When we first began working with medical device companies, we heard a VP of Cardiac Devices open our sales training program. More than ten years have passed since we listened to those program openings, but one thing Tim said always stuck with us.
He talked about a Book of Knowledge that sales reps needed to learn. To dramatize the importance of the challenge, Tim would raise his arms and open them to shoulder width. According to Tim, this Book of Knowledge had “chapters” on clinical information, industry information, competitive information and sales skills that medical device sales reps would need to succeed.
Then he went on to extend his arms broadly, sharing that the Book of Knowledge is growing exponentially. A major challenge for the sales reps was to keep up with that Book of Knowledge. Tim’s prediction turned out to be right on the money – the Book of Knowledge is bigger and heavier than it was 10 years ago. Medical sales reps need to know:
- Responsibilities – issues, and concerns of the people you’re calling on – from physicians to clinical staff to administrators
- Clinical Knowledge – anatomy, technical knowledge about devices, studies supporting your devices
- Competitive Knowledge – how their devices work
- Customer Environment – how the hospital works, do’s and don’ts for being onsite in Labs and the OR
- Industry Issues and Ethical Standards – government rulings like Obamacare and FDA regulations, to AdvaMed standards
- Healthcare Economics – how hospitals and other healthcare providers make money and how they are reimbursed
- Sales Skills – how to constantly adapt and adjust your selling to the changes in the buyer’s environment
Our major observation over the ten years is – everyone needs to get in the game in order for medical sales reps to stay up-to-date.
Sales training certainly can address some of these issues through formal sales training programs. However, performance improvement cannot end there. Marketing has to help, the IT department needs to get in the game, and the front-line sales managers must coach.
Last, medical device sales reps themselves must take personal responsibility for updating their knowledge base. Whether it’s subscribing to industry newsletters, automated feeds to keep up-to-date on customer announcements, reading blogs, or just googling – sales reps must put time aside for updating their knowledge base.
For medical device sales reps updating their command of the Book of Knowledge is critical. Not to sound melodramatic but in some cases, like cardiology devices, life and death decisions can depend on it. Being up-to-speed is the key to providing value – to your customer’s and to their customer’s – whether patients, physicians, or administrators. The good news is although the Book of Knowledge is bigger – the resources for learning it are better than ever.
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