Can’t Get an Appointment? Go anyway!

If you’re a medical sales professional with a large territory, the geography you cover offers an additional challenge to the many you face. The challenge is getting in front of customers on a regular basis. Instead of strategically planning personal visits, reps default to cold-calling by telephone or email to land appointments. The problem is it often doesn’t work. Yet, many of the sales representatives that I meet in my on-site medical sales training workshops burn time dialing for appointments instead of just going to where their customers are.

Often, poor territory management and organization can limit one’s sales success. But mindset has a lot to do with it also. Instead of an I-don’t-want-to-waste-my-time mindset, sales professionals need to adopt a see-and-be-seen mindset.

Healthcare Buyers Like Familiarity and Consistency

Many factors influence the healthcare sale. Having a great product or service is important. Being on contract is a big factor as well. But few healthcare stakeholders, especially those who actually use a product, favor buying from a company whose local sales rep is unknown or rarely seen.

Healthcare providers expect a high level of service from suppliers. You can tell buyers how great you are and promise that you’ll be there whenever they need you, but they will always default to their experience with you. When you show up at their offices on a regular basis, it demonstrates consistency. It also suggests that you’ll service them consistently as well.

Unless You Can See Into the Future with a Crystal Ball, Don’t Pre-judge

Average medical reps are famous for making things up in their heads that prevent them from becoming great medical reps. Let me give you an example.

Recently, I was having a conversation with John, a rep who sells capital equipment. He just lost a sale to a competitor.  John’s company has a sole source agreement with the hospital chain that bought the competitive product.  John couldn’t understand how this could happen, especially since his product is superior in almost every way.

I asked John, “So why didn’t they buy your product if you’re on contract?”

John replied, “They said they never saw a sales rep from my company.”

John has only been in the territory four months. Unfortunately though, the territory was uncovered for several years prior.

I asked John if he had visited the account since he was hired. His response was, “I tried making appointments with physicians and key personnel at the hospital, but the people were either unavailable or said, ‘Send information.’ Unfortunately, my territory is big and I don’t have the luxury of driving hundreds of miles without knowing if I can get in to see a customer.”

John pre-judged people he never met. He assumed he wouldn’t be able to get past gatekeepers and trying would be a waste of time. We’ll never know if the account would have bought from John if he had met with the right people. But you’re never going to meet with the right people if you have the mindset that they won’t see you.

Use the Telephone as a Sales Tool, NOT a Sales Platform

The power of the telephone is declining as a sales tool. The biggest reasons, in my opinion, are caller ID and voice mail. If a busy healthcare provider doesn’t recognize your name or phone number, you’re toast. And if you end up in voice mail and say what most sales reps say, your call is deleted in less than two seconds. Don’t get your feelings hurt—you probably do the same thing when salespeople you don’t know call you.

Email offers an advantage…to the recipient. It’s much easier to hit “delete” than to scroll through voice mails.

Do you know what the telephone is good for, though? Getting information, specifically, finding out if your prospect is going to be in the office on a given date. How might this work?

Let’s say your goal is to meet with Ms. Jones in Radiology.  One to three days before your planned visit, call her office. If she answers, deliver a powerful value proposition in five seconds or less. Next, tell her that you’ll be in her area on such and such a date and ask if you could meet with her for five minutes to…[again emphasize compelling value proposition]. If she says “yes,” you have your appointment. If she says “no,” tell her you will drop off some information and ask if she will be there to accept it? She’ll probably tell you to leave it with so and so, but you’re not going to do that. You’re going to visit and ask to see her, again, by offering an even more compelling value proposition.

Finding out when someone will be in the office is even easier when an admin or receptionist answers. Often you can just say, “I have something I would like to drop off for Ms. Jones. Will she be in the office Tuesday or Wednesday of next week?” Be creative. Just find out when your prospect is in.

Do something similar with other prospects in the same area and plan your visit on the day when most are in town. If you get in to see just one and open a discussion that is relevant, it was worth the trip.

It’s Only Cold the First Time

Sales reps avoid cold-calling because they fear facing rejection. No one likes hearing “no.” If you think about it, a call is only cold when you don’t have a referral or an appointment and you’re meeting the customer for the first time. If you sell effectively and demonstrate how you bring value to a practice or institution, you are no longer seen as an unknown, unwelcome sales rep. You are someone who is worth spending time with and that makes your next visit much warmer.

Your greatest chance of speaking to prospects is in person. While there is no guarantee that you’ll get to see them without an appointment, you’re almost guaranteed never to see them if your attempts for an appointment by phone or email keep failing.

Do your research and plan your visits when a high number of prospects are in town. Don’t only seek out department heads and physicians; ask to meet with anyone who might be able to get you in to see the decision-makers. It’s a process that requires persistence…and showing up.

Unless you’re an inside sales representative whose job is phone sales, meet every prospect toe-to-toe and eye-to-eye as regularly as possible. It’s the best way to be top-of-mind when it’s time to buy.


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