Heidi Horn: Vendors Are People, Too!

In the not-too-distant past, I ran the healthcare technology management department of a large health system. In that role, I was responsible for an annual clinical equipment maintenance budget in the tens-of-millions of dollars and for guiding the clinical equipment purchasing decisions, also worth millions each year.

Needless to say, I was used to having a slew of vendors vie for the opportunity to persuade me that their product or service would solve all of my health system’s problems and was better than all of their competitors. After 20 years of listening to what often sounded like the same sales pitch over and over, I became a little jaded. I started thinking of vendors not as people but as robots without feelings, whose sole purpose was to absorb what their company told them to say in order to make a sale and then regurgitate it in front of me.

I was 100% sure that almost every one of these vendors would lie to my face if it would get them the sale, and so I saw myself as my health systems’ defender, on a mission to find the truth. I would sit in my corner office and dismiss vendors whose product I was not interested in with a regal wave of my hand and little concern or thought that I had just ruined their day (or perhaps their sales quarter).

And heaven help a vendor who tried to cold call me! As soon as they said who they were, I would reply with a curt, “Sorry, I’m not interested,” and hang up phone before they had a chance to inhale their next breath.

Today, I sit on the other side of the desk from the person making the purchasing decisions. I am—dare I say the word—a vendor! All joking aside, from this new perspective I’ve had the epiphany that vendors really are people complete with feelings, hopes, dreams, and even scruples and integrity.

Now, I’m not going so far as to say every vendor is going to be trustworthy and honest (I’ve met some real doozies over the years), but I have realized that it’s not fair to assume all of them—I mean, us—are out to take your money. Many really believe in their product or service and want to help their customers.

I have walked a mile (actually, most of my career) in the customers’ shoes. Now I’m able to use that understanding of how my customers think, feel, and want to make sure my company is meeting their needs. I really enjoy doing that.

So, the next time you’re sitting across from a vendor, remember the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” After all, vendors really are people, too.

Heidi Horn is vice president of global enablement-healthcare at Nuvolo, a member of the AAMI Board of Directors, and vice chair of the Technology Management Council.

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