A urologist called me a few weeks back.
“I’ve invested $300,000 of my own money in a urological device that [does something novel]. And I have a $700,000 bank loan out on it.”
He explained, “We have FDA clearance and I’m calling to see if you can help me get my marketing and sales going.”
No. No, I couldn’t.
Why I turned him away
Ever hear the expression, “Don’t throw good money after bad?”
In good conscience, I couldn’t accept a penny from this million-dollar-poorer surgeon. If he’d answered the three questions we discussed elsewhere on this site, he likely wouldn’t be in this position.
The benefit of his device was preventing fires in the operating room during a urological procedure. The surgeon told me, “When I was inventing the medical device, a whole bunch of urologists told me they would be interested in the product.”
And I asserted, “But they typically don’t make the purchasing decision.”
In fact, he wasn’t even able to sell his device to the hospital where he practices!
He created the product, presumably, because some surgical draping touched a hot laser and began to smolder (I’m not sure) and he decided he could solve this problem. Let’s look at this in the context of the first three questions.
What was his customer thinking?
First we should ask, who is his customer? The urologist, the purchasing agent at the hospital, the value analysis committee at the hospital, or someone else? Well, without convincing the value analysis committee, I don’t see him making any sales at all.
Do you believe the value analysis committee is thinking, “We’ve had a lot of fires in the operating room. This is chronic! We have to do something about this right away!”
No, I don’t either.
So in the knock-down, drag-out fight of hospital economics, what is going to get purchased: This device or something that reduces hospital readmission, improves patient outcomes, lowers overall expenses, or is even reimbursable?
Let’s try it from the urologist-is-the-customer perspective. Do you believe urologists are going to work today thinking, “Boy, I hope we don’t have another fire in the OR!”
No, me neither. Our poor inventor will never regain that million dollar investment because he didn’t critically answer the first question, “What is my customer thinking?”
In fact, without a solid answer to the first question, it’s pointless to ask for the source of volume (it would be a new category) or his positioning statement (who cares?).
My advice to medical device innovators
If you’re selling into Value Analysis Committees, talk to folks who successfully sold into VACs before. Talk to Gunter Wessels.
Will your product be reimbursable? Ask Beth Brooks.
Or email me.
Let’s make sure you maximize your chances for success before you waste a million dollars like my urology friend.