Medical device sales success – an urgent need to do something different – An STC Classic

A Classic - '63 Corvette

A Classic – ’63 Corvette

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.  As a result of all that, medical device companies are under tremendous pressure to reduce prices while providing more value to customers.

Given these changes there are a number of tactical changes that can and should be considered, but what about a fundamental strategy shift?  Are there ideas that are not just about doing a better job doing what you are doing, but are about doing something differently?

Key Account Managers (KAMs) in Medical Device Sales 

One strategy with a great track record for the latter is the implementation of a Key Account Manager (KAM) program.

KAM programs can be configured in a number of ways.  However, a common approach is a KAM is responsible and accountable for the entire business development effort – crossing product lines and often across geographies.

Before we examine some of the advantages, it is important to note that KAMs are not just territory sales reps with another label.  They are more knowledgeable about the market, industry, and their own organization – they are business savvy. And, they are able to translate all that expertise in to powerful customer interactions because they also posses a high level of selling skills.

So what are some of the payoffs?

Executive level meetings.  They are more likely to be able to gain access at the executive level and have more skilled conversations focused on business and financial issues.  This level and type of conversation is now a requirement for sales success.

Institutional resources.  By knowledge and authority KAMs are able to tap the total resources of their organization and to effectively work with and leverage the sales reps and support personnel in the various divisions of their companies.  This “integrated” approach provides a path for meeting the customer’s new price and value demands while maintaining a viable overall profit profile.

Partners versus sellers.  They can change the nature of the relationship with the customer because they are in a position to think and act strategically about business development and manage deals for the company’s entire product portfolio.  This is a win/win shift because it results in sales growth and profit while saving costs – and improving customer support.  It also permits the implementation of log-term value-added programs that benefit both partners.

How do you train KAMs? 

Sales training for KAMs is not just more of the same.  Anyone assuming a KAE position is already well versed and experienced in fundamental sales skills, product knowledge, and institutional awareness.  So, let’s explore the next step – Sales Training 2.0.

First, we will take a look at the differences from a content perspective.  Some Sales 2.0 knowledge and skill sets KAMs need to master are:

  • Hospital business economics and buying processes.
  • Business, clinical, technology, and legislative trends in the health care industry.
  • Knowledge of their company’s total product portfolio, business initiatives and pricing models.
  • Consultative selling skills.
  • Managing and coaching skills for working with account executives and field sales support

Second, from an instructional design perspective, sales training for KAEs must be responsive to a target audience comprised of an experienced and talented group of sales people who have taken on a very difficult and demanding job assignment.  Therefore, the sales training cannot just be a modified version of what already is in place for training territory reps; the learning objectives are qualitatively different and the level of required proficiency is significantly greater – mastery would be the goal.  KAE sales training needs to achieve three overall objectives:

  • Help the KAMs master the four new bodies of knowledge and skill sets delineated in the previous paragraph.
  • Assist the KAMs to adjust and adapt their existing core selling skills to the new buying environment that is experiencing an ongoing transformation shift.  This challenge should be accomplished recognizing that the KAEs must interact with different call points that hold differing definitions of value.
  • Provide a way to help integrate and apply the new and existing competencies so that the KAMs can use those competencies to formulate and execute effective strategies for developing and capturing the business.

The health-care industry is undergoing transformational changes.  Hospitals anticipate a 15-20 percent reduction in reimbursements; hence they are looking at costs reduction from a new perspective.  It is no loner about negotiating purchase price; it is about capturing a reduction in end-to-end supply chain expenditures.  Hence they are interested in vendors who can be partners who can help them make the required transitions – not just suppliers.

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©2014 Sales Momentum®

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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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One Response to Medical device sales success – an urgent need to do something different – An STC Classic

  1. Chris Banzet says:

    the most interesting and revealing thing about this article is; I would have “assumed” this was already the standard “culture” or “mindset” of any medical machine sales rep. If this wasn’t their current “modus operandi”, then I would also assume that half their struggle came from just now realizing this is the way it should have been carried out from day one.. :)

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