If you’re in MedTech sales you have a designated territory and a sales goal. Making the “plan” is your number one objective. If you are a 1099 and self-employed, you are a hunter who only gets paid when you consistently hit the target, otherwise it’s a long dry season.
Successful MedTech sellers recognize that the healthcare environment is constantly changing and evolving to meet the new market paradigm. It’s what makes the profession so challenging, but also filled with opportunities. You know the tell-tale signs; facilities limiting access to suppliers, new buying influences – often located remotely, committees with more control and more decisions moving into the C-Suite. With organizational changes, contracts being re-opened and new competitors emerging in the market, many strategic procurement departments have driven toward a new level of commoditization. Each of these changes requires a quick recognition of the new dynamic and the appropriate knowledge on how to adapt and prosper. In short, it requires a new competency level in order to succeed.
The challenge for MedTech sellers is how do we improve our ability and grow our selling skills from year-to-year? How do we hone our craft to constantly get better? How do we avoid complacency? It’s easy to say I don’t have time or I am a top performer and I don’t need any additional knowledge or training. Now, let’s look at both of these common excuses.
Honing your craft requires effort and time, without a personal commitment to put in the work, you may find yourself one day looking from the outside…in. It’s like anything else; it needs to be prioritized as an activity that is important. You make your living in sales. Why would you not be able to make time to improve your ability to sell?
You’re a top performer so you don’t need to hone your craft you say. Now, ask yourself how much better you could be if you did? Could your sales cycles be shorter? Could you win more opportunities? Could you work less hours? Could you make more money or get to your sales goal quicker? In sports every team practices and it’s not because they don’t know how to play the game. They are honing their craft and developing “nuance” a key attribute that separates you from the competition.
So how do you hone your craft as a MedTech sales professional? Most large organizations have a formal training department with often a company “university” curriculum that delivers pertinent knowledge to keep your skills current. However, many sales professionals work in small firms or with regional distributors where the training is often less structured, sporadic and event driven. No matter if the training is formal or informal, there are three (3) major areas of competency: a) product knowledge b) industry knowledge and c) sales skill development.
Understanding your product and how it is applied is a fundamental requirement of sales professionals. You must be viewed as a respected, knowledgeable resource by current and potential new customers.
Product knowledge can be learned from company audio tools such as webinars, audio-tapes, and studying clinical papers that have been published in peer review journals and/or company sponsored white papers. Sales bulletins, brochures, PowerPoint presentations, online learning modules, trade association resources along with peer-to-peer conversations all can contribute to expanding your product knowledge.
Savvy sellers should have a 360-degree view of the MedTech industry, the changes that have occurred affecting the market, and your specific geography. Additionally, where is the industry trending for the key players including, healthcare organizations, care delivery initiatives, reimbursement policies, technology upgrades, the shortening of the supply chain and the continuum of care for healthcare systems are but a few examples.
Industry knowledge can be obtained by performing online research, competitive analysis and reviewing the For–Profit Hospital Chains annual report, quarterly report or 10-K filings. Similar analysis is available for Not-For-Profits by reading their Form 990. Other online research through Google, Bloomberg and Yahoo Finance can provide additional insight on individual competitors or hospitals. Trade publications and clinical journals can provide information on individual organizations, people, industry trends, new entrants and mergers, divestitures and acquisitions.
Networking at various industry meetings that are held nationally, regionally and locally can be a great source of new information. For example, many hospital professional personnel belong to organizations that meet monthly in their local city. Many of these organizations allow suppliers to join their meetings.
Sales Capability Development
There are many ways to define the sales skills, competencies or capabilities that are required to sell in today’s dynamic MedTech climate. From our perspective, advancing these skills are required and necessary:
- Territory management– You have to know where the best opportunities are for success. Time spent developing a good territory plan is time well spent.
- Call planning and execution– With limited access and less time for sales personnel to be in front of key buying influences, effective planning and execution of a sales call has never been more important. Winging it is not an option.
- Understand the customers buying process– It’s not about you and what you want to sell. It’s about the customer, their buying process and providing real value. Savvy sellers understand the buying process and can hone in immediately at the buying stage their customer is in by listening to the types of questions that they ask.
- Sales process strategy– There must be a detailed plan to win the hospital sale for all of the reasons we articulated in the beginning of this blog.
- Needs assessment– If discovery is weak you may not understand the entire scope of the problem and you also run the risk of delivering a weak solution. Don’t let your needs assessment be superficial.
- Negotiating skills– Negotiation must be done throughout the sales and buying process. If left to the end, it becomes all about price, terms and conditions. You then become a commodity with very little perceived value.
- Creating, Articulating & Reinforcing Value– If there is no value there is no sale. Each buying influence has a different business result that they want. Each has a personal objective that they desire from your solution. You must be able to clearly articulate your value in language that resonates with each buying influence.
- Account Management– In today’s MedTech climate, skilled savvy sellers must be able to lead an account process with executives while advancing their initiatives with clinical personnel advocates and key department leaders.
Improve your sales skills by attending sales training programs. Most of these programs focus on one concept or topic and all offer valuable information. Some programs are delivered in workshops with a facilitator while others offer e-learning. Read sales books, newsletters, magazines and sales and healthcare blogs. Join key LinkedIn groups. Develop a relationship with your company’s top performers. Learn what they do differently that makes them stand apart from the rest of the crowd…year-in and year out. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your best customers for insight on what you could do better.
Top MedTech sales performers excel at territory management by applying their knowledge of the hospitals’ business enabling them to bring mutually beneficial solutions.
If you want to hone your skills be prepared to learn something new on a daily basis. Always evaluate yourself objectively. Be honest and ask yourself: What did I do well? What could I have done better? Where are the gaps in my knowledge and ability? What will I do differently in the future? Then develop a plan and execute it.
“The best way to predict the future is to create it” Peter Drucker, management guru for all ages.