A few months ago we were meeting with some Regional VPs of Sales in a medical device company. While the conversation is always interesting, two of the VPs brought up a key question: in addition to the traditional questions included in pre-call planning, it’s critical for medical device sales people to have a good understanding of not only what the customer currently is using, but why they use the product they currently implant. Too often sales people know the what – but not the why.
They identified four drivers behind why a physician uses a specific product:
- Money – This product provides personal gain for themselves, a consultant or contract compliance for a hospital or standalone surgery center.
- Comfort – This is the product that the physician used during residency and/or the doc is just comfortable with it. It is easy for the physician and doesn’t require much relearning.
- Sales Rep – The physician has a relationship with a rep in and/or out of the OR or Lab. Comfort, trust, and dependability play a big part here.
- Company Opportunities – The physician has a relationship with the company where he/she has opportunities for practice building, podium opportunities, etc.
This means that before a doc will switch the business from a favorite company and sales rep, and thus leave his/her comfort zone with the product, the physician needs to be able to justify the switch in his/her own mind and to the sales rep pal.
So, we asked the VPs if they could share the most common reasons physicians will switch – they shared six reasons:
- Money – Again, this product provides personal gain for themselves, a consultant or contract compliance for a hospital or standalone surgery center.
- Better patient outcomes
- Efficiency in the OR or Lab – Either the product itself or sales rep can influence this
- Fear – They don’t want to be the “last on the bus” – missing out on some technology that will drive patients to them.
- Influence – If they don’t follow a major influencer in the practice, standalone surgery center or hospital, the physician might look poorly to the influencer and to others in their peer group – ultimately switching because of fear.
- Ego – They want to be known within their peer group for being innovative, getting media attention and/or podium presence.
So only if the product offers one (or more) of the six benefits above, the physician will be able to make the switch from their favor vendor and favorite sales rep to another.
What are the implications for sales training? Well, how often do sales training programs take the buying process down to this level? Too often, generic sales training programs or modules about territory research and pre-call planning don’t provide these types of “nuggets” sales reps need to succeed. While “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” universally rings true, it certainly resonates with medical device sales – once a sales rep blows it with a physician, he/she probably won’t get a second chance with that physician. And, depending on that doc’s position, it could expand to the practice or even to the standalone surgery center or hospital. This means when medical device companies design sales training programs – for all sales reps, but especially for new hires – they need to move beyond the classic do’s and don’ts of territory research and pre-call planning and incorporate some of the key buying best practices that underlie their sale.
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