The medical device market faces transformational market challenges – decision criteria shifting from clinical to economic, decision-making moving from local hospitals to IDNs, the rise of GPOs, and the dramatic impact of new governmental regulations.
These shifts mean medical device companies must re-address their value propositions and adapt how they sell. The cornerstone for making the adjustment will be the front-line sales manager. They will make the difference between a successful and unsuccessful transition.
The Sales Executive Council, for example, reported a four-fold difference in top-line territory growth of sales reps under “star sales managers” (top 10%) compared to sales reps under weak sales managers (bottom 10%). The same report showed the sales difference between the top 25% and bottom 25% of sales managers was a stunning 80%.
There is little doubt that the front-line sales manager is the pivotal job for building a superior sales team. When there is a need for substantial change the importance of the role is magnified significantly.
The answer is not just about having a few super star sales managers but instead to have in place a process whereby you have the capability to build and sustain a superior cadre of front-line medical device sales managers. Some rules of the road for building such a process are:
Avoid the “just promote successful sales rep trap” – This is a strategy that is easily overused and abused. It should not be the only strategy and it is one that should be carefully managed.
When promoted, medical device sales reps too often emphasis the super sales rep role that gained them the promotion rather than coaching their sales team. This is partly due to the natural tendency to continue doing what we do well in order to show early gains … and to show we’re providing value.
An important first step to avoid this trap is developing an understanding of the performance profile of your sales team. Coaching them to be better at what they do is more about their strengths and weakness then it is about what you do well. You can know it, but not know how to coach it; coaching is a separate skill set
Get serious about sales training and development. New sales managers need a new hire training experience just like newly hired sales reps. On an ongoing basis it is worthwhile to ask and answer the following:
- Are the sales managers doing a good job at coaching, if not what should be done about that?
- Do they understand what sales adjustments need to be made given the market shifts, if not how should that be corrected?
- Are they aware of and use the other sales enablement functions like marketing and IT, if not what needs to be done?
Sales training and development in medical sales are important not only for skill acquisition but also for long-term retention. One of the reasons great sales managers leave is the failure of the organization to develop and leverage their talent and experience.
Develop an organization commitment. In today’s medical device market even top sales managers will not succeed without top management support and commitment from the rest of the organization. Sales productivity needs to be on everyone’s to do list. It does not happen automatically – and it will not happen unless top management models the desired behavior.
If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.
©2013 Sales Momentum® LLC