The Truth About Customer Expectations in Medical Sales

medical sales training healthcareEven average medical sales reps speak a lot about meeting customer expectations.  They also speak a lot about pre-call planning, asking for the business, and the importance of effective follow-up.  The problem, is that just talking about these things, has little impact on your business.

We are all consumers.  We all have expectations for the products and services we buy, and often, expectations for the people who sell them to us.  When we’re disappointed, we go elsewhere, unless no other choices exist.

Healthcare providers need to stay focused on doing their jobs, which ultimately, means caring for the patient.  I wrote in a previous article, that the only time you want to be top of mind with a customer is when they’re making a buying decision.  In healthcare, when a customer is thinking about a company or sales rep and they’re not buying, it’s because their expectations aren’t being met.

I find that most medical sales reps make an effort to meet customer expectations.  The challenge is that they often don’t know what the expectations are.

So they assume.  They assume to know what the customer expects. Then, they deliver on that assumption, that is, if they even think about it at all.

Too many salespeople don’t worry themselves with customer expectations.  Why?  If customers aren’t complaining, then everything must be fine, right?  Again, this is making an assumption, and a risky one at that.

Have you ever asked a customer what his or her expectations are relative to a product or service?  How about their expectations relative to you, their sales representative?

How can you possibly meet anyone’s expectations if you don’t know what they are?

One of my mantras during my medical sales training programs is to always differentiate yourself from your competition.  Asking customers what they expect from you is a great way to do this, provided of course, you actually meet their expectations.

If you sell laboratory services, for example, why not ask during a sales call, “Mrs. Gomez, what are your main expectations for a service provider such as us?  What can I do to make sure that my company and I are meeting your expectations?”

If you ask questions about expectations, you will discover something: Some customers’ expectations will be different than you anticipated, which means there’s a chance you’re not satisfying them.  So, find out what each one of your customers expects, then…

…Overdeliver!  Exceed the customer’s expectations!  You’ll delight your customers, and that’s a good thing.  How do you feel when a business or individual exceeds your expectations?

In 2004, when Hurricane Francis decided to visit South Florida, my wife and I moved our airplane and ourselves out of harm’s way.  We flew to New Orleans.  I figured, if we need to wait out a storm, let’s at least do it someplace where the food is good.

We spent an unplanned vacation at the Doubletree Hotel in the French Quarter.  Three days of eating, drinking and touring in New Orleans is fun.  The problem was, we ended up staying eight days.  There was no electricity at home.  Supermarkets were out of food.  Neighbors told us the mosquitoes were bad and the constant hum of portable generators made it difficult to sleep.  Let’s see, mosquitoes, or some of the best food in the world?  We stayed!

I learned that three days of over-eating and over-drinking in New Orleans put me at my limit of gluttony.  Plus, the $250 per night we were spending on the hotel was adding up.  Reluctantly, I headed to the front desk to see if we could extend our stay.  Donna, the front desk clerk, said that she could stay another night, but the hotel was booked for a convention that week.  Donna recommended that in the future, we plan our whole stay in advance.

I explained that this wasn’t a planned vacation.  We were evacuees from Hurricane Francis, which had left significant damage.  Donna was very sympathetic and said she would talk to her manager about extending our stay.  I was not looking forward to shopping for a place to stay during a major convention.

We returned to our hotel room.  About an hour later, the phone rang.  It was Donna.  She said, “The manager said that you can keep your room for as many nights as you need. And we would like to give you complimentary access to the concierge floor so you can enjoy the amenities including free continental breakfast and happy hours with hors d’oeuvres.”  I enthusiastically thanked her.  For the next five days, those free happy hours were a nice distraction from watching The Weather Channel.

That small gesture exceeded my expectations.  Doubletree hotels scored points with us that day.  But wait, there’s more….

When the power company back home announced that electricity would be restored in the next day or two, we decided to head back to Florida.  As I was checking out of the hotel, I thanked Donna for making our stay pleasant, especially since we were there longer than planned.  She said, “We’re glad you stayed at The Doubletree, even though it wasn’t a planned trip.  The manager appreciates that you chose to stay with us and he wants to help you out.  So, we’re going to give you a 50% discount on your final bill.  Is that okay?”

Talk about exceeding my expectations!  When I go to a hotel, I expect a clean and comfortable room.  I expect polite and helpful employees.  I don’t expect a 50% discount on a room that could have been rented at full price to someone else.

Do you think I try to stay at Doubletree hotels whenever I can?

When you meet a customer’s expectations, it’s good, but it doesn’t differentiate you from your competition. But… when you exceed those expectations, you rise to a much higher level in the customer’s mind.

Don’t assume you know a customer’s expectations, unless you have asked.  Once you know, you can either just do the minimum to meet them and be ordinary, or you can exceed them and be extraordinary.  As a medical sales professional, you get to choose.