Selling to experienced vs. new physicians – it’s not just more of the same

Selling to physicians

Like many others, we’ve written about how physicians increasingly are becoming cost conscious – especially as more and more doctors find themselves hospital employees – either through purchasing practices or assuming hospitalists positions.

But the number of existing physicians who are truly cost-conscious is up for debate. Many on the front lines have been cited as saying that physicians don’t consider cost in making decisions. However, in a recent Bain study, 80% of the 500 physicians interviewed reported they felt it was their responsibility to help reduce the total cost of care delivered to their patients, while maintaining quality. This means physicians and hospitals will continue to be “doing a dance” around the cost issue.

Yet, there is general agreement that the economy cannot sustain the economic burden imposed by current and projected healthcare costs. So, there is little doubt that experienced physicians will, by necessity, become more cost-conscious in the years to come.

But what about the newly minted physicians? What will be their mindset? At a minimum they will be entering the healthcare market with a different set of expectations around healthcare availability and a different point of view about their relationships with medical sales companies than their more senior peers.

Because of the transformational changes in the medical sales market space many are recommending that new physicians need something else to enable them to participate as informed citizens in the health care systems in which they work.

Dr. Steven Weinberger suggests that the American College of Physicians Code of Ethics add a seventh competency requirement: cost-conscious care and stewardship of resources: Understand the need for stewardship of resources and practice cost-conscious care, including avoiding the overuse and misuse of diagnostic tests and therapies that don’t benefit patient care but add to healthcare costs.

So, what does this mean as medical sales reps begin to sell to the newly minted physician? There is no doubt that clinical performance is critical – but it’s going to be insufficient on its own. Physicians will find themselves faced with finite healthcare resources. So physicians increasingly will be factoring cost into their purchase decision – along with product efficacy.

This means that medical sales reps will need to be adept at having business conversations about their products – whether capital equipment, devices, or consumables . Ten years ago health care sales reps weren’t required to have business discussions – for many relationship selling alone continued to “win the day”.  But it’s not true today – and it’s certainly going to be different when medical sales reps face the new crop of physicians.

While many of the new physicians may have similar professional and personal drivers as their more senior colleagues, they will have “come of age” in a different healthcare environment. Selling to these physicians will be different – and medical sales reps need to be prepared to address those differences.

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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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