I recently did a ride-along with Michael, a medical device sales rep calling on hospitals. He works for a large medical device company and sells Class III devices in a very established category where he has nearly complete penetration. We visited his two biggest accounts.
I asked him, “If Marketing reported to you, how would you have them help you?” This is what he said.
I’ve attempted to list his requests in priority order.
1. A Better Process
Michael is a very effective medical device sales person on the hospital floor. Yet he spends half his time doing work better suited to a sales administrator. In particular he deals with backorders and customer fulfillment issues that force him to check multiple systems, call customer service (and wait on hold), and deal with shipping, etc. He hopes Marketing can streamline the process with a new system that does the job of three current systems.
This feedback will not surprise headquarters and Marketing is contributing to a solution. But I list “Process” here first because increasing his time in the field would allow Michael to listen and collaborate more with customers.
Takeaway: Do a cost-benefit of sales administrator headcount versus lost time with customers.
2. Clinical Studies
His primary call points, physicians and nurses, don’t want “marketing spin.” They need to clearly understand the benefits of his products versus competitive products. And meaty claims come from completed studies approved through Legal and Compliance.
Despite calling on them often, Michael wove his key clinical difference into each conversation he had today. In one case, he took a CDC packet out of his bag to show how CDC recommended his product (not by name but by characteristics unique to his product).
Takeaway: Reps would rather have solid clinical facts versus a trunk full of glossy literature.
3. Key Opinion Leaders
While Sales plays a role here too, Michael needs Marketing to help identify and nurture relationships with key opinion leaders. Next to claims, being able to say [this noted doctor from this famous institution] uses our product and “you don’t have to take my word for it, you can call her and she’ll tell you her experience with our products” is most valuable.
Every new product needs to be evaluated with patients at the hospital level before the hospital will consider stocking it. Knowing a trusted doctor has gone before you, gave it a try, and had positive outcomes is a powerful motivator for a product evaluation.
Takeaway: The power of social proof is alive and well in the hospital setting. Securing endorsements from key opinion leaders help get your product trialed.
4. National Trade Show Support
Michael can handle the local shows by himself with a table, samples, and collateral. He needs Marketing to keep budgeting for the big shows where decision makers are exploring new technologies and solutions. Then he needs Marketing to get the word out to ensure the right kind of foot traffic and lead capture.
Takeaway: We are four points into Michael’s wish list. We still haven’t touched the Internet or collateral, what most marketing departments think of first when they talk about sales support.
Objective discussions written by third parties and featured in notable publications carry a lot of weight because they seem objective. Michael spoke objectively too, but to the cynic he’s still a “sales guy trying to sell me something.”
It’s a plus when the customer discovers the article on his own and reads it out of genuine interest. Then when Michael talks about the article in JAMA he has another talking point to reinforce his message.
We also talked about “air cover” and building awareness with print ads and magazine cover wraps. He noted one of his competitors does it all the time and wished we would too.
Takeaway: Publications matter and if you can’t get some third-party coverage, think about advertising where your customers are.
6. Effective Sales Materials
Whew. We’re six requests into the burn and here we are with effective sales materials. Michael was very specific about what he (and other seasoned reps at his company) want. He wants two-sided one-page brochures with big pictures, charts, and bullet points. He does not want long brochures that “no one’s going to read.” Plus, the bigger the picture or chart, the better he can use the piece to illustrate his point.
He wants an effective product catalog and he’d rather send a PDF of a SKU (or cut and paste something into an email) versus sending a link to a website page.
He wants videos that teach clinicians how to use his products. And he wants a postcard or some leave behind that explains how to access the content.
Takeaway: Michael is an “n” of one so I wouldn’t draw global conclusions here. But definitely get Sales input before you make your next piece of collateral.
7. Clinical Education
Give Michael clinical support – on the road with him, for Lunch & Learns, for in-depth demonstrations. Complement it with online tools – webinars, online training, and videos – and make them easy to access.
Takeaway: We spend a lot of time getting sales. Let’s make sure we make it easy to learn how to use the products. That will increase usage and satisfaction and reduce user error.
8. Discoverable, Relevant Content
Michael wants customers who search for information to find something relevant from his company. So that means content and search engine optimization work, intuitive navigation and inviting web design. It means an easy-to-use web catalog.
Takeaway: Michael owns his accounts. He wants to give them everything they need. While he wants discoverable content on a good website, these items are toward the bottom of the list. He doesn’t believe his customers are accessing our site (which was corroborated in focus group work).
9. Thanks But No Thanks
I asked Michael if he wanted any outbound phone calls made from Marketing. Not necessary, he said. He already has the relationship with his customers so there’s no need to call with “news” or “offers.” He can bring newsworthy concepts to customers. It gives him a fresh talking point. And he already has penetrated his geography so it’s highly unlikely Marketing is going to create a fresh lead at a new hospital.
I also asked if he’d want us to send marketing messages to his customers over email. He said, “Sure, if they gave your their email address for it.”
The best support for established medical device sales teams relies on the strength of your claims. With solid claims, Marketing and Sales can deliver the message in person or by proxy (key opinion leaders, in publications, at trade shows, in collateral, etc.).
Then, let Sales sell with limited distraction. Everything else is tertiary.
Would you agree?
Will hospitals break contracts to adopt your technology? You’ll value this 10x interview with Providence Regional Chief of Medicine Mahesh Mulumudi. He influences buying decisions for Medical Center.
Two additional video snippets and the entire transcript await you here.
New offering – and you’re invited! Starting this Friday, June 14, 2019 at 9 a.m. Pacific, I’ll host the first weekly medical device marketing group chat on GoToMeeting.
The June 14 meeting will be free for you to sample. Want to try it out? Click the button to get the meeting link.
For your entertainment. Facebook friends always seem to like “Real Hages of Washington” strips that feature Beth besting me in some way. grr!
Thank you for joining me on The Journey.
P.S. I hope you’ll stop by for Friday’s chat. If the time’s inconvenient for you, don’t worry. I’ll be recording for your later viewing.