Medical sales training – something different vs. more of the same

Medical sales training

Medical sales training

From time to time entire industries go through dramatic changes driven by forces that are disruptive in scope and scale. Today the healthcare industry is a prime example.

Most healthcare organizations are uncertain about the best strategic path forward.  However, what is clear is standing still is not an option.  Moving forward the challenge will be about how to reinvent versus how to improve.

Hospitals will need to explore ways to reduce costs and to improve patient care.  Clearly for the market-leaders this journey has already begun.  They have changed what they buy, how they buy and what they are willing to pay for it.

In times of such transformational market change, a new set of winners and losers emerge among the sellers to the market.  If you are a company selling medical devices, equipment, consummables, software or other medical market products/services, a piece of the puzzle for being among the winners is making the investment in your sales team commensurate with the need for change and the opportunity to benefit.  Those that prosper will recognize that if buyers change how they buy then sellers need to change how they sell.

If your customers are making changes, then the case is made that it’s no longer business-as-usual for your sales team.  When the changes are dramatic then it becomes a matter of doing something different rather than simply doing a better job doing what you are doing.  The required shift in selling isn’t incremental; it’s transformational.

So, what does it take for a company to implement a sales transformation?  The question can and should be explored from a number of perspectives, here let’s just drill down and examine what it means for designing sales training.

Building transformational sales training

What are the lessons for designing effective sales training when doing something different versus more of the same is the challenge … and doing too little, too late is a common pitfall? For designing an effective sales training effort to help a sales team adapt and adjust to transformational changes in the customers’ buying process?

  • Lesson 1 – Understand the Difference.  The design of the sales training solution is strikingly different if the challenge is to help a sales team take a meaningful next step for doing something different versus getting better at doing what they are doing.  Achieving the former requires greater design innovation and a longer timeframe for skill acquisition.
  • Lesson 2 – Build Upfront Understanding and Enthusiasm.   Before the sales training, the leadership team must set the stage for sales training more substantially than usual. This includes communicating what is to be done and why it is being done. The sales team needs to see why the sales process needs changing, what the new process looks like, how others are also being asked to change and what the anticipated payoffs will be.
  • Lesson 3 – Select the Right Partner(s).  There are 100s of viable training companies if you are selecting a sales training vendor for your national sales meeting. The number is dramatically reduced for a sales transformation project. The best fit will of course depend on the specifics of the transformation being planned – nobody is the best across the board.  However, there are overarching considerations worth highlighting such as: understanding your culture and industry, committing the A-team, bring innovative design expertise, and being receptive to alternate pricing models.
  • Lesson 4 – Spotlight the Pivotal Job.  The front-line sales manager is the pivotal job for driving the success of any sales transformation effort. They need to be engaged in defining the new sales process and take a leadership role introducing it to the sales team.  They will also be the key element in helping the salespeople learn the new required skills.  Hence, they need trained first – and subsequently they should participate in the sales reps training.  Perhaps most importantly, they need to be committed to providing coaching over the long haul.

Getting the foundation right

If the healthcare market is undergoing transformational changes in the way they buy, then it is likely that a parallel effort will be required on your part from a sales perspective. And, from a competitive standpoint it does not pay to be the last holdout for the ways of yesteryear.  Three principles for crafting effective training are worth keeping in mind:

  • Changing Behavior is Tough. Your sales team has been doing what they have been doing for a long time – changing technology is easy compared to asking people to change their behavior.
  • Walking before Running is Okay.  Once the change reaches a certain level, it is worth considering doing it in phases or using a “skunk works” approach to work out the problems.
  • Sticking to your Guns.  Sometimes doing the change a crisis such as a fall in revenue figures will occur; this of course is the time when the brave of heart must step forward.

When any company is faced with disruptive changes that are demanding they must reinvent what they do and how they do it, they look for partners with sales reps that can be trusted advisors who provide insights that make a difference versus product facilitators who simply have solutions to sell.

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©2016 Sales Momentum® 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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1 Response to Medical sales training – something different vs. more of the same

  1. “When any company is faced with disruptive changes that are demanding they must reinvent what they do and how they do it, they look for partners with sales reps that can be trusted advisors who provide insights that make a difference versus product facilitators who simply have solutions to sell.”

    Sales reps need to understand that they are doing more than just selling a product or service. They should be viewed as trusted advisors whose goal it is to meet the needs of their customers. Effective sales training programs will help reps meet these goals.

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