Medical sales training – something different vs. more of the same

Medical sales training

Medical sales training

From time to time entire industries go through dramatic changes driven by forces that are disruptive in scope and scale. Today the healthcare industry is a prime example.

Most healthcare organizations are uncertain about the best strategic path forward.  However, what is clear is standing still is not an option.  Moving forward the challenge will be about how to reinvent versus how to improve.

Hospitals will need to explore ways to reduce costs and to improve patient care.  Clearly for the market-leaders this journey has already begun.  They have changed what they buy, how they buy and what they are willing to pay for it.

In times of such transformational market change, a new set of winners and losers emerge among the sellers to the market.  If you are a company selling medical devices, equipment, consummables, software or other medical market products/services, a piece of the puzzle for being among the winners is making the investment in your sales team commensurate with the need for change and the opportunity to benefit.  Those that prosper will recognize that if buyers change how they buy then sellers need to change how they sell.

If your customers are making changes, then the case is made that it’s no longer business-as-usual for your sales team.  When the changes are dramatic then it becomes a matter of doing something different rather than simply doing a better job doing what you are doing.  The required shift in selling isn’t incremental; it’s transformational.

So, what does it take for a company to implement a sales transformation?  The question can and should be explored from a number of perspectives, here let’s just drill down and examine what it means for designing sales training.

Building transformational sales training

What are the lessons for designing effective sales training when doing something different versus more of the same is the challenge … and doing too little, too late is a common pitfall? For designing an effective sales training effort to help a sales team adapt and adjust to transformational changes in the customers’ buying process?

  • Lesson 1 – Understand the Difference.  The design of the sales training solution is strikingly different if the challenge is to help a sales team take a meaningful next step for doing something different versus getting better at doing what they are doing.  Achieving the former requires greater design innovation and a longer timeframe for skill acquisition.
  • Lesson 2 – Build Upfront Understanding and Enthusiasm.   Before the sales training, the leadership team must set the stage for sales training more substantially than usual. This includes communicating what is to be done and why it is being done. The sales team needs to see why the sales process needs changing, what the new process looks like, how others are also being asked to change and what the anticipated payoffs will be.
  • Lesson 3 – Select the Right Partner(s).  There are 100s of viable training companies if you are selecting a sales training vendor for your national sales meeting. The number is dramatically reduced for a sales transformation project. The best fit will of course depend on the specifics of the transformation being planned – nobody is the best across the board.  However, there are overarching considerations worth highlighting such as: understanding your culture and industry, committing the A-team, bring innovative design expertise, and being receptive to alternate pricing models.
  • Lesson 4 – Spotlight the Pivotal Job.  The front-line sales manager is the pivotal job for driving the success of any sales transformation effort. They need to be engaged in defining the new sales process and take a leadership role introducing it to the sales team.  They will also be the key element in helping the salespeople learn the new required skills.  Hence, they need trained first – and subsequently they should participate in the sales reps training.  Perhaps most importantly, they need to be committed to providing coaching over the long haul.

Getting the foundation right

If the healthcare market is undergoing transformational changes in the way they buy, then it is likely that a parallel effort will be required on your part from a sales perspective. And, from a competitive standpoint it does not pay to be the last holdout for the ways of yesteryear.  Three principles for crafting effective training are worth keeping in mind:

  • Changing Behavior is Tough. Your sales team has been doing what they have been doing for a long time – changing technology is easy compared to asking people to change their behavior.
  • Walking before Running is Okay.  Once the change reaches a certain level, it is worth considering doing it in phases or using a “skunk works” approach to work out the problems.
  • Sticking to your Guns.  Sometimes doing the change a crisis such as a fall in revenue figures will occur; this of course is the time when the brave of heart must step forward.

When any company is faced with disruptive changes that are demanding they must reinvent what they do and how they do it, they look for partners with sales reps that can be trusted advisors who provide insights that make a difference versus product facilitators who simply have solutions to sell.

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

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

 

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Happy July 4th!

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Wishing everyone a happy 4th of July holiday!

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Navigating the byzantine world of the complex sale

Complex Sales

Complex Sales

When comparing small transactional sales to large complex sales, the differences in the buying process are difficult to overstate. In a complex sale the buying cycle is longer with more twists and turns; more buyers are involved both as individuals and as committees; and the competition is keener.

Everyone knows it – some because of a leap of faith and others because of experience. A centerpiece for success in complex sales is getting the right message, to the right person, at the right time. Easy to say, but not so easy to do when the buying process is difficult even to identify let alone manage.

However, several characteristics of the buying process tend to be true more often than not:

  • Each player involved has a differing view of what constitutes value and
  • A lot of the decision-making is going on when you are not there.

With that said, what are some of the best practices for achieving success when selling in a complex sales market?  Here’s a short list:

  • Network – Know who is playing which role, the relationship between the players, and what they think about you and your competition.
  • Leverage institutional resources – The lone wolf sales strategy simply does not work – you need the power of the team.
  • Develop and rehearse internal champions – You need someone to tell your story when you are not there.
  • Document good news – Bad news documents itself unfortunately good news does not.
  • Deal with passive competition – When the buying process stalls, craft strategies to overcome the no-decision momentum.
  • Broaden the definition of competition – Competitors include everyone competing for the same budget dollars – not just direct competitors.
  • Differentiate by adding value – The product or service being sold may not vary much from one company to the next, so profile the added-value services and assistance extended to the customer.
  • Sell to the c-suite – The probability of capturing the business is significantly reduced if you cannot successfully sell at the senior level.
  • Make the business case – It’s unlikely a sale will be closed without making a strong business case to prove the business need to invest in the solution is worth the cost and risk.

Relying on relationship selling alone for success will not carry the day when you are engaged in a complex sale.  You must be business-savvy, possess superior sales skills, know the customer’s business and have the institutional awareness and political acumen to leverage and orchestrate internal company resources.  You must be a trusted advisor who can provide insights that make a difference versus a product facilitator who simply has a solution to sell.

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

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

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Sales alert: millennials are here

Millennials and Sales

Millennials and Sales

Millennials, born between 1982 and 1993, are 80 million strong. In 2015 Millennials passed Generation X to make up the largest share of the workforce.  In 2020 they will be nearly half of the workforce.

Some important facts about Millennials as reported by the Council of Economic Advisors are:

  • Millennials are now the largest most diverse generation in the U.S. population.
  • Millennials have been shaped by technology.
  • Millennials value community, family, and creativity in their work.
  • Investments in human capital are likely to have a substantial payoff for Millennials.

What does this mean for Sales?

  • Take a second look. Whether you are talking about recruiting, selection, onboarding, training or compensation, it is will worth the time to consider whether your processes are in tune with the experiences and expectations of a cohort that will comprise an increasing percentage of your sales force.  The danger is doing too little, too late to optimize the potential of an entire generation of sales people.
  • Leverage the spirit of collaboration.  The day of the lone wolf salesperson is coming to a close.  Today, selling is becoming a team sport. The good news is while competitive Millennials like working in teams, so leverage that mindset. Millennials will embrace team selling – leveraging institutional resources and helping one another out.  Additionally, when working as individuals, it’s important for sales managers to show Millennials how their work ties back to the sales team’s overall performance and the company as a whole.
  • Optimize the power of technology.  Although it is a myth that every Millennial was given a smart phone at birth, there is some truth in the fiction – back in 2000 I recall a colleague’s 6-year old grandchild had one at the top of Santa’s list for that past Christmas.

Increasingly Sales is being impacted by the digital revolution.  Customers have more information about the products, predictive analytics have taken the guesswork out of determining who is a potential buyer and automated sales management tools are cheaper, better and more pervasive than ever.

Millennials want to be judged on the quality of their work product. They believe they can work from anyplace by leveraging technology. So leverage their knowledge and interest in the power of technology.

  • Invest in training.  Education and training have been part of their experience since day one. Continuous learning is important to Millennials.  They want to enhance their skills – technical, interpersonal, and professional.  If you don’t provide it, they will find someone that will. The investment is easy to justify since in market after market, buyers are experiencing disruptive changes that impact how they buy.  This means your sales team needs to change how they sell and sales training needs to move to the center stage.

A spotlight has been placed on Millennials in the workforce because of their sheer numbers. While many of their expectations may be similar to others, there are special considerations to keep front-of-mind. The good news is they care about purpose, are high energy and view feedback as a developmental opportunity.

Every year Beloit College distributes a report to its faculty sharing the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering the college. Looking at the reports it’s easy to see why the Millennial mindset differs from others in the workplace. For them the Soviet Union never existed and “google” has always been a verb.

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

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

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Sales training – it’s time to play beat the clock

sales trainingOne important core question presently circulating among those who care about sales training is: What percentage of sales training ought to be done in the classroom vs. some form of guided self instruction? The obvious secondary question is what goes where – that is, what should be done in the classroom vs. what should be assigned to some form of guided self-study.

There is an underlying principle that helps guide this decision process – only do in the classroom that training that can uniquely be done in the classroom – that is training requiring practice and feedback.  What does this look like?

Let’s over simplify a bit and divide all the possible content into two bins labeled – knowledge and sales skill.  Examples of knowledge would include knowledge related to: product, marketplace, company background and sales best practices.

Sales skills on the other hand are all about the ability to integrate and apply that information in the real world.  The distinction is all about knowing vs. doing.  Think about it … many know the principles behind shooting the 3-pointer in basketball.  But far fewer, like the Splash Brothers in Oakland, have mastered it.

An example in the world of sales training of the distinction would be: one could learn the sales best practices for handling objections in an online course.  Then learn to apply and execute those best practices in a classroom using role-plays customized to portray a typical customer.  Or, when a new product is launched one could learn all the features and related information about the new product in a customized e-book and then learn to plan and execute sales calls on targeted customers in a classroom where practice and feedback in maximized.

So as to the “what goes where” question, the short answer is knowledge training can be done outside the classroom but sales skills training is best done in the classroom because the quality of the practice and feedback need to be optimized.  But what about the percentage question?  When using the blended approach what does the time split look like?

If you answer that question with regard to the traditional sales content areas like call execution, account strategy, and negotiation, then a rough percentage split would be 50-50.  Historically, using classroom training only, we did two-day programs in each of the aforementioned content areas.  Now using a blended approach we have reduced the classroom time to one day.

But why beat the clock?  Why not just continue to do all the sales training in the classroom?  What are the reasons to shift to a blended approach?  Three three reasons that stand out:

  • Less time out of the field.  If you consider salespeople engaged in complex B2B sales and you start listing the barriers to conducting comprehensive sales training, the concern about time out of the field bubbles to the top.  This concern is mainly about lost opportunity.  The larger the sales team, the greater the concern.
  • Lower sales training cost.  As an example let’s assume a company that has elected to use an outside training provider.  The typical cost for an outside trainer from a top training provider for one day is usually around $3,000.  The per-head cost varies but it’s probably around $400-$500 per day.  These numbers start to add up with sales teams over a 100 salespeople.  Any top sales training provider should be able to provide one-day of self-study based training for the knowledge component of the blended training at a fraction of that cost.
  • More engaging classroom training.  How many salespeople really enjoy sitting through a day of sales training where the day consists of an instructor running through their standard 50 PowerPoint slide deck?  Yet even today that is not an uncommon experience if the day is about knowledge transfer.  On the other hand, if the knowledge transfer happens by some guided self-study approach, then the classroom training can be limited to practice and feedback using more engaging training designs such as customized sales simulations.

Salespeople today must know more and know it at a higher level of proficiency then in days of yesteryear.  Companies simply cannot do what needs to be done if all the sales training is conducted in the classroom.  They will run out of time and money before they ever get started.  Today the price for that failure is staggering.  There has to be a better way and fortunately there is.

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

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

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Sales training: it isn’t about – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it

Sales Training Investment

Sales Training Investment

It is also not about the elapsed time since you last did it.  The strategic  “it” in this case is the decision about whether you should make an investment in sales training.

If  you traveled back in time and drop in on some of the conversations about sales training, you might hear: “We are not knocking the ball out of the park but things are okay plus we have a lot of other things going on so let’s think about that sales training thing next year” or “We just did some training three or four years ago – trained our entire sales team.”

It’s also true if you tune in with your other ear, you might pick up on comments such as:  “Say, we have Thursday afternoon free at the national sales meeting why don’t we just fill that slot with some sales training” or “ I just got a call from a training company, why don’t we just try them out in our southern region – we’ll probably get something out of it.”

Fast forward to the present – can you hear those same voices?  Our experience says absolutely.  But the really bad news is due to the present day competitive environment and the disruption in the markets, the negative consequences of those ideas are far greater.

The notion that one can develop and sustain a superior sales team in today’s buying environment without taking a more aggressive and forward looking perspective on when to invest in sales training and what that sales training needs to accomplish is at the very least questionable.  The sales training discussion needs to be updated and reframed.

So, asking if something is broken or asking when was the last time we did it are not the right questions. What is the right question for determining if a sales training investment is appropriate?

We suggest you ask yourself: Is there a change occurring either internally or externally that requires your sales team to adapt and adjust their sales skills to continue to sell effectively?  Let’s explore three examples of such a change.      

  • Go-to-market strategy.  Recently we were talking with a client that determined it was necessary to shift from being a low-cost provider to a value-added provider if they were to remain competitive. To execute this shift a number of changes needed to be considered ranging from the sales compensation package to the territory design to market segments – and the skill set of the sales team.

Most sales reps cannot easily move from selling on price to selling on value without some substantial help.  Hence considering an investment in sales training is clearly warranted.

It is a safe bet that many new product launches fail to deliver the expected results because the investment in improving the sales team’s ability to sell the new product is inadequate.

  • Disruptive market changes Companies in a number of markets are going through transformational changes in what they buy, how they buy, and what they are willing to pay for it.  The medical sales industry is a striking example.  If you are selling in the hospital market, winning is now about selling both the clinical and economic value of your product and you cannot just sell to the doctors, you also have to sell to Value Analysis Committees comprised of people who will never directly use the product.

If buyers change how they buy, sellers need to change how they sell and training needs to help.

There is an added benefit of reframing the need for sales training as a response to a strategic change.  It enables a company to not only determine when an investment is warranted, it also helps you to define exactly what the sales training ought to look like.  Case in point, the nature and content of the most effective sales training for the above noted examples would be significantly different.

It is unlikely that sales training will ever develop a better track record unless we do a better job determining the strategic reason why we are doing the training in the first place.  The need must be clearly defined and it must be a need that matters.    

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

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

 

 

 

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Sales training myopia of tech start-ups

Sales Training and Start-ups

Sales Training and Start-ups

Why do some start-ups make it and some don’t?

As one might suspect, given the staggering number of start-ups formed every year, there is no shortage of information on critical success factors. Some common ones are:  Timing, working capital, and the leadership team.  In addition, the ability to develop and sustain a viable growth plan is seen as one of the more difficult and tricky success factors.  If you attempt to grow too quickly you end up being stretch too thinly – grow too slowly and you miss the window of opportunity.

Now all this seems fair enough.  However, since we are in the sales training business we were particularly interested in what was being said about creating innovative sales training and developing a superior sales team. The good news was no one said it was a bad idea.  The bad news was nobody was talking about it.  Sales training was not on the radar screen. Now, there was attention to marketing plans and getting the sales reps smart about the product – but not to sales skill training.

It could be that a more comprehensive review would have produced a different story in regard to sales training … however; I suspect that is probably wishful thinking.

So given that we think sales training deserves consideration for a seat at the table, we thought it would be useful as a first step to review some of the reasons why technology start-ups often do not place a high priority on sales training and fallacy behind those reasons.  Let’s take a look:

1. Why build one when you can buy one.  In many start-up lots of things are going on simultaneously and the major commitment is all about launching and marketing the “product.”  So yes, a sales force is needed but it seems a lot easier just to go out and hire some high performing reps from other companies in your market – after all “selling is selling” as they say.

We agree, the “buy one” idea has a certain short-term seductive appeal, but it also has numerous long-term pitfalls.  First, the old notion about selling is selling has proven again and again not to be so true when you are engaged in a complex sale.  For example, if you are a start-up in the medical device market and you “buy” your reps from those that are available from the pharmaceutical industry, the myth of selling is selling will quickly be unmasked.

2. The mirage created by early-adaptors.  The early adaptor story was first told in a compelling fashion in Geoffrey Moore’s 1991 book – Crossing the Chasm. The message is as important today as it was in 1991 and it is a partial answer as to why sales training may not an initial high priority in many technology start-ups.

Early adopters buy a new product very early in their life cycle. They easily imagine and appreciate the benefits of a new technology. Early adopters do not rely on well-established proof in making these buying decisions instead they count on their intuition and vision for getting it right. It is fair to say they buy products that are new and exciting – you don’t have to do that much selling with early adopters, so there’s not a big need for sales training.

But then comes the chasm period – early-adopters have been exhausted and the mainstream market is waiting to see if the product really is one that can deliver sufficient value.  Now you do need a skilled sales force.

The trap is doing too little, too late in terms of sales training.  It takes time to develop a skilled sales team and the momentum can easily be lost before the sales team can effectively sell to the mainstream market.

3. Underestimating the competitive threat Sometimes a company comes up with a truly superior product as compared to all the other competitors.  There is always the “killer product” scenario like the Xerox copier vs. the mimeo machine.  But this is not a common occurrence.

If you are in the great but not killer product situation there are two common traps.  In one case your new product is superior but the competition has one that is “good enough.”

The second problem is a time warp issue.  Unfortunately,  in many cases it is very difficult to maintain a competitive advantage by product alone for any sustained period of time due to global competition and advanced manufacturing technologies.  Today a competitor is likely to launch a product that is just as good or better than yours, in half the time of yesteryear – plus it is likely to be cheaper.

The lesson learned is you need a sales team that cannot only sell value but also add value.

Unfortunately all too often when a start-up launches its first product, the product fails to produce the anticipated sales success.  One reason is the investment in developing the skills of the sales team to sell the new product is simply not commensurate with the commitment and innovation of the rest of the launch effort.

This omission constitutes a strategic missing link. Even an extraordinary new product will not sell itself beyond early adopters. The sales team needs not only comprehensive product knowledge, they also need to fine-tune their sales skills, adapting them to customer requirements related to the new product. The more innovative the new product – the truer this proposition.

Most companies take the first step and provide their sales team with technical training about the new product. But talking about the characteristics of a product and selling the value of the new product are two very different things.  Perhaps, in the end, it would be a safer bet for start-ups to train then launch versus launch then train.

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

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

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How to optimize your sales training investment

Sales Training Investment

Sales Training Investment

How much money are companies spending on sales training? And is it enough to worry about whether or not one is optimizing the investment?

This, as they say, is the easy part.  The answer to the first question is a lot; the answer to the second question is – yes.  Companies spend a hefty amount of money – so yes, it is worth worrying about.  As reported in a research report by Sales Performance International – “In the United States alone, industry estimates for corporate expenditures on sales training and performance improvement are more than 5 billion dollars annually.”

There are several avenues to attack the question: How do you optimize your sales training investment?  Perhaps the one that has received the most attention relates to treating sales training as a “process not an event.”  Inherent here is the point that what is done before and after sales training to position and reinforce it is as important as the sales training itself.

No question about the merit of that point – it’s a big deal.  If you are still parachuting in on Friday afternoon of the national sales meeting and doing sales training with no plans for coaching, then you are totally wasting versus optimizing your investment.

A second, less talked about but equally important, consideration for optimizing the investment relates to how the sales training is designed in the first place.  Most companies organize their training in terms of “content topics” like – account strategy, negotiation, or call execution.  And, vendors design their offerings using that same organizing structure.  When we first founded Sales Momentum we followed the crowd. We designed a separate program for each of these topics, too.

There has got to be a better way

The good news is – there is a better way.  It took us less than a year to realize that we weren’t helping our clients optimize their investment.  At that point we totally changed how we designed our sales training.  We stopped organizing our programs around content topics and started designing around the customer’s business initiative.  For example, one client wanted to move from selling individual products to selling an integrated solution. Another client wanted to shift from being the low cost provider to selling a value-added solution.

If a company, for example, is shifting their go-to-market strategy to be a value-added provider that change impacts all aspects of the sales organization from the territory design to market segments to compensation plans to the skill profile of the sales team.  Since we are discussing sales training let’s just focus on the skill profile.

For such a go-to-market shift to be successful the sales team needs to adapt and adjust their sales skills and the sales training needs to be designed to help them do that.  This means the sales training design needs to be customized from “top to bottom.”  It must incorporate whatever skill sets are relevant to selling in the newly defined market.  This is the exact opposite of defining every training challenge as “pounding a nail” because you have a hammer at hand. 

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

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

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Medical sales reps – what do they like most and least about their jobs

Medical device sales reps

Medical device sales reps

Ever wonder what medical sales reps like most about their jobs? MassDevice reported the findings from a survey of more than 1,400 sales reps in the 2016 Best Places to Work in Medical Sales survey.  Take a look at what they found:

  • 72% of those responding were satisfied or very satisfied with their job. Nonetheless, about one-half said they were actively seeking a new job.
  • Medical sales reps report that what they like best about their jobs is their relationships with patients and providers (21%). It was followed by autonomy/flexibility (16%) and ability to make an impact (12%).
  • The sales reps who are least satisfied with their jobs make the least money (6%).
  • When reps were asked to identify the least favorite part of their jobs, 14% of the reps rated management/leadership first followed by money (9%) and travel (8%).
  • And, finally, what makes a company great to work for? The top three reasons were: competitive compensation (66%), emphasis on work-life balance (62%), and strong product line (52%).

You can see some great graphs and charts depicting the survey findings here.

You can read more about medical sales training here – and about medical sales training programs at our Sales Momentum website.

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

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

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