MedTech clinical staff – invite them to the sales training party

MedTech clinical staff + sales training

MedTech clinical staff + sales training

MedTech clinical staff spend the majority of their time on client sites – whether at a hospital, standalone medical center, or physician practice – they provide support and education to both clinical and administrative staff.  But why stop there?

Because of the transformation changes in the healthcare buying environment, many MedTech companies either already have or are now seriously considering leveraging the clinical support staff to participate more actively in the sales effort.

After all, because they spend a lot of time on site they are in an ideal position to develop relationships, capture competitive intelligence, and identify sales opportunities.  They are also very knowledgeable about topics that are important to customers, such as hospitals facing significant pressures to improve quality and reduce costs.

Yet, in many cases the clinical specialists are reticent to get more engaged in the sales process because they lack the knowledge, skills and confidence relative to selling.  They are after all first and foremost technical staff by training and experience.

But selling is like any other skill – it’s learnable.  It’s not about tips and tricks.  It’s a highly skilled profession.  You can sell and also retain the customer’s respect for your technical expertise.

All that is why when MedTech companies plan their sales training initiatives, clinical staff are now being considered as part of the target audience.

This raises the question of how to engage the clinical staff in sales training?  From our experience, the most critical factor is to have the clinical staff participate in sales training with the sales reps. Not only do the clinical staff learn sales skills, through in-class interactions with the sales reps there is an unintended outcome – they and the sales reps learn more about each other’s expertise and challenges and can discuss how to sell as a team.

But taking clinical staff out of the field for extensive sales training is often difficult for companies who count on them to cover cases, provide in-service training, etc.  For staff that have strong clinical backgrounds but lack the confidence and skill to help sell, we find that an initial foundation in sales fundamentals can be learned by online sales training.  Therefore they can come to the sales training with the sales reps better prepared and in many cases reduce the time spent in the classroom.

And one final point … MedTech is not the only industry where clinical people could be involved in sales. IT and Professional Services both find themselves with a staff of technical people on customer sites who could contribute to the sales process.

Want to build your sales skills? Check out this our sales skills training.

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©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

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Salespeople must add business collaboration to their skill set

Sales reps - business collaboration

Sales reps – business collaboration

Across industries, we’re witnessing B2B sales becoming increasingly complex – involving more decision makers, buying committees, longer sales cycles, vendor consolidation initiatives, and cost reduction programs.

With these changes to the customers’ buying process, sales reps often must shift from being a lone wolf to a captain of a team. The sales team could consist of internal technical specialists from a variety of areas to external alliance partners.  This requires adding an additional skill to a salesperson’s repertoire – business collaboration.

Two points about business collaboration:

  • First, business collaboration isn’t about bringing people into a room, asking what they think and then doing what you were going to do in the first place.  It’s about opening up the conversation and being able and willing to analyze and create new ideas for moving forward. The larger the team the more difficult it is making the necessary tradeoffs and building a better path forward. And that’s exactly the challenge many salespeople face when managing a sales team involved in today’s markets.

And in response to the naysayers who say that collaboration takes too long in today’s fast-paced environment or that it is an easy skill set to master so no big deal or that the trends in the buying process are short-term and soon things will return to “normal” – just pause and review the winners and losers that have emerged historically when industries have gone through a transformation change.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

 

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6 tips to help sales managers take over a new sales team

Managing A New SaleTeam

Managing A New SaleTeam

Front-line sales managers are the pivotal job for building and sustaining sales success. How can new sales managers get a good start when taking over a new sales team? This infographic shares 6 tips.

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Tips for selling to the c-suite – Video

Selling to the C-SuiteSalespeople increasingly are calling on the C-Suite – and it’s a different sale. This video presents tips to successfully call on the C-level. Take a look at our online sales training to learn more about the critical sales skills to win more sales – Communicate with Customers to Win More Sales.

Selling to the C-Suite video – youtube

 

 

 

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Sales teams – lessons from the US Open doubles partners

Team Selling

Doubles tennis and sales teams

Did you watch the US Open doubles tennis matches? Do you begin to wonder what the players were saying to each other between points? We did and others must have too since the NY Times printed a front-page article about just that question.

What is going on in those conversations between points? Are the players deciding where to position the next serve on the court? Are they using the time to motivate each other? Some teams take communication a step farther and use hand gestures behind their back to signal their partner – just like volleyball players or pitchers and catchers.

Regardless of what is being said, as the article points out one thing is certain – “it happens after almost every point in professional doubles tennis matches, as predictably as the ritualistic high-fiving and fist-bumping the players cannot seem to live without. Whether the point is won or lost. The partners convene. And they have a little chat … Professional doubles players treat points as baseball or football players map out plays.”

And that got us thinking about team selling. While sales teams may not “work” in a stadium with thousands watching, they are often playing for some relatively high stakes.  So the importance of the sales team members communicating how to work effectively is important. Without the communication, the sales call can deteriorate quickly – no points, no advancing the sale.

And even though sales team members can’t caucus after each question or comment, they must avoid the classic team-selling trap – the team sales call being just two people who happen to be in the same room at the same time.

What are some tips for avoiding this trap? 

8 principles we have observed successful sales teams using:

  1. Establish a compelling and clear vision of the sales team’s purpose that is shared by everyone on the team.
  2. Everyone believing there is benefit to the company, their group and to them personally for working as a team.
  3. Team members investing in the preparation and planning time and effort to get it right.
  4. All of the roles to succeed are represented on the team and each team member is clear about their role on the team and the expectations.
  5. A call manager orchestrates the sales call.
  6. Rules of the road are created so it’s not just the loudest voices that carries the day.
  7. Adjust, adapt, and keep track, making effective strategic adjustments as the sales team’s collective knowledge grows.
  8. Build trust among the team members.

In many markets the team sale is becoming increasingly important.  In some the sales rep must function as an Account Executive who must marshal and manage alliance partners in order to sale and service the account- the latter is a big deal and tough to get right.

The mistake is assuming that as long as a sales rep is good at selling that managing and leading a team to sale is no big leap.  If we go back to sports for a moment, it is easy for all of us to see the fallacy of taking that position.  As Michael Jordan once noted – on most nights stars will look good – superstars will help those around them to look good.

Want to build your sales skills – including team selling? Check out this online sales skills training.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

 

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Successful sales managers – question success more than failure

Questioning Sales Success

Questioning Sales Success

Last month Kat Cole – President of Cinnabon – shared in an interview:

“I’ve learned to question success a lot more than failure. I’ll ask more questions when sales are up than I do when they’re down. I ask more questions when things seem to be moving smoothly, because I’m thinking: There’s got to be something I don’t know.”

Her points struck a chord with us – primarily because we too often see sales managers – whether first-line sales managers, mid-level sales managers, or VPs of sales focus on what’s going wrong in sales – “Why did we lose the big sale?” or “How come the forecast figures were off?” or “If something does change I wonder if we are going to reach our end-of-year target?”

While it’s certainly important to diagnose what’s gone wrong – it’s equally important to analyze successes. It reminded us of the many sales strategy sessions we’ve sat through where salespeople couldn’t really articulate why they closed a piece of business.

This is where great sales managers come into their own. Their ability to help sales reps think through the “why” of their sales successes has several payoffs:

  • Fact from fiction.  It helps the sales rep know to what degree their actions contributed to success versus they just happen to be at the right place at the right time.
  • Best practices.  Together the sales manager and sales rep can isolate best practices that can be reused by the sales rep and also by others on the sales team.
  • Bad business and good business.  By taking the success discussion to the next level by asking sales reps to analyze what was going on in the customer organization, sales reps can improve their ability to do a better job of initially qualifying the account and avoiding the extremely costly mistake of chasing bad business.
  • Customer questioning skills.  These types of discussions where the sales manager is skillfully using questions can help the sales rep appreciate and learn the power of using questioning in sales call.

Learning how to replicate sales success surely must be as important as learning how to correct failure – plus the former may reduce the need for the latter.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

 

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Sales – don’t just close a deal win a customer for life

Customers for Life

Customers for Life

What an interesting thought – win customers for life.  According to Ed Boyle and John Fleming (Gallup), “While other businesses rely on price cuts and short-term promotions, the best set out to win customers for life.”

They point out that for companies with the vision and commitment to set such a target, the rewards can be immeasurable – Roughly 30 trillion dollars in new customer spending will be up for grabs in the next 30 years and this type of mindset may be a way to get a bigger share.

Like most good ideas the notion of “customers for life” is easy to say but not so easy to do.  In today’s market customer’s expectation are greater than ever before.  The days of being a purveyor of product knowledge have been replaced with a demand for salespeople to bring fresh idea for framing the problem and creative solutions for solving it and that is just to close the deal.

This means for the customer for life concept to be realized, salespeople must understand their customers better than the competition and develop more trust and a different type of relationship than they have in years past.  In order to get that done they must ensure that every customer interaction brings a small piece of value and strengthens the nature and extent of the relationship. 

What else needs to be done?

  • Be selective.  When writing Getting Partnering Right (about companies forming extraordinary relationships with their customers) one of the insights from the background research for the book was the simple finding that it takes a lot of work, effort and commitment to develop extraordinary relationships – so be selective.  Not every customer wants to be “a customer for life” and you probably don’t want every customer as a lifetime partner.
  • Bring everyone to the party. To do what needs to be done to win a customer for life, Sales cannot do it alone.  They need help and not just help from Marketing.  The entire company has to come to the party – that includes the Manufacturing, R&D, and from those functions that deal with the money side of the business.
  • Engage senior leadership.  Because of the potential companies, who are serious about the customer for life concept, are instituting special Executive Sponsorship Programs where they assign a top senior leader to the account in addition to the salesperson.  The purpose of these programs is to develop a special relationship with the C-level personnel in the customer organization so new opportunities can be explored. The customer needs to feel that the involvement reflects the thought that you care enough to form a relationship of a different kind – “they want to do more than just sell us more; they want to help us go where we need to go.”

As Gallup suggests, companies find that customers for life spend more, resist competitive overtures and are more forgiving about mistakes. We think that is right and although it might not be a great idea for everyone right now – it is an idea that needs to be on the agenda.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

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Happy Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day

Wishing all of our readers a Happy Labor Day. As summer comes to an end … savor those last few days.

Look for our next post on September 3rd.

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Medical device sales success – an urgent need to do something different – An STC Classic

A Classic - '63 Corvette

A Classic – ’63 Corvette

The medical device market faces transformational market challenges – decision criteria shifting from clinical to economic, decision-making moving from local hospitals to IDNs, the rise of GPOs, and the dramatic impact of new governmental regulations.  As a result of all that, medical device companies are under tremendous pressure to reduce prices while providing more value to customers.

Given these changes there are a number of tactical changes that can and should be considered, but what about a fundamental strategy shift?  Are there ideas that are not just about doing a better job doing what you are doing, but are about doing something differently?

Key Account Managers (KAMs) in Medical Device Sales 

One strategy with a great track record for the latter is the implementation of a Key Account Manager (KAM) program.

KAM programs can be configured in a number of ways.  However, a common approach is a KAM is responsible and accountable for the entire business development effort – crossing product lines and often across geographies.

Before we examine some of the advantages, it is important to note that KAMs are not just territory sales reps with another label.  They are more knowledgeable about the market, industry, and their own organization – they are business savvy. And, they are able to translate all that expertise in to powerful customer interactions because they also posses a high level of selling skills.

So what are some of the payoffs?

Executive level meetings.  They are more likely to be able to gain access at the executive level and have more skilled conversations focused on business and financial issues.  This level and type of conversation is now a requirement for sales success.

Institutional resources.  By knowledge and authority KAMs are able to tap the total resources of their organization and to effectively work with and leverage the sales reps and support personnel in the various divisions of their companies.  This “integrated” approach provides a path for meeting the customer’s new price and value demands while maintaining a viable overall profit profile.

Partners versus sellers.  They can change the nature of the relationship with the customer because they are in a position to think and act strategically about business development and manage deals for the company’s entire product portfolio.  This is a win/win shift because it results in sales growth and profit while saving costs – and improving customer support.  It also permits the implementation of log-term value-added programs that benefit both partners.

How do you train KAMs? 

Sales training for KAMs is not just more of the same.  Anyone assuming a KAE position is already well versed and experienced in fundamental sales skills, product knowledge, and institutional awareness.  So, let’s explore the next step – Sales Training 2.0.

First, we will take a look at the differences from a content perspective.  Some Sales 2.0 knowledge and skill sets KAMs need to master are:

  • Hospital business economics and buying processes.
  • Business, clinical, technology, and legislative trends in the health care industry.
  • Knowledge of their company’s total product portfolio, business initiatives and pricing models.
  • Consultative selling skills.
  • Managing and coaching skills for working with account executives and field sales support

Second, from an instructional design perspective, sales training for KAEs must be responsive to a target audience comprised of an experienced and talented group of sales people who have taken on a very difficult and demanding job assignment.  Therefore, the sales training cannot just be a modified version of what already is in place for training territory reps; the learning objectives are qualitatively different and the level of required proficiency is significantly greater – mastery would be the goal.  KAE sales training needs to achieve three overall objectives:

  • Help the KAMs master the four new bodies of knowledge and skill sets delineated in the previous paragraph.
  • Assist the KAMs to adjust and adapt their existing core selling skills to the new buying environment that is experiencing an ongoing transformation shift.  This challenge should be accomplished recognizing that the KAEs must interact with different call points that hold differing definitions of value.
  • Provide a way to help integrate and apply the new and existing competencies so that the KAMs can use those competencies to formulate and execute effective strategies for developing and capturing the business.

The health-care industry is undergoing transformational changes.  Hospitals anticipate a 15-20 percent reduction in reimbursements; hence they are looking at costs reduction from a new perspective.  It is no loner about negotiating purchase price; it is about capturing a reduction in end-to-end supply chain expenditures.  Hence they are interested in vendors who can be partners who can help them make the required transitions – not just suppliers.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum®

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Sales process – it must mirror the customer’s buying process

Sales process

Sales process

In the last ten years a substantial amount of time, effort, and money has been devoted to discussing the sales process.  Listen to a conversation about the sales process and it usually begins by someone saying something like:

  • “We have very aggressive sales targets and we’re just not getting there.”
  • “We’re not leveraging our own best practices – a lot of our sales reps are simply doing what they did the last time.”
  • “Our customers’ buying process has undergone dramatic changes but we’re still selling like we always did.”

Whether or not you have consciously addressed the topic of putting in place or modifying your sales process – it is happening everyday.  It is whatever your salespeople are doing on a given day to navigate the customer’s buying process.

If you want to put in place a more effective sales process, avoid these two pitfalls.

Lack of definitional clarity.  Sales process is one of those sales concepts that unfortunately means something different for each person with whom you talk. Some would say if you put in place a new questioning model you have changed your sales process. Others would say that is simply adopting a new questioning model. Try it.  Ask someone what their sales process is and a good bet is you will get not just different answers but entirely different types of answers.

To make something better everyone needs to have a clear and common vision of the topic at hand – it’s about being on the same page.

Our best suggestion is to restrict the term sales process to mean the overall set of steps you take from beginning and end of your sales cycle to win the business versus using the term interchangeably with concepts related to selling techniques, models, frameworks, and best practices.

Unbridled compliance.  It is not a good idea for a whole bunch of reasons to have everyone do their own thing – that is not the road to success in today’s market.  That’s an easy one.

On the other hand, in today’s disruptive buying environment it is equally true that unbridled compliance to a standard sales process can have its own pitfalls.

The greatest risk is that rigorously following any standardized process only works when one is absolutely clear that you are following a path that leads to success.  In the B2B market the problem is many companies are going through transformational changes.  These changes are impacting what they buy, how they buy, and what they are willing to pay for it.

So, a strategic caution is in order: Are you doing a good job driving compliance to a sales process that is more about what and how customers were buying five years ago versus what they are doing here and now?

Summary.  On the sales process scale of “everyone does their own thing to blind compliance” we suggest being somewhere in the middle.

Introduce a well thought out sales process because it can contribute to replicating success and scaling the business.  But, beware of overdone rigor and excessive compliance.  The latter will tend to eliminate innovation and discourage the positive deviants among you from exploring the ideas that will define what success looks like tomorrow.

 

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

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