What a Lousy Approach…”No Mary, I Don’t Want to Meet with You.”

A few days ago, after speaking at a public event, a woman who I did not know came up to me, pressed her business card into my hand, and said, “My name is Mary. I enjoyed listening to you speak today.  Could we get together for lunch or a cup of coffee and maybe get to know each other a little?”  My ego swelled momentarily as I prepared to let the woman down easily by telling her that I was married and very flattered, but before making a fool out of myself, I just replied, “Why?”  She responded, “For networking purposes.”  There was a time when I probably would have said sure, just to be polite, and then would have either kept the appointment or looked for a way to bow out gracefully just before.   However, I have become very conscious of my available time at this point in my life and my career, and I would rather be honest than polite.  I replied to the woman, “I don’t think so.”

She acted a bit shocked, as if I was being rude.  I explained my busy schedule and asked what she wanted to talk about (I shouldn’t have to ask!).  She replied, “Just networking so we could talk.”

The little voice in my head was asking the question that almost everyone’s little voice asks in this situation, which is, “What’s in it for me?”

I looked at the woman’s business card and realized that she sold insurance.  Apparently, this was her way of prospecting for new clients.  What did I decide in a nanosecond?  I said to myself, “I already have insurance and I already have an insurance agent.”  The answer to my “what’s in it for me question” based on the way she approached me was, “Nothing.”  Her approach felt as if it was all about her and not really about me, which is really unprofessional and sad.  Why sad?  What if she sells insurance that provides better coverage at a better price than what I have now?   I can’t benefit if I say no, which is what I said…all because of how she approached me.

Don’t approach customers in a way that leaves unanswered questions because your customers will make up the answer, just as I did and just as you do when salespeople approach you.  Mary used the word “networking” to imply that there might be something in it for me, but I assumed that she only wanted to sell me something.  How might I have responded if Mary approached me differently and said, “I enjoyed your speech.  I’m a member of several organizations that could benefit from hearing your message.  I’d like to talk to you about that and perhaps you might know some people who would like to have more money at retirement while doing a better job of protecting their families and businesses financially.  Can we meet for a cup of coffee?”

Do you think I would have responded a bit differently?  I probably would have said, “When would you like to meet?”  Why?  Because she told me what was in it for me and she also was up front as to what she wanted from me (referrals based on a value proposition of protecting families and businesses).  And it’s sad that neither one of us had the opportunity to explore the possibilities because her approach turned me off.

If you sell a medical device or service that can make a difference in the lives of patients and those who provide patient care, it’s pretty sad when those patients don’t get to benefit because you don’t approach your customers in a way that conveys the value.  If customers sense or imagine that all you want is to sell them something (“Hey Dr. Smith, can I show you my new Facemaker 2000?), they will most likely respond the way I did and tell themselves they already have something that does what your product does and that they would just be wasting their time.

Medical sales representatives have the opportunity to make an important  difference in people’s lives, but only if they know how to sell effectively.  If you’re not getting either an interested response or an appointment at least 72% of the time when you contact or approach a customer, you’re doing it wrong and you need to fix it.

Don’t make customers guess what they are going to get when they meet with you, because they won’t guess in your favor.  Instead,  tell them what’s in it for them (and their patients) in a way that makes them curious and wanting to know more.  You’ll start to hear yes more often than no. 

If you would like some help with this either for yourself or for your sales force, call Sales Pilot Medical Sales Performance at 561.333.8080.