WHAT CUSTOMERS WANT
When choices were low and tolerance was high, and when information available was low and time to assimilate the information was higher, then the traditional medical sales approach made sense: find out what the customer needed relative to our product’s features and benefits, and then satisfy those needs, demonstrating why we had a better product solution than the competition.
In other words, we pitched the relative features and benefits of product A versus the relative features and benefits of product B.
However, in our changed selling environment, where choices are high and tolerance is low, and when customers are overwhelmed by information with little time to process it, what’s the plan?
Unfortunately, the notion of asking the customer ‘what’s important to you?’ and then following up with a series of funnelled questions to identify a need before pitching the product’s features and benefits versus the competition no longer works.
Here’s what a consultant surgeon said recently:
‘There’s very little now to differentiate the functional performance of most of the top products. What makes a difference is the service we get from the salespeople – and when I say service, I don’t just mean making sure we get the right product at the right time, I mean helping us to think differently about how we approach the treatment of our patients.’
This view isn’t an exception but the expectation. And it changes everything.
The days of the subservient medical salesperson (the one described above) or the salesperson who focuses on simply asking the customer for the order is dead. Customers no longer want, expect, or require a salesperson who interviews them as a means to ‘identifying a need’. They don’t have the tolerance for it, they don’t have the time and quite frankly – if that’s all they’re going to get from their salesperson – they can go online and find for themselves the product that most meets what they believe to be their needs quicker and more effectively. Dinosaurs need to die.
Is this to say that the customer-salesperson relationship is also dead? And is this to say that there is no longer the need for the salesperson? Should we all just call it quits, let the customer order the product online, and then send it in the post?
The answer to all of these questions is an unequivocal ‘no’.
The slightly extended answer is, ‘no, but…’
Although the relationship is still alive and well (and actually there’s a greater need for it than ever before), the manner of the interaction has changed forever.
STANDING OUT FROM THE CROWD FOR MEDICAL SALES
We’ve discussed the idea of Engage Statements as a way to frame up and differentiate a message that allows you to stand out in a crowd and define what it is that you specifically do, how you are different from the competition, and why someone should work with you.
I want to move on, now, to talk about Critical Issues and with very much the same aim. Critical Issues, like Engage Statements, are a way to engage with a customer around something that we know will make a difference to them. This approach changes the playing field entirely, and it also alters the perception of the salesperson in the customer’s mind’s eye.
As a result of the way in which these Critical Issues are structured and phrased, the customer sees the salesperson, not as someone who is merely there to elicit information through an interrogation, investigation, or interview, but as somebody who is the credible expert within their field, who has a good breadth of understanding about the issues which affect them and, therefore, is able to provoke thought and relevant discussion around an area which is of interest to the customer.
Immediately, that changes the customer’s perception of the salesperson – they’re not just there in order to have a conversation with only the salesperson’s interests in mind. It changes the conversation to frame it from the customer’s perspective in a way that allows the salesperson to identify issues which are important and relevant, and then to have a credible discussion around those issues.
The other essential element is that it allows the salesperson to guide that conversation by positioning and identifying (up front) areas of potential interest; then it allows the conversation to flow as a result of those areas of interest.