Within MedTech sales every sales professional manages a myriad of sales opportunities. Each of these is at different stages of the buying process within their “sales funnel.” It is good practice to review the most important opportunities with your manager. Best in class sales organizations do these reviews with a finite schedule, when key changes occur and upon the sales representative’s request. If you are a sales professional these questions will help you prepare for an opportunity review. Before you forecast the sale you should be able to answer all of these questions. If you are a sales manager these questions are the ones that should be asked at a minimum.
- Have we identified all of the buying influences for this opportunity? These individuals can be both internal and external to the organization. The buying influence that you have not identified is usually the one that cripples you and derails your strategy. MedTech sales are getting more complex every day. It is imperative to identify all of the stakeholders and not just the ones that you are the most comfortable talking to. Be especially careful to identify external stakeholders such as architects, equipment planners, consultants, third-party technology assessment firms, industry watch-dog groups, customer groups etc. that may have influence with internal stakeholders. For example, the Consumers Union, the lobbying and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, recently passed out flyers at the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons annual meeting asking for product warranties on hip and knee implants.1. Could this group influence a key surgeon or hospital that is using or contemplating the use of one of your products? It’s always a good idea to sketch a stakeholder’s map or buying decision team map on a piece of paper and review it. For visual learners this is especially helpful.
- Who is coaching the competition? It is not uncommon for a sales professional to have a “coach, sponsor or strong advocate” within the account that is providing you with valuable insight because they firmly believe that your product, service or solution is best for their institution. If you have a “coach, sponsor or strong advocate” it is naïve to think that your competitor does not have one too. You should always look for and identify who is coaching the competition. There may be one or more especially if you are trying to unseat the incumbent. Always ask who brought the competition into the facility? These folks can be overt and let you know: they “don’t like you” or they can be covert and “tell you one thing while they do another.”
- Why purchase now? People buy for their reasons not yours. They buy to fix an existing problem that is causing them angst and must be fixed, to avoid a problem or to capitalize on an identified opportunity. In each opportunity review you should be able to articulate the exact reasons why each stakeholder is involved in the purchase of your product, service or solution and why it is important for them to address now? Can you define how your solution affects their costs, quality of care or revenue? Timing is always relevant and important because it tells you the urgency to take action.
- What could cause them to do nothing? Status quo is an action to stay the existing course, so it is a decision to do nothing. Usually this is because the stakeholders do not see a measurable value in moving forward with a different solution or they see a risk that they do not want to encounter. Be prepared to discuss your value proposition and risk mitigation strategy for each stakeholder. Be sure to verify that doing nothing is not an option.
- Why purchase from us? Where is our differentiation and who cares about it? What level of influence do they have for this purchase? If there is no perceived differentiation the discussion always gravitates to price, terms and conditions. Price is always a concern but it can be mitigated by creating differentiation around clinical, financial or strategic value. Who sees our differentiation and believes we are the correct solution? Equally important is who favors the competition and why?
- Where will the money come from? In every hospital there are more projects than funds available. Do you know what projects you are competing against for funding? In what month will the funds for your project be allocated? In Not-For-Profit hospitals (NFPs) it is not unusual for them to have funds available from an endowment fund. Sometimes the principal and interest is restricted for the purchase of new equipment and at the Governing Board’s discretion which must be approved by a family member. Have you verified that your project is a priority and that funds will not be taken away? If you’re selling to a For-Profit hospital keep in mind that they are part of a system and if the system needs the capital dollars then they can remove it from any of their hospitals with no warning.
Part 2 of this blog will be available next week.
1. Parmar, Arundhati: Activists take fight to obtain hip, knee product warranties to AAOS. Will they succeed? Orthopedics: March 12, 2014.