Seven fundamentals for selling to physicians

Medical device sales

Hospitals are going through a transformational period – changing what they buy, how they buy and what they are willing to pay for it. The sales rep who does not adjust and adapt to these changes is unlikely to prosper. In the future business-as-usual will be business lost to competitors.

On the other hand, there are some basic best practices for selling in the medical device market that have been and will continue to be important. So in the race to the future don’t forget to pause from time to time to remember the fundamentals.

From our work with medical device reps there is a short list of ideas that keep coming up as important for doing a better job selling to physicians.

1. Patient care is still the first priority. When we ask successful implanters what do the most successful medical device reps do, one of the first things they say is: They never forget that an implant is much more than the device … it’s about the patient who will be living with the device.

2. Cold calls aren’t well received. In fact, physicians generally are adverse to cold calls. We’ve even seen signs on waiting room doors that said, “don’t call us, we’ll call you”. This means medical device sales reps must be respectful of the implanter’s time and the consequences of their presence, such as the doc going “off schedule”.

3. There are multiple decision makers in the practice. It’s fairly rare for implanters to be in solo practices. As a result, even if a key decision maker has a strong preference, their colleagues will likely be strong influencers in any decision. This can be an advantage for medical device sales reps, as one physician encourages another to use your device – but the opposite can happen just as easily. Medical device reps need to understand practice and politics.

4. Long presentations and gimmicks aren’t tolerated. Again, with the changing healthcare landscape, physicians are serving more patients … leaving little time for sales calls that bring no value.

5. Products and programs that create value and produce income are well received. On the other hand, products or services that serve a compliance purpose are seen as an expense.

6. Make it easy to do business. While this may not be a primary decision criteria for physicians, the easier it is for a physician and their staff to do business with you – all things being equal – the better off (and more successful) medical device reps will be.

7. Leverage peer physicians. Information about buying decisions made by physicians can come from multiple sources. The most effective source is peer physicians. So, the more physicians a sales rep can develop a relationship with – the more likely they will be successful.

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©2012 Sales Horizons, LLC

About Richard Ruff

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. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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