It’s NOT always the polished, knowledgeable medical sales professional who gets the business. Meet Lou…
One of my closest friends had a friend named Lou. I got to know Lou over the years and there is only one phrase that comes to mind when I think of Lou—Piece of Work! Lou is a big guy, a former professional hockey player who often greeted you by lifting you off the ground with a big hug and an embarrassing kiss on your cheek. It’s a greeting you never forget, as much as I wish I could. Lou is irreverent and unconventional. So when Lou announced that he wanted to make the transition from selling cellular phones to medical sales, everyone who knew him would have bet against it ever happening.
One day I walked into the materials coordinator’s office in one of my operating room accounts and there was Lou! As I was lifted off the floor in his inescapable embrace and had a kiss planted on my cheek in front of several customers, I dreaded how they might react to my obvious acquaintance with Lou. Bonnie, the materials coordinator with whom I had a wonderful working relationship for years questioned me with a stunned look, “Mace, You know Lou?”
I wasn’t sure how to answer, especially with Lou still holding me up in the air. He put me down, and as I regained what was left of my dignity, I resorted to my selling skills and answered Bonnie’s question with a question. “Bonnie, do YOU know Lou?”
Bonnie laughed, nodded her head and said, “Yeah…I know Lou! We love him around here!”
It turns out that Lou landed a job selling routine medical supplies. I’m talking band-aids, guaze, adhesive tape, tongue depressors—products that are as commoditized as it gets. In a world where 99.99% of customers had no interest in discussing the products that Lou was selling, he was getting past gatekeepers and stealing business like wildfire.
Lou informed everyone that he met in my accounts that he knew me, which initially made me cringe. When customers would say, “Hey, I understand that Lou is a friend of yours,” I braced myself for what was to come next. The truth was, everybody loved Lou! Why?
It wasn’t because he offered solutions that no one else offered—there are hundreds of vendors selling bandages.
It’s not because he was a valued resource who possessed a deep level of clinical knowledge—he didn’t have any, I mean none, other than the multiple broken bones he endured from his hockey days.
So why would medical professionals welcome Lou into their busy day? It was because Lou provided some comic relief, usually by poking fun at himself in an endearing way that made people forget about their stressful jobs for a moment. Everyone agreed that Lou was a piece of work, but almost everyone gave him a few minutes of their time. And during those few minutes, Lou would always ask them to buy from him. And they did.
Am I advocating that you, as a medical sales professional, should greet people in your accounts by lifting them off the ground? Not unless you want to give that hospital security guard an opportunity to actually use those Barney Fife handcuffs he has been carrying on his belt for years! Don’t try to be Lou. He has that one-in-a-million personality where his irreverence works for him. The truth is, people are almost always happy to see him.
It’s become cliché that medical sales is a relationship business. There is truth in that statement, but recognize that often, all that’s required for a business relationship to bear fruit is for people to like you. Oh yeah, and you need to ask them to buy.
When I first met Lou many, many years ago, never could I have imagined that one day I would hold him up as a positive example. But I am because Lou is likeable…and He’s a Piece of Work!