“As a Division I athlete, I was coached by an Olympian. She told us that in life we would win, and we would lose at many things, but the only way we could become Winners was to work every day to be better than we were the day before. I also always remembered a line in Anne of Green Gables — Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it…yet.”
I had the pleasure to interview Romy Carlson, Digital Health Forward’s VP of Sales and Marketing. Romy has over a decade of experience selling health information technology and specializes B2B sales. Previously a division one athlete, Romy set her sights on health focused professional endeavors and has helped start ups gain traction in the industry. She is currently responsible for building out DHF’s cross-country sales team and strategies to build pipelines for existing partners.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I started in health and wellness straight out of college as a practitioner. To me, sales was a 5-letter word. That is until I realized nothing happens unless someone sells something. And then, I realized I could sell. Everything changed at that point. I focused on finding the emerging services and technologies in healthcare that were going to make a difference and I learned how to sell them. I have been with numerous start-ups as well as mature organizations. Both of them need robust sales strategy and leadership. That said, digital health start-ups are uniquely vulnerable because they can’t get enough traction in the market with traditional sales approaches. That is where I come in.
One day I was searching on LinkedIn for my next start-up consulting client. I saw the position listing for a digital health consultant and thought, everyone is a consultant, but I was intrigued. I spoke with Sean a couple of days later, and it was like Sean had been hearing my complaints over the past ten years — too few talented digital health sales people for the number of positions available. And the best DH salespeople are too expensive for start-ups. If start-ups don’t have good sales people, how are they going to sell? If they don’t sell, will people die? I am recruited daily by digital health and wellness start-ups, but often the recruitment ends when I say what my compensation needs are. The products are game-changing in healthcare, and it makes me frustrated that they can’t afford good sales executives. Didn’t I get into healthcare to help people? I realized, Digital Health Forward can solve this problem, and I want to be a part of that.
What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
We are thinking about selling differently. To date, most disruption has happened to a service or product, not a business tactic. Instead of trying to create the next brilliant digital health product (there are 5,000 introduced yearly), we decided to apply disruptive thinking to how we take those products to market. In so doing, we have created a portfolio of solutions that would never have found each other, applied disruptive sales strategy to our launch and are getting deals done in less than half the time for double what they would have been worth. We are saving digital health companies so they can save people.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?
How much time do we have? I have been lucky in life — I was raised by immigrant parents who understood the value of work and having a big dream. I learned to use fear as a motivator and to be insatiably curious. They raised my sisters, and I in Northern Michigan where thinking outside the box is a way of life. In my first sales role, I was trained by the best sales trainer I will ever know. Amy thought about sales as an extension of personal relationships at a time when sales were more often thought of as a “numbers game.” At Cerner, I was surrounded by healthcare innovators. Amanda challenged me to use politics to drive change. She gave me insight into how the “big deals” got done.
How are you going to shake things up next?
I’m not done here yet…We have so much to do. We want to create a large employer focused vertical for digital health companies to help them go directly into self-funded employers. We are building a platform that will make sourcing emerging digital health technology solutions accessible and affordable. We are challenging the status quo in marketing to drive real growth for our portfolio companies. We have a lot of work to do.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
Be Better Tomorrow — As a Division I athlete, I was coached by an Olympian. She told us that in life we would win, and we would lose at many things, but the only way we could become Winners was to work every day to be better than we were the day before. I also always remembered a line in Anne of Green Gables — Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it…yet.
Don’t waste time doing anything you don’t love — I started college to be a veterinarian. I found out quickly; I wasn’t cut out for day after day of suffering. I didn’t know what to do next. My mom said, go to sleep tonight, and when you wake up tomorrow, whatever you want to do first, you should do forever. I woke up and wanted to go for a run. Now, I knew I wouldn’t be successful as a professional runner, more than five miles was a challenge for me but what I realized is I needed to find something that allowed me to keep moving forward. I switched my major to kinesiology and never looked back. This is one time I will admit my mom was right.
Be Present Now — I was racing my last race in college, my coxswain was talking as we were heading up to the start boats and she was talking about a book she was reading. Now, to be honest, I didn’t always listen to my coxswain — she talked a lot. I always had so much on my mind — school, work, racing, workouts, friends, boyfriends, etc., I just couldn’t focus on her too. But then we pulled into the start boat, and in a split second, I realized that it was likely the last time I would compete in rowing at this level with these girls, some of whom I had spent the previous four years within pain, sweat, tears, and joy. It all came down on me at that moment — I didn’t want to miss a moment of that race. I wanted to remember it all. At the end of the race, my coxswain finished the story she was telling about the book she was reading — she said she liked it because it said to “Be Present Now.” I have never forgotten that race, those girls or that advice. We won the race, I remember it, but that isn’t the most important thing I took away from that day.
What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Share a story with us.
When I read Blue Ocean Strategy, I was 23 and just a month away from opening my first gym. I was blissfully excited about opening my club and becoming wildly successful. And then I opened my club and reality struck. I had a great concept, but there were a lot of gyms around me, and I didn’t know how to differentiate ours. A month in, I was searching for something to save me, and I saw Blue Ocean Strategy on my nightstand under a couple other books and magazines. I picked it back up and re-read it. I credit this book with changing how I thought about the business and in so doing, allowing me to save my business. We became a wellness facility with a reach far beyond a traditional gym. Our members started feeling like they were part of something different and a buzz started. I changed my messaging in PR and advertising. Within six months we had hit membership capacity for the facility and had opened a second club.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Arianna Huffington — I have always admired her position on wellness and balance in life. I am passionate about helping people live a well life and Arianna devotes her vast influence to perpetuate a culture of wellbeing. I would love to pick her brain and find out where there are even greater opportunities to impact the wellbeing of our world.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Originally published at medium.com