Amend Your Sales Process: The Decision-makers in the Medical Sales World are Changing

The medical sales landscape is changing, and medical sales professionals need to change along with it.

A recent article in Orthopedics Today pointed out that the surgeon product-champion is waning in the new era of healthcare reform. The experts quoted in the article stated that this is not a temporary situation, but the new normal with respect to hospital buying decisions. Unfortunately, many medical sales organizations haven’t even begun to prepare for the change.

Medical device sales representatives have long enjoyed the benefits of developed relationships with doctors and other product end-users. Since the doctor almost always decided what products and services would be used to treat his or her patients, sales reps who sold doctor-ordered products had little need to call on any other personnel in the hospital, other than to arrange for what the doctor needed. All that is changing, and the skills and sales process needs to change as well.

What is interesting is even with the writing on the wall, many sales representatives and their companies are not proactively gearing up for this change, even as it’s occurring. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised, since many medical device companies focus their training on product knowledge and little on actual selling skills. But many sales forces are finding themselves unprepared to sell to a new level of decision-maker who buys differently.

Besides calling on the traditional end-users, sales people must now engage hospital business executives and personnel who sit on various committees that will decide along with physicians which products will be used in patient care. Many, if not most of these decision-makers have been outside of the call pattern for most medical sales reps. Suddenly, sales people are faced with a need to develop business relationships with people who don’t think the same or buy the same as their other customers. These sales reps often feel like a “fish out of water,” but even worse, they run the risk of losing business and not being able to capture new business without learning how to sell to their “new” customers.

Procrastination is human nature, but in the world of selling medical products, it’s also very expensive. Time and money invested now in learning the necessary skills and defining an appropriate and effective sales process will save not only money, but it will also save businesses, jobs, and the frustration of not being prepared for tomorrow’s opportunities.