Medical sales – grabbing physician attention – An STC Classic

A Classic - '63 Corvette

A Classic – ’63 Corvette

Do docs have time to see you?  Unfortunately “No” is often the answer.  This lament is familiar from patients – and we’re certainly hearing it from sales people selling in the medical space.

The problem is greater today than in the past. Medical specialists often combat falling fees by doing more procedures; primary-care doctors get paid by the office visit, so all they could do is cram more appointments into a day and increase their panel size—the number of patients in their practices. It’s no wonder sales people often hear from docs, “I’m too busy to talk right now.”

The concern about time is expressed in various ways.  When observing calls, we hear docs say – “Respect my time” and “Drop off the literature and samples at the desk” and “I don’t want to go off schedule, that’s why we do lunch and learns” along with a host of similar comments. Underpinning all of them is the central concern – time.

So what do you do?  Cornering a doc and spewing a quick pitch of products features and benefits – a strategy still promoted in some quarters – rarely will work. Under those conditions, physicians really don’t listen – they are thinking: How long will this take and how can I cut this conversation short? In other words, you’ve lost the doc’s attention and probably have lowered your chances of a second conversation.

But what if sales reps took a different tact and instead of immediately jumping into a product pitch, they asked right up front for a minute of the physician’s time to share a message about a topic they knew the doc had an interest? From the doc’s point of view, it’s a quick message and will only take a minute – so it’s manageable. Most importantly the minute will be devoted to a challenge of interest to the doc rather than a product pitch.

The key to this approach is the sales rep is not only being mindful of the physician’s time, there’s a second piece to the story – having something of value to share with the doc. Docs are overwhelmed so it’s nearly impossible for a physician to keep current on everything relevant to their practice and patients. Providing useful, relevant information not only is the best way to gain physician attention, it also earns the sales person credibility and sometimes the right for a longer conversation.  Will this alternative always work – no, but it’s always a better bet if you start with the customer versus your products – today in the medical world this differences is particularly tellingly.

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©2013 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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3 Responses to Medical sales – grabbing physician attention – An STC Classic

  1. S. Ketharaman says:

    Share a message about a topic they knew the doc had an interest”. Sounds great on paper but it’s easier said than done. How does the rep find out doctor-wise topics of interest? How much time will this research take? How much will it cost? I know these are relevant questions but I’m willing to park them and try out this approach provided I can see some actual results from companies that have used it successfully. – S. Ketharaman

    • Janet says:

      Great questions – thanks for raising those questions. Finding out a physician’s interest and what they value in order for a salesperson to be able to share value with a physician does take some time – talking with others at the practice or hospital who might give you insights, or perhaps someone else in your company that also calls on that physician or an associate. Time is the primary cost – and that is information that salespeople should seek to obtain as underpinnings of crafting their sales strategy.

      • Ramesh Kumar says:

        What a Rep needs to do is , arousing the interest of the Dr through selling skills . Rep May ask Dr by using probing techniques . Information can be gathered from other sources who are working with Dr closely , so that it becomes easier for rep to understand Dr ‘s practice and accordingly trailer his talk , making it interesting and relevant to Dr.

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