle a lot easier. And you’re right, nurses are a wonderful champion of a product. They’re the ones who are going to be using it. So I think, I think what you said is spot on.

Amelia: 06:34 Yep. And also I encourage people to think about, who’s using it, who’s using the equipment. Who will be buying it? Sometimes in healthcare, the person who’s using the equipment and the requester are two different people. So just really taking time to understand. I keep going back to the relationship building, but just going back to really understand their perspective, clients’ situation, how purchases are made, how decisions are prompted, where they come from, and then who’s literally paying for that solution. And also deciding to invest in preparing the champion, which a lot of time is the nurse, to be able to speak to this need. I’ve seen some companies do it extremely well, where they provide the nurse leader materials to better speak to this solution and to show the people who might be making the purchase how to best position the product or solution in a way that will make sense for the person who’s making the purchase. So that conversation can even be opened up. Yeah. So great things have been happening in that.

Jennifer: 07:47 I think that’s beautiful. Amelia, I think that’s a great point to end and to finish Part One. For everyone who’s listening, this is Jennifer Michelle of MichelleMarketingStrategies. com, where I specialize in helping healthcare IT and provider organizations get more leads. We’re talking with Amelia Roberts of Solutions by Amelia. Amelia is a registered nurse. She’s also an entrepreneur by passion and an expert healthcare silo hacker. She helps healthcare professionals move lifesaving products into the hands of people who need them. You can find her at Now we just did Part One of our interview when we talked about what people get wrong about selling to health systems and we’re going to return in Part Two in just a few moments when we’ll talk about how to get your foot in the door at health systems. Amelia, thank you so much for joining us.

Amelia: 08:37 Thank you for having me. Happy to be here.

Part 2: How to Get Your Foot in the Door at Health System (Podcast Transcript)

Jennifer: 00:06 Hi, everyone! Welcome back to Healthcare Lead Generation. This is Jennifer Michelle of, where I specialize in helping healthcare IT and provider organizations get more leads. We are speaking with Amelia Roberts of Solutions by Amelia. Amelia is a registered nurse by trade, entrepreneur by passion and expert silo hacker. She helps healthcare professionals get lifesaving products into the hands of people who need them. She can be found Now, we always do interviews in three parts on this podcast and in Part One, we spoke about what people get wrong about selling to health systems. In Part two, we’re about to speak about how to get your foot in the door at health systems. Then we’ll come back for Part Three to talk about how to help health systems find the money. Right now, we’re talking about how to get your foot in the door. Amelia, welcome back. And it’s such a pleasure to have you on the podcast.

Amelia: 00:53 Hi. Thank you so much. I’m loving the conversation.

Jennifer: 00:56 Well, it’s a lot of fun. So let’s talk about this. This is a big issue. How do vendors get their foot in the door of a health system? That’s oftentimes one of their biggest questions. I know it’s something my customers come to me for. I know it’s what you do, but I think again, with your perspective from being a nurse within a health system, I think you have a very unique perspective on what is useful there.

Amelia: 01:19 Thank you. It’s amazing how much healthcare has changed and I’ve only been in the industry for 12 years and I know there’re people who’ve been in this industry for decades. But even that short time, I’m seeing so many changes happen in terms of bringing the end user to the table and caring about even design, how the end user is influencing design of healthcare records to hospitals and rooms, there is an association called the Nursing Institute for Healthcare Design. So I’m just seeing how the end users are collaborating with the business industry in new ways and it’s a fun time to be in touch.

Jennifer: 02:12 Absolutely. Let’s talk about this, because a lot is going on and a lot of that is why there are so many vendors on the scene. I know you mentioned in Part One that, oftentimes, vendors need help knowing their customer needs and I could not agree with you more on that because I see it all the time. They have this vague sense that they’ll be selling to doctors or they have a vague sense that they’ll be selling to hospitals but they don’t really get it. And as I think you’ve mentioned, they often forget the role of the nurse and they don’t quite get the process involved because it’s not one person making a decision at a health system the way it might be at a small practice. And even then, frankly, not anymore. So tell me a little bit about what you’ve seen about that.

Amelia: 02:54 So going back to learning more about your customer needs, getting into the door of the system. Showing that you know their needs. One takeaway tip that I really want people to be aware of, that it even exists, is something called the Value Analysis Committee. When it comes to making purchases, when it comes to the hospital making purchases or healthcare system, rather, there is usually a Value Analysis Committee where they take a look at the purchase from a variety of different standpoints. There are financial experts, there’s the financial stakeholders and there’s people who are able to tell if implementation we’ll even make sense. And there’s the clinical voice, there is a clinical voice. So hospitals are realizing that many times expenditures, healthcare spending, it’s something that everyone is trying to get under control.

Amelia: 03:51 But a lot of times healthcare systems have realized that purchases that have been made, have been the best purchase for the end user, for the patient, for the healthcare system. So a lot of healthcare systems have a process where people from a variety of different disciplines get together and take a look at new products. Along those same lines, in terms of what somebody who wants to get into the healthcare system (needs to know), that’s good information. What can you do? I recommend finding out as you’re having these conversations – and I’m really big about developing relationships with folks and asking questions and sometimes I know that people who are just entering the healthcare system don’t know what questions to ask. So that’s my takeaway: ask about the Value Analysis Committee. Sometimes who’s on that committee, sometimes that’s public knowledge, sometimes it’s not, but sometimes it just entails, you know, having a lot of conversations.

Jennifer: 04:55 Well, let me ask you something about that actually, Amelia, because I’ve worked with these committees for my clients, as well. And what I find is there’s that situation where we talk about your customer. But actually there are several customers when you are dealing with a health system, because it’s not like you’re going to first approach the Value Analysis Committee, am I right? You’re going to have to get a champion, you’re going to have to get that champion’s help, maybe to get someone who is in the decision-making level and you’re going to have to get them on board and then, eventually, they have to feel confident enough to present it to the Value Analysis Committee or sometimes the New Product Committee – they have different names. But, once they’re there, they have very specific requests for information.

Jennifer: 05:42 They’re not just, “Oh, I like it,” or “Oh, wouldn’t it be great.” They literally need to know budget, they need to know what is the research on this and is it going to help people. Why is it any different from what we have? So I think that hearkens a little bit to what you were saying earlier about you need to know your customer. You need to really understand how they work and what they’re asking at each stage. I mean, you know me, I’m all about the funnel, so I’m always thinking about, okay, who are we dealing with here and how close are we to buying and what are their questions? So do you find that Value Analysis Committees are usually kind of like the end stage of the decision-making process?

Amelia: 06:23 I wouldn’t necessarily say that they are the end stage. So my relationship with them, I was on the Innovation Council of a large hospital and we have a variety of products. Let me rewind. Magnet hospitals have a structure where they encourage shared decision making among nurses. As part of that, there’re different types of committees. At the hospital that I was at, it had an Innovation Council. So the Innovation Council there would have opportunities to look at products and services that might help us do our job better as nurses. Then, based on what we felt and what we thought, that team would collaborate with the Value Analysis Committee. Once the Value Analysis Committee fielded the new tool there was still a few other qualifications that are points that that tool had to go through. But to your point, yes, it’s not the end all and be all. And that’s part of the reason why I really am super passionate about helping people, especially startups. know that if you want to do business with the healthcare system, just know that our sales cycle, I don’t think I mentioned that sometimes our sales cycle can be upwards to 18 months.

Jennifer: 07:53 And that’s true. It’s a no-brainer for anybody in this field that you are looking at sales cycles that can be very long. Sometimes they can be shorter, it really does depend, but you would not be surprised to see a 12-, 18-month sales cycle at all. I was thinking, based on what you were talking about – you were talking about getting the foot in the door – what are some other options for people showing you what they need? Not just the councils, but what are some of the other ways to find out what people are looking for?

Amelia: 08:28 So it goes back to relationship development. Sometimes the best competitive intelligence is not published on the Internet and it’s not found in a press release, but it comes through ethical, personal relationships. So it becomes a question of, all right, so what room do I need to be in, who do I need to know, what meetings do I need to send my sales reps to? And that goes back to being clear on your ideal buyer, right? Let’s use an example. Say you’re at an EHR vendor. You have a solution that helps promote care coordination. Knowing who’s potentially buying that solution, who wants to help coordinate care better, who is trying to solve that problem? Typically case management. Case management of a healthcare institution is super passionate about preventing readmissions within a certain passion portion of time. They’re super passionate about on staying on top of their quality data. So where are the directors of case management going? Well, there’s clearly Case Management Association, so it just really goes into being strategic about conversations. Being strategic about relationship building and then having conversations where you’d find out about what other associations or boards these people are on, like local to you or in your community. And also your competition. A lot of times competition, they do listen to who their friends are. And of course I wouldn’t recommend going after their clients. But give people who might not be that savvy with the healthcare industry a clue of where they might want to start to focus their attention, a clue of where to start to focus their relationship-building activities.

Jennifer: 10:22 I’ve actually seen vendors where they had the data to show, that whenever they lost to a competitor, it took about two years and those people were unhappy and then they could get in. So they actually did pay attention to who their competitor is sold to because they knew, within six months to a year, to start slowly reaching out and reconnecting.

Amelia: 10:45 And speaking of that, that’s something else I recommend. Certificates of Need, who is buying what, where are the open contracts? Who has the open contract? Right now, I’m paying attention to who gets awarded grants. Who’s getting awarded grants and who just got funded for what. If you’re working in the startup field, a company that closed Series A, at a certain level, they list that publicly. So that goes back to I guess crossed wires. There are a variety of options,

Jennifer: 11:16 So it’s not just getting your foot in the door but keeping your ear at the door so you have a sense of what’s going on. I think that’s a perfect point to wrap up Part Two. For everyone who’s listening, this is Jennifer Michelle of I specialize in helping healthcare IT and provider organizations get more leads. And today on the Healthcare Lead Generation podcast, we’re talking with Amelia Roberts of Solutions by Amelia. Amelia is a registered nurse. She’s also an entrepreneur and an expert healthcare silo hacker, which I love that phrase. She helps healthcare professionals move lifesaving products into the hands of people who need them. And you can find her at Now, in Part One, we spoke a little bit about what people get wrong about selling to health systems and just now, in Part Two, we spoke about how to get your foot in the door. Now we’re going to come back in a moment with Part Three and Amelia and I are going to talk about how to help health systems find the money to hire you or get your solution. Amelia, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for having these wonderful conversations.

Part 3: How to Help Health Systems find the Money (Podcast Transcript)

Jennifer: 00:06 Hi, everybody! Welcome back to Healthcare Lead Generation. This is Jennifer Michelle of, where I specialize in helping healthcare IT and provider organizations get more leads. Today we’re speaking with Amelia Roberts of Solutions by Amelia. Amelia is a registered nurse by trade, an entrepreneur by passion and an expert healthcare silo hacker. She helps healthcare professionals move lifesaving products into the hands of people who need them. You can find her at Now when we do interviews on this podcast, we try and break them into three parts so everybody can listen in short bursts, which is often all we have. So in Part One, we spoke about what people get wrong about selling to health systems. And in Part Two, we spoke about how to get your foot in the door. Now we’re going to talk about something that’s just as essential, which is how to help health systems find the money to bring on your services. So Amelia, welcome back. It is just a delight to have you. Let’s dive in because helping health systems find the money, that’s a really big issue for a lot of organizations.

Amelia: 01:07 Yes, and I love this topic that we’re talking about right now because I have seen so many amazing products and services out there in the field and you know, they’ve been challenged to come into the healthcare system for a variety of reasons. And I’m just really super passionate about, as you mentioned, helping get life-changing, life-saving solutions into the healthcare system.

Jennifer: 01:34 Absolutely. So let’s talk a little bit about that. We’ve talked a little bit about how you can find a champion within the organization, but I think you can also present yourself as kind of their partner and offer to help them with different things. And I think that’s something that you’d spoken about previously, kind of a consultative approach. Talk to me a little about that.

Amelia: 01:57 What I have seen work with this is, well I’ve seen a few things work well. I’ve seen it where a vendor, an EHR vendor, they have a solution. And say the healthcare system is interested but they don’t really have the budget. There’s nothing in the budget. The budget has already been set and there’s no way for that solution to be added into the budget right here and right now. So what is a startup company to do? Or what is a vendor company to do? Some vendors will say, you know, well, we’ll just stay in touch and that, but other vendors who do things well, who care about being a partner and take a consultative approach, they will help. They’ll align themselves with the health system and search for money together. Some will do that and there’s a few parts to that but many times there are nonprofit associations that can align with the healthcare system, and that nonprofit association may have easier access to secure grant fundin. To secure funding in an easier way than the health care system. I hope that makes sense.

Jennifer: 03:20 That does. So you’re saying that if you can’t find the funds within the health system, pair up with a nonprofit who has access to different kinds of grants and bring that in. Are you then saying maybe the vendors can help them write the grants or help them even research the different grants?

Amelia: 03:37 Both. So there is a news item that came on my radar and I want to scroll up. It’s public knowledge. There’s a hospital – Cincinnati Children’s Hospital – that received a $32,5 million federal grant for congenital heart defect research. Underneath that grant and under a lot of grants, especially when they’re coming from the government, there are certain requirements that the healthcare system has to comply with to keep the funding. So, let’s use another example such as reporting. Sometimes underneath or inside of a grant there are reporting quality measures that will be tracked and reported back to the government. And they need to have proof that the money is doing what it says it’s going to do.

Jennifer: 03:37 Yes, of course they do. That’s just a given with any grants; you’re going to have to show that you’re doing it.

Amelia: 04:48 Exactly. So that solution, say Cincinnati Hospital, I’m just using them as an example, I don’t know the details of that grant, but say Cincinnati Hospital doesn’t have that solution to capture the data that needs to be reported back to hold this program. Right. What a vendor could do, say an EHR vendor could do, is say, “Hey, we offer said solution” and then enter into a partnership with that grant and that health institution and enter that way. I hope that makes sense. And I have seen that work a few times.

Jennifer: 05:23 I think that’s really awesome. I think that’s a really creative approach. Do you find that companies are open to doing that or do you feel like they’re not quite sure how to approach it?

Amelia: 05:38 You know, I keep going back to relationships. It goes back to relationships and knowing what keeps your clients up at night or just being top of mind. Being aware of that community that you’ve been networking with. Okay. Let’s go back to the example we had used earlier with the case managers. They are the Directors or Case Managers for a healthcare system. They definitely care about cost control, that’s a pain point that keeps them up. And they were at an association event and this vendor presented on their solution that captures and analyzes data and sends it right to whoever needs to know about the data and the quality improvement projects or whatnot. Now that person is at a facility that just received a ton of money or is even writing or trying to secure this grant and they noticed, hey, it says that we need to have a solution that captures this information and that information. Do you think that will be able to do that within house? They might say, “You know what, I don’t think so but at this event I met this company that provides such a solution. I’d be open to making an introduction.” Yeah. So, does that make sense.

Jennifer: 06:59 It really does. It does make a lot of sense and it just shows that it’s not just knowing how to sell, it’s about understanding what are the parts that are going to need to be put in place before you can sell your product and help people by getting it to them. And it’s not always the way you think. I mean, I love that you’re doing a creative kind of putting puzzle pieces together. Well, what other parts of the community can we look at that might help?

Amelia: 07:25 Yes. And also it goes back to sometimes, once you accepted the grant, what I’ve seen is sometimes compliance, certain surprising things comes up during that process and just being top of mind, being in the back pocket of your ideal client could be really helpful and they could think of you easily and turn to you. And just positioning yourself as an expert, making sure that you’re aware and visible and that you’re not a secret. All of that’s important.

Jennifer: 08:01 I like that. Making sure you’re not a secret because, honestly, sometimes, I think that’s what happens in a lot of cases where vendors are trying so hard to only focus on people who are ready to buy, that they don’t understand what they’re losing by not building those connections earlier. And that’s, for me, as somebody who focuses on that funnel development, the more people you connect with at the beginning, the more people who are talking about you, the more likely you are to be invited to speak or get introductions and that’s the relationship that you’re talking about building. So I think that’s absolutely brilliant. I think what also I like about what you’re saying is that it doesn’t shut down the conversation if they don’t have money. In fact, in some ways I think you’re saying it can even deepen it because instead of suddenly being this, “Oh God, I want to buy, but I don’t want to buy” pressure – and we all feel the pressure. We feel maybe a little guilty if we’re liking a product and liking talking to someone, but we just can’t buy it and then we don’t want to deal with them anymore because there’s nothing we can say. Not when it gets uncomfortable. But in this case, it’s almost as if, even if they don’t say no, you have another venue to stay in touch that actually takes the pressure off of them. I think it’s fantastic.

Amelia: 09:21 Yes. And something that I have seen to work very well is when I help to facilitate conversations. Say the company, the decision maker says that sort of thing is not in our budget right now though I really like it. And I’ve seen a creative startup say that this is what we’ve done for other clients. This is how other clients have found the money or this is how other clients have helped figure things out. And I’ve also seen a well-informed startup say something we’ve done or something that we can offer is help with grant finding and grant writing.

Jennifer: 10:06 Yes, that would be really helpful. I’m sure grant research and writing. I’m also thinking back to what you were saying about nonprofits, since nonprofits often work with different areas of the community. If your solution is something that might be big enough to be in several different parts, it becomes an introduction to those other health systems, as well.

Amelia: 10:27 Yes, absolutely. Again, it goes back to simple relationship development. Ask for introductions to people who are making decisions and – I don’t know why the case management folks that are on my mind – but, I mean you wouldn’t ask, do you know other people like you, but just having curiosity, conversations about them and “do you know other people who might be struggling with this as well”? You should have that information going into the conversation but say you don’t know, you’re struggling with that problem, you can have an open conversation and say, “You know, we’ve worked with your neighbor over here, we’ve worked with this other facility down the street. I don’t know if you know somebody there or I don’t know if you’ve heard of them.” Or just sometimes people need to be helped to think, to be brought along the process of figuring out how to bring your solution into their facility. I hope that makes sense.

Jennifer: 11:29 It does. And I just love the creativity of it because I think people get very cut and dried about whether something is going to be a client or if it’s going to close the deal or what. And I think that it really comes down so much more to having a long-term view and thinking about how can you help consistently, how can you help, what are they looking for, how can you help them? And then suddenly you’re not the person on the opposing side, which the salesperson often can be. Even the founder of the organization can come across like that. Instead, you become their partner, you become someone they can trust and you become someone who helps them get the thing that they need and move forward with their own goals. I think it’s exactly what a good sales relationship should be.

Jennifer: 12:19 You know, Amelia, thank you so much for this. I think you have such a beautiful way of putting into words the relationship that needs to be part of any health vendor relationship. Thank you so much for coming back. For those of you who have just joined us, you can learn more about Amelia’s work at I know we said this at the beginning but Amelia is a registered nurse, so that’s how she understands the inside of the hospitals and the health systems, but she’s an entrepreneur by passion and she loves hacking the silo system within all of our health systems. She helps specifically healthcare professionals move lifesaving products into the hands of people who need them. I’m your host, Jennifer Michelle, of and I specialize in helping healthcare IT and provider organizations get more leads. Amelia, thank you so much for coming on the show. And for everyone listening, catch you next time!