Healthcare purchasing: Key opinion leaders vs. decision-makers


Every seasoned sales professional knows that the key to closing a deal is often about who you know—and who you have on your side. Finding the right internal influencer for a prospective client takes time, requiring research and genuine conversation with various points of contact (POCs).

Two of the most impactful contacts a sales rep can have are key opinion leaders (KOLs) and facility or health system decision-makers.

Identifying a key opinion leader (KOL)

Key opinion leaders (KOLs) are some of the most beneficial advocates to have throughout the go-to-market process. These influencers are most often physicians who have published research in peer-reviewed journals and can act as consultants anywhere from the research stages to crafting sales messaging. In addition to clinicians, KOLs may also be members of patient advocacy groups, academic researchers, or other subject matter experts.

Most organizations that cultivate relationships with KOLs operate within the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device, and medical supply industries. KOLs are particularly useful for these groups because they can test drugs and devices in clinical trials, outline side effects, and make note of key product differentiators—all vital information for suppliers to use when developing value propositions and sales strategies.

In best-case scenarios, key opinion leaders can influence physicians and hospital decision-makers into trying new therapies and treatments. According to Definitive Healthcare data, more than 8,600 physicians are designated key opinion leaders.

Identifying hospital decision-makers

Decision-makers at healthcare facilities are responsible for purchasing, partnerships, and other strategic initiatives. It is difficult to win an audience with these executives without first developing a relationship with KOLs and other POCs that can advocate on your behalf.

Where KOLs are influencers that inform strategy and execution, decision-makers are the contacts that need to be swayed into purchasing your product. Decision-makers, occasionally known as “budget-holders,” are executives of hospitals and IDNs and may hold titles such as CEO, CFO, or COO.

Who qualifies as a decision-maker depends on the product and goal of the company selling into that care facility. For example, a biotechnology company selling genetic testing kits may seek out physician leaders or specialty department heads at a physician group or hospital. The same company might target a Chief Clinical Officer (CCO) at a larger hospital or health system, as these executives control patient engagement and clinical quality—and are often physicians themselves.

A staffing firm, on the other hand, will likely target the Chief Operating Officer (COO)—who is responsible for recruiting and retaining internal leaders and other staff. Software and technology vendors will have the best luck with Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs), who oversee hospital IT departments and data safety.

Learn more

Are you looking for more information on how to catch the attention of hospital and health system executives, or best practices on finding physician influencers? Watch our on-demand webinar at any time: 5 Proven Tactics Every Vendor Needs to Know When Working with IDNs.

In this webinar, John Pritchard—President of Share Moving Media—examines how healthcare industry trends shape business relationships with IDNs and shares his personal tactics to achieve greater success.

Definitive Healthcare

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Definitive Healthcare

This blog was written by a former contributor at Definitive Healthcare.At Definitive Healthcare, our passion is to transform data, analytics and expertise into healthcare…

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