Medical sales – selling new technologies to physicians

Selling to physicians

Sales reps usually get excited when their company launches a new product. And when the product is a new technology that is significantly different from others on the market, the level can be particularly high.  That’s the upside surrounding new product launches.  The downside is that sales reps falsely assume their customer base is equally excited and want to hear about every last detail as soon as possible.

When talking about a new medical device with a physician, some will show a lot of interest. So you initial expectations will be fulfilled. But beware! The physicians you talk with early on may be comprised mainly of early adopters. So, what drives new physicians to adopt new technologies?

Early adopters are a small special breed of buyers driven by a unique set of professional and personal needs that are not representative of the general population of physicians.

Whereas the responses from the early adopters will likely be extremely positive, the chances are the rest of the population will not react in the same way. They will respond with comments like: “I like what I’m using – it works well.” or “Thanks for showing it to me – it’s interesting. But come back after my colleagues have implanted it for a while.” Regardless of the specific comment, the effect is the same – the physician isn’t so excited and is unlikely to be first in line to buy one.

What drives these comments? Let’s take the case where a physician has a high comfort level with a particular device and is getting good patient results. To change devices means starting up the old learning curve again – and the likelihood of increased time per procedure in the beginning.   So, there has to be a really good reason for a physician who isn’t just interested in new technology in general to be responsive to your company’s new medical device.

How can medical sales reps sell new products to this larger population of physicians?  First, it is important to recognize that the strategy and narrative for selling to early adopters does not extrapolate to the general population. You need a Plan B.

Second, as you move beyond the early adopters to the broad physician population in your territory, what will encourage physicians to switch will not be identical across physicians.  The right answers must be tailored to each doctor.

Third, once you understand where each individual doctor is coming from – focus on the value of the new device: why it was developed, how colleagues are using it, patient outcomes. It’s only after you’ve captured the physician’s interest by focusing on value that a physician is ready to hear about the features of the device itself.

And finally – while it’s always important for medical sales reps to deliver their message to customers at the right time and in the right place, it’s especially critical for medical device sales.  And, you can underline that point when it comes to new products.

Some other blog posts on medical sales you might find interesting are:

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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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