Preparing for the Steep Pitch: Selling Workflow Automation in Vertical Markets

Elicker-Art_0318The reason vertical markets are a focus for sales organizations is that they allow for repeatability. It is much easier to build something and then repeat the process, as opposed to building something brand new each time. In the little corner of the world that is content management, often the issues or pain points we uncover will have to do with process, also referred to as workflow.

Workflow is the lifeblood of all organizations. Without it, a company simply could not function. How could anything be sold, be bought, get fixed or get done without a process behind it? Everything has a process, and in the constant pursuit of doing more with less, workflow automation has become a great tool for accomplishing more.

There are many important attributes to a successful workflow; here are what I consider the top three:

Accuracy. This is the most important criterion. If accuracy goes away, confidence goes away and everything falls apart.

Efficiency. The process must require as little human intervention as possible. Some processes will require more than others, but the key is to use as little as possible.

Compliance. In today’s world, this is a must to consider for anything a company does.

There are many ways to improve workflow, the most valuable method being automation. In fact, when you search for “workflow automation,” our friend Google returns over 63 million results, so you could say it is a big deal. Workflow automation — which is driven by one or many software applications — provides companies with the ability to eliminate the need for humans to be responsible for the entire process. Humans are not the most accurate, efficient or secure workers, but utilizing software allows companies to build rules and logic into a process to help it along. The human is then only responsible for a very specific task — one that can only be handled by a human —  thus allowing the software to do the heavy lifting.

Vertical market selling is so important when selling workflow automation because of repeatability. The Diffusion of Innovation Theory, developed by sociologist E.M. Rodgers, explains how adoption of ideas, behaviors or products occurs. Most of our customers do not want to be the first to do anything. They want a mature, “already done before” solution or application that has been tested, broken, and tested again, even in a situation where the vertical market seems less important because you are selling a horizontal solution like accounts payable. Still, prospects and customers want to know that someone in their industry is paying the same kinds of invoices. This can be frustrating for a salesperson, so why do we fight it? Give them what they want: vertical-specific solutions. The applications may be the same across multiple industries, but utilizing industry-specific terms and providing outcomes that lend themselves to the benefit of the industry makes all the difference.

Vertical markets with the most regulation are often the best candidates for selling vertical-specific applications (but with the most opportunity comes the most competition). These companies generally have little choice in the types of applications they use, as there is a governing body or compliance agency putting requirements in place that are necessary to operate a business. Think HIPAA, which is perhaps the most well-known vertical market regulation. HIPAA has dictated a very specific set of requirements necessary to keep patient information safe and accessible to the correct people. This also means companies typically have budgets to remain compliant; industries that are less regulated may not have the budget or the sense of urgency brought on by the threat of penalties that come with failure to comply with strict regulations.

It is very important to understand as much as possible about the problems workflow automation can solve and the metrics for what success looks like. This is where I see the most failure in vertical selling. Usually, the pitch is something like, “I know you have this problem because all healthcare has this issue. I have the solution; here it is, wanna buy it?” This may be a slight exaggeration, but sometimes it’s not too far off.

Focusing on the metrics that are important to a business is the key to successfully selling workflow automation. This happens well before demos or presentations are done. Speaking the same language or having a name in the industry are great steps, but can the proposed solution be tied to one of the key success metrics of the business at hand, especially in the mind of the person being presented to? Don’t forget this is still sales, and all the appropriate steps in the sales cycle are just as important as any other sale. Just because the industry is a known entity, you are still dealing with human beings, and taking that for granted will yield poor results.


Healthcare, as mentioned earlier, is one of the largest vertical markets. Because everyone needs it, it is very technology-focused, and it is highly regulated, the healthcare industry checks all the boxes as a good workflow automation candidate.

Healthcare is broken into two segments: patient care and operations. Within those segments, there is a multitude of different areas to which workflow can apply, so it is important to realize who the audience is. In patient care, workflow must drive medical care professionals to spend more time in front of patients and less time filling out paperwork or doing administrative tasks. How can a solution provide the ability for a medical professional to see more patients without sacrificing quality care?

Patient onboarding. This includes providing patients with the ability to quickly enter accurate information and giving care facilities the ability to take in accurate information so the patient can be seen quickly. When the patient is seen, the care provider can access this information and begin the process of providing care needed by the patient.

Gathering and distributing information. It is important to enter information into the patient chart accurately and then have that information drive the next processes: filling prescriptions, scheduling follow-up appointments, making referrals, and then billing.

The operations or business units that are responsible for ensuring everything is in place for patients to be treated utilize workflow automation in different ways. Seeing patients is also critical to this side of the business, but that isn’t the only driver. There is a business to run, which brings its own set of challenges.

Accounting. Accounts payable, accounts receivable, vendor contract management and making sure the business has enough money to operate are as important in healthcare as they are in any business. But then there is also patient accounting, which is unlike any other industry. There is an immense amount of complexity in the process, because insurance companies, government agencies and patients are all involved.

HR. HR in healthcare encompasses everything from the onboarding of employees to ensuring all appropriate certifications are completed and kept up-to-date.

“Will I be able to treat more patients, provide better care, and be compliant?” Providing answers to those questions for healthcare providers will be a great start to offering solutions to the healthcare vertical.


Financial institutions are another highly regulated industry that appreciates significant benefits from workflow automation. One of the key metrics for finance is speed and accuracy. With it being a very transactional-based business that benefits from quickly receiving and processing information, opening a new account, processing a loan, distributing money, or making a trade are what keep the business going. Being able to accomplish these tasks as quickly as possible becomes the most important metric.

Information gathering. Whether it be a mortgage, line of credit, a car loan, or opening a new account, they all require information to be provided by a client. Gathering the correct documents, understanding the risk, and deciding and executing on the decision must happen as quickly as possible. Automating a workflow gives a company visibility into data to help quickly decide, and once a decision is made, a loan can be executed and funds can be dispersed. Having insight into the process mitigates risk brought on by human error, and puts rules in place for all to follow. As with all regulated industries, executing these tasks while staying compliant remains critical.

As mentioned before, none of the information provided in this article is the golden ticket for vertical market selling. With any industry, there are going to be nuances in the process, and not all companies within a vertical market are going to operate the same way or have the same goals. Outside of all the normal sales checkboxes, ask yourself, “Am I talking to the right person? Does the company have the budget? And is the company open to making a change?”

Can a solution be tied to the metrics that drive the industry, and can that solution outperform the way workflow is being accomplished today? Remember: compliance, security and efficiency will have varying degrees of value to organizations. Understand the industry, the customer and the metrics, then decide if there is value in a workflow solution.

This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of Workflow.

is a national customer success manager with Ephesoft Inc. Ephesoft is a best in class advanced document classification and data extraction solution, and document level analytics platform.