Medical device sales – seven ways new sales reps can build sales success

Medical device sales people spend months learning about products, anatomy, and how to sell. Then after passing a battery of tests, becoming certified, and getting credentials (REPtrax or similar systems) up-to-date, it’s time to sell.

Yet, applying what was learned in training – in a physician’s office, a lab, or in the OR – is the challenge.  Not only must medical device sales people display clinical proficiency, they also must add value to the surgeons, hospital staff, and practice staff – all the while focusing on improving patient outcomes.

A tall task for any medical device sales rep, a daunting one for new sales reps. So, what can sales reps do from the onset to differentiate themselves? How can they build credibility? Here’s a starter list …

1. Be available – This takes a variety of forms, from being at the hospital early in the morning before the physicians to being available for a case when called. It’s a way to develop credibility with physicians and staff, as well as, a means to differentiate from other sales reps.

2. Learn the “lay of the land” – Leverage your manager, clinical support and even other sales reps to learn how the OR and hospital “works” (procedures and practices), as well as, physician preferences.

3. Be easy to do business with – Sounds intuitive … but too often, sales people – and their companies really are difficult to work with. So what can a sales person do?  Be prepared and be responsive. Being prepared takes a variety of form such as: being knowledgeable about your device, ensuring your device is on the shelf, being knowledgeable about the case, and making sure the case set up is right. Being responsive translates to responding to requests and concerns in a timely way – as well as doing what you say you’ll do when you say you’ll do it.

4. Remember the patient – It’s very easy for sales people to get wrapped up in the technical side of their device, an implanter’s preferences, and assorted pricing and supply chain issues. But at the core, is the patient – who has to live with the device – and patient outcomes.  The most successful sales people never lose sight of the patient because it’s not forgotten by surgeons and clinical staff.

5. Make your device easy to implant – If a device is difficult to implant, it won’t be preferred by physicians.  Some aspects of the implant a sales rep can’t control, like the flexibility of a wire or a lead. Sales reps, however, can make sure the foundation is laid for success – that the implanter is comfortable with the device, as is Lab and OR staff.

6. Be prepared for the negatives – One thing we’ve learned is that implanters have long memories.  So be prepared for negative comments about your devices, your company, and even prior sales people, clinical support people, and sales managers the physician might have worked with. These comments aren’t classical objections – we’d classify them as “zingers” – or difficult situations sales reps might find themselves facing. But, by no means are they less critical – and like objections, they need to be handled deftly.

7. NetworkNo longer primarily a physician preference, today’s medical device sales often involve buying committees, clinical staff, materials management, and other administrators.  Sharing who’s who, what role they are playing in the buying process, their key concerns, and their perception of you versus the competition is critical to sales success.

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©2011 Sales Horizons, LLC

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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