Medical device sales – the networking challenge

Medical Device Sales Networking

We recently looked at networking in B2B sales. Let’s take a deeper dive into networking in medical device sales. A key to successful medical device sales, as in most sales situations, is getting the right message, to the right person, at the right time.  Successfully networking in medical device sales requires knowing who’s who and having relationships characterized by superior access and credibility.

To execute, medical device sales people must be able to answer three questions:

  • Who will be involved in the buying decision?
  • What’s the importance of the role each will play – is Dr. Pat Harris the key decision maker or simply an influencer?
  • What are the players’ opinions of your company – are they internal champions, adversaries or do they have a neutral position?

Let’s take a closer look at each …

Who will be involved in the buying decision? As hospitals look to reduce costs, the number of people involved in buying decisions is increasing.  One outcome of this trend is a move toward vendor consolidation. So, no longer does physician preference solely carry the day. Increasingly hospitals are expanding the number and types of people involved in buying decisions – from traditional users, like physicians, nurses, and other clinical staff to administrators – such as chief nursing officer, risk management, and materials management. Now medical device sales people must have clinical conversations with medical staff as well as business conversations with people in the “carpeted” parts of the hospital.

What’s the importance of the role each will play? No pre-set importance rating can be assigned to each role. Every hospital is different as is every physician practice. Therefore, medical device sales people must search the account to identify the importance of each role in making a buying decision. Past experience provides insights, so can sales intelligence from internal champions. A corporate account sales person can also provide guidance, along with counterparts representing other medical device divisions of the company.

What are the players’ opinions of your company – are they internal champions, adversaries or do they have a neutral position?  Simply identifying each of the players involved in the buying decision is only an initial step.  Determining their opinion about your company is critical. Without that information, it is impossible to create a sales strategy because you don’t know if someone is an internal champion, neutral, or an adversary. And without that information, it’s impossible to create a viable sales strategy.

A final note … asking medical device sales people to expand the types of people with whom they network is easy to say but difficult to do. Unlike many other areas in B2B selling, medical device sales people often find themselves in the uncomfortable situation of selling to people – like a physician or specialty nurse – whose clinical knowledge far exceeds their own knowledge base. And even when these concerns are at bay, medical device sales people often are hesitant to visit the carpeted areas because of a lack of comfort having business conversations. Yet, while understandable, medical device sales people can’t use these as excuses for not networking. Sales success will depend on having a complete picture of who will be making the buying decisions and how they feel about your company. Without that, any sales strategy becomes a work of fiction.

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

©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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