Medical Sales: Know When It’s Time to Call a Competitor

I answered my cell phone on a Thursday afternoon as I was driving between accounts.  The voice on the other end said, “Mace, it’s Dan Adams, how are you?”  I was more than a bit surprised to be getting a call from one of my top competitors.  The words that followed surprised me even more.

“Mace, you know Dr. Hernandez, right?  I just left his office.  He has a surgery in a couple of weeks and when I was looking at the patient’s x-rays, I thought that your system might be a better fit for the patient than mine.  Would you be interested in stopping by Dr. Hernandez’s office to talk to him about this upcoming surgery?”

This seemed rather strange to me—one of my strongest competitors was throwing me a case with his biggest customer who was also the highest volume surgeon in the territory.  I had not even been able to secure an appointment with this surgeon, let alone convince him to give my implant system a try.   I was feeling both excited and hesitant at the same time.  Why was Dan offering this opportunity to me?

I figured I had nothing to lose.  I thanked Dan and found myself the next day sitting across the desk from Dr. Hernandez in his office…for the first time!  I reviewed my product with the surgeon and he said, ”Dan Adams said that your system would probably be the best fit for this patient.  He was right.  Let’s schedule the surgery.”

I felt like I needed to take Dan Adams out for a steak dinner.  I wasn’t sure at that moment why he did it, but Dan just gave me a huge opportunity with one of my biggest sales targets.  Any time I got into the operating room with a new surgeon two things usually happened.  The first was that he would find I knew my product and how to use it effectively.  The second was that he would invariably be impressed with the simplicity of the product compared to whatever he was currently using.  Out of respect for Dan who handed me this break, I decided not to turn it into a sales call but instead decided to provide Dr. Hernandez with an ideal experience.

The surgery went perfectly and I could see that Dr. Hernandez was impressed.  He invited me to stick around and take a look at the post-operative x-rays with him.  When he looked at the films, he smiled and said, “Perfect.”  Before I could ask if he had another patient with whom he would like to use the system, he remarked, “This is why I have stuck with doing business with Dan Adams all these years.  If his system isn’t right for the patient, he knows which system is.  He always puts the patient first.

Considering the highly competitive nature of medical sales, it’s painful to hand business to someone who spends his or her life trying to take money out of your pocket.  But if it’s the best thing for the patient, Do It!  It is better for the customer and the patient to have a good outcome with a competitor’s product, than to have a bad outcome with yours.  Giving away a sale is not an easy thing to do, but when you do what’s right for the patient—every time—you rise to a level of professionalism in your customers’ minds that can make your business untouchable.

Dan gave up his commissions for one sale, but in the process he reassured the customer that he was doing business with the right sales representative.  Thanks for throwing me a bone, Dan, and more importantly, thanks for a valuable lesson.