Two Common Medical Sales Scenarios on complacency and account penetration. Which one are you in?

Scenario 1:  Sales rep who has called on the account for 8 years receives news from department and purchasing that a directive was received from the C-Suite to buy a competitive product.

Sales rep (let’s call him Bob) asks for directions to executive offices in hospital and goes there.  He enters the suite where he is greeted by an administrative assistant (AA).

AA: Hello, may I help you?

Bob:  Hi, I’m Bob with XYZ Medical.  I need to speak with Mr. Jones, the hospital CEO.

AA:  Do you have an appointment scheduled with Mr. Jones today?

Bob:  Uh, no…but it’s important.  I was just talking to Margaret in Sterile Processing and she said that Mr. Jones won’t allow them to buy my product anymore.  It’s important that I speak with him.

AA:  I can leave Mr. Jones a message to see if he will schedule an appointment with you, but I need to tell you…he normally doesn’t meet with sales reps and I cannot schedule an appointment unless your name is in his contact file.  Have you met with him before?

Bob:  I think I met him one time when he was in Margaret’s office.

AA:  Like I said, I can leave him a message, but it’s unlikely that he will meet with you.  He will probably refer you back to Margaret or to Purchasing.  He’s a very busy man.  This message is low priority, so I will probably get back to you within 7-10 days.  If you don’t hear from me by then, you can call me.

Bob:  7-10 days?  That’s too late.  Can I send him a letter?

AA:  You’re welcome to do that, but I have to tell you that letters from companies with which he’s not currently engaged are labeled low-priority.  I can’t tell you when he would even read it.

Bob:  Miss, you gotta help me out here.  I’m about to lose a big chunk of business at this hospital.  In 7-10 days it will be gone!  Is there anything you can do to help me?

AA:  I’ll give Mr. Jones your message.  I’m sorry I can’t do more.  Have a nice day!


Bob knows he’s screwed.  He’s desperate and he has nowhere to go.  Perhaps that barista job at Starbuck’s is still available….


Scenario 2:  Sales rep who has called on the account for 1 year receives news from department and purchasing that a directive was received from the C-Suite to buy a competitive product.

Sales rep (let’s call her Nancy) heads to the C-Suite immediately.  She enters the suite where she is greeted by an administrative assistant (AA).

AA:  Nancy!  So good to see you!  How have you been?

Nancy:  I’m fantastic Doris.  How are you?  How’s Bruno and Ted…are they still involved in Little League?

AA:  I’m fine.  The boys are as busy as ever with baseball and everything else.  So what brings you here today.  Do you need to speak with Mr. Jones?

Nancy:  If he has a moment…I just received some news in Purchasing that I think is incorrect and I’m concerned that Mr. Jones might be unaware of the consequences.  If he has a minute I would just like to ask him about it and if we need to discuss it further I can come back when it’s more convenient.

AA:  No problem.  Let me see if he’s still on the phone…he’s off!  Hold on a second, I’ll call him…Mr. Jones…Nancy from XYZ Medical is here.  She wants to know if she could speak with you for a minute?  Okay.  I’ll send her in.   Go ahead in Nancy.

Nancy walks into Mr. Jones office…

CEO:  (rising from behind his desk) Nancy, how are you?  How can I help you today?


Did you figure out why Nancy got to see the CEO whereas Bob did not?  And Bob was calling on the account eight times longer than Nancy!  Why did Nancy get in the door?

Nancy had established a relationship with the C-Suite before she needed it.  This is called “account penetration” and it’s something that very, very few medical sales reps do well.  Most sales reps call only on the immediate decision-makers for their products and contact the other stakeholders only when necessary or when a crisis arises.  Unfortunately, by then, it’s often too late!

If you don’t know all of the stakeholders and decision-makers for your product or service in every one of your accounts, you’re complacent.  If you believe you don’t need to know these personnel, you’re approaching arrogance.  As the great Brian Tracy says, “Arrogance never goes unpunished.”

As healthcare changes and the numbers of medical sales professionals in the workforce diminishes over the coming years, there will be ZERO TOLERANCE for complacency.  Simply put, if you’re even slightly complacent, there is someone who is ready, willing, and waiting to take your job who isn’t.  And if you’re a sales manager or distributor whose success is dependent on having the best salespeople possible, who would you want representing you?


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