Medical device sales – the sales rep must be a competitive advantage

Medical Sales Training

Selling Medical Devices

Underlying successful selling are medical device sales people who acknowledge the strategic importance of selling value. To get better at selling strategically a key challenge is to abandon the price sale and move to selling value.  How do you make the switch?   

A starting piece of advice is: develop a thorough understanding of the customer’s business.  Get to know the customer’s business better than anyone else. For example:    

  • What challenges are they facing?  Example: Are funds available to support expansion?
  • What’s different about their future direction vs. where they’ve been in the past?  Example: What departments are growing?
  • What are the facts and figures around their goals for the upcoming year? Example: Is the patient census down?

If sales people can’t answer these basic business questions, then they can’t sell value and; consequently, they’re trapped into just talking about their products or selling price by default. 

Next, it is helpful to remember the Triple CrownThe first jewel in the Triple Crown is the notion that products have no inherent value.  Products possess features; they do not possess value.  If a product does not address a need that matters it has no value.  Implication – in order to sell value you must be able to tell a compelling story about the fit between your product and services and the customer needs.    

It’s about solutions not products. So, rather than just talking about the features of your device that reduces ventilated assisted pneumonia (VAP), tie your product to the issue critical to the hospital: for example, share that each VAP case costs the hospital an average of $40K. Even if a hospital only can reduce the number of VAP cases by 10, the result could be a $400K savings – less the cost of your device, which now looks minimal when placed in this context.    

Value migration is the second component of the Triple Crown.  Whether you analyze it from the perspective of the individual, organization, or an entire industry, what constitutes value tends to shift over time. Today hospital administrators are planning for the future while simultaneously dealing with uncertainties from a variety of sources including reduction in the number of elective procedures, increase in the number of uninsured patients, shortage of clinical staff, and fluctuating insurance reimbursements. As a result who is involved in the decision has changed, purchasing specifications are different and pricing pressures are at an all-time high.   Implication – a sales person must be aware of and be an early warning system for Value Migration. 

Last, value is positional and situational.  What value means to any Head of Practice or CNO is different for every hospital or medical practice.  And, individuals holding the same positions in different organizations can have different views on value.  A Cath Lab manager at one hospital primarily may be concerned about keeping the Cath Lab running on time. Her counterpart, however, may be focusing on vendor consolidation as part of that hospital’s strategic initiative. Implication – there are no generic customers; how you sell value must be customized to every individual.   

In the medical devices market there are windows of opportunity when a new product is launched where one device may be significantly better than its predecessors. But, we all know those times don’t happen that often – and when they do, competitors often bring their new product to market shortly thereafter. Too often, your medical device and your competitor’s device aren’t significantly different. So a great product pitch won’t win the day. Furthermore, many of the value adds you offer, like continuing education credits or VIP trips to headquarters, are being offered by your competitors. So, in the medical device market, the sales person’s superior ability to sell value may be one of the few sustainable competitive advantages.   

Check out the Sales Training Connection to read other posts on sales effectiveness.

©2011 Sales Horizons™, LLC 

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About Janet Spirer

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. Janet has followed two different, yet complimentary paths. First, as a B-School Professor she taught marketing, sales, and business strategy courses. She also managed a consulting practice focusing on sales productivity and marketing – working with a variety of clients ranging from Xerox to IBM. She translated those experiences into a book – “Parlez-Vous Business” – that helps sales people develop the business savvy to sell successfully. Since co-founding Sales Momentum® in 2000 with Richard Dr. Spirer received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, an M.P.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Economics from Brooklyn College. She holds the appointment of Professor Emeritus at Marymount University.
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