Selling Programs to Your C-Suite: 5 Key Steps to Success

When an infection preventionist, environmental hygienist, or any other health care worker sees the need and value of a technology, product, or program, but purchasing it isn’t in the department or facility’s funds, how do you convince the C-suite to buy it anyway?

What do you do when you’ve identified your key problems, done the research on a technology, product, or program you want to implement, and now you must get approvals and funding? Borrowing from the world of sales (a world most infection preventionists [IPs] do not travel in), here are some tips and ideas for how to get the approvals and funding effectively. We will use an ultraviolet light (UV) room disinfection program as an example.

1. 30 second speech: This is critical. Can you describe your intervention in 30 seconds and be compelling? What is the problem you are trying to solve, and how will you solve it? When you reach out to the individual who makes the decision, use reason, what you have done to make it profitable, and a request to speak to the person.

Something like this: “You know our facility has a challenge keeping our patient areas clear of Clostridioides difficilespores and other dangerous pathogens, which affects our reputation and profitability. I have designed a program that uses a combination of training and new technology that I think could make a big impact, most importantly for our patients but will also pay for itself. Could I get on your calendar for 20 minutes in the next week to tell you about it?” I mean, who could say “no” to that?

2. Tell stories: Stories are an amazing way to communicate complex ideas and make them memorable. Start your presentation with a story of a patient who contracted an infection from pathogens left behind on surfaces in the hospital and what impact it had on the family. Or an EVS worker who is trying to do a good job but is lacking the needed tools. Using a story about a nearby hospital that implemented a similar intervention successfully would be helpful. Include photos, videos, tables, and data.

3. Create a timeline: Timelines are great tools to help others understand what you want to accomplish. Put all the project milestones on the timeline, including the outcomes you expect; for example, an increase in Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores that can lead to increased reimbursements. Include data for each type of committee member (costs for finance personnel, labor hours for operations personnel, potential impact on outcomes for clinicians, etc). Make sure there is something for everyone in the committee on your timeline.

4. Meet before the meeting: No one can make a good and thoughtful decision if they are hearing information for the first time in a meeting. If an individual on a committee has never seen or heard of your idea before, they are likely to react based on their mood, a random piece of information that catches their attention, or some other external factor. What is very effective is to meet with each individual on the committee (by a Zoom call, a phone call, or very brief meeting) and prepresent your ideas. You’ll be able to understand their potential objections, and they will have time to process and understand your idea and how it fits in before the actual meeting.

5. Beware procurement: If you are not careful, the procurement department may alter critical elements of your recommended intervention. Their job is to save money. If they don’t understand the differences between products or technologies, they may order the cheapest available instead of the one you’ve carefully evaluated and chosen. Infection prevention interventions are clinical decisions. Do not accept a product, program, or technology that you don’t want.

Be prepared to justify your choices both clinically and economically. Make sure those differences get into the project specifications that the procurement department will be using. Be precise and detailed. For example, you’ve evaluated 5 or 6 UV disinfection technologies and determined that the one you want is supported by multiple peer-reviewed and published studies, doesn’t damage materials or equipment in a room (like some UV technologies can), destroys pathogens quickly with no warmup or cool-down time, and you’ve spoken with hospital customer references. These are important differentiators that should be included to ensure you are getting the system you’ve carefully researched.

Budgets are tight, so it is important to effectively communicate to the C-suite about the importance of investing in this new technology. These are just some examples of how to approach the complex health care decision-making process and build the best plan to enable you to acquire new technologies and tools, creating a better environment for everyone who enters your hospital.