Medical device sales – translating clinical value into economic value

At the 2011 Medical Innovation Summit much time was spent discussing how economic conditions and their impact on policy is shifting control in healthcare from providers to payers. These policy shifts are manifesting themselves in many forms such as: changes in reimbursements, a rise in healthcare IT, and a push to decrease healthcare costs.

To stay competitive, medical device companies – and their sales forces – must keep these changes in mind as they look to 2012. Medtronic’s Chairman and CEO, Omar Ishrak shared that Medtronic plans to increase its focus on providing data that illustrates the economic value of its products to medical facility administrators. “We can through the use of data be a bridge between the administrator and the physician so that clinical value can be translated into economic value,” Ishrak said.

The first question is whether Ishrak’s comments would resonate with most VP of Sales in the medical sales market? We think that one is fairly easy – the answer is yes.  The second question is do these changes impact sales training – again the answer is yes.  Let’s look at the “why” behind these questions.

Fewer and fewer device adoptions are driven strictly by clinicians.  This means that people, other than physicians, increasingly are become pivotal players in the decision-making process.  So medical device sales people are calling on new decision-makers and influencers who have different purchasing criteria.  And physicians? They certainly continue to play a key role in the adoption process, but often they have to move beyond clinical arguments for device adoption.  They are required to make a business case … a requirement that didn’t exist even five years ago.

Yet simply providing sales people with clinical data for physicians and administrators that illustrates economic value won’t win the day.  Sales training needs to provide sales people with learning experiences that will help them use that data effectively.

Unfortunately in too many cases medical device sales people presently are not optimizing the potential power of clinical data in their sales calls. And some are still not comfortable having business conversations with people in the “carpeted halls”.

This means medical device sales people need to be trained on what economic value means to all of the players in the new decision process. Plus they must become comfortable making a business argument for device adoption to hospital administration and a clinical and business argument with physicians and other clinicians. And last, sales training must help sales people take the critical step – helping physicians to “connect the dots” so they can translate clinical value into economic value for the medical administrators.

The requirement for sales people to be able to have a wide variety of business and economic discussions with a wide variety of players is now a core sales skill in the medical sales market.

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©2012 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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