Medical Sales Reps…Your customers are hurting! What are you doing about it?

An article headline in CNN Money should grab the attention of any medical sales professional: “Doctors Going Broke.”  Factors such as declining insurance reimbursements plus rising business and drug costs are creating a serious cash crunch for physicians in private practice.  These include family practitioners, oncologist, and cardiologists.  Many doctors can’t make payroll without tapping into their personal funds, while others are closing their practices.

If you sell to independent physician practices, what does this mean for you?  First, it means you need to be aware of potential cash-flow problems with your customers.  Most physicians will not be wearing such problems on their sleeve, as financial problems are often embarrassing, especially when you consider the personalities of doctors.  Don’t be fooled by appearances.  If your physician-customers aren’t singing the blues out loud, it doesn’t mean that all is well in their world.  How can you help them?

I’ve always espoused that focusing on your products is a bad way to sell.  Better to focus on how your products along with the services that you and your company provide can help to improve the healthcare provider’s world and the patient’s condition.  Don’t lose sight of the important issues that your customers are NOT telling you about. Physician practices, just like any business, need cash flow to survive.  Do the conversations you’re having with customers suggest that you and your product can accommodate this need, or are you asking them to spend money that they don’t have?

And speaking of conversations, remember that a sensitive personal issue like money must be approached carefully with egoic customers.  Don’t ever imply that a customer’s business is suffering or ask if his or her practice is in the toilet like some colleagues’ practices.  Instead, tell the story as I discussed in my last blog post.  Describe how your company and your product have helped similar practices to make or save money.  Your ability to do this is more critical than ever and if you can’t tell this story, one of your competitors can and that competitor is going to eat your lunch.

Stanford economist Paul Romer coined the term, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”  Stop worrying about how all the changes are going to hurt your ability to close sales.  Instead, think about the opportunities these changes are creating.  The changes occurring in healthcare are neither temporary nor a onetime event.  Those who win in healthcare sales from this point forward are those who can solve the customer’s problems, whether stated or unstated, and can turn on a dime to make it happen before their competitors can.