The Rep-Less Medical Device Sales Model??? How to avoid being the next victim…

Strategy, Sales | April 2, 2018 | 3 mins read

As a healthcare salesperson, the threat of losing customers is always there, simmering below the surface. You want to give customers everything they need to make the most of your product, but you also know that we have entered a world where manufacturers and hospitals will make the move that resembles less-reps if given the chance.

However, the threat of being dropped in favor of rep-less sales model should not be disheartening. It should encourage you to be a better salesperson by reflecting on your approach and finding ways to improve physician targeting and offer better value to each customer.

The Traditional Approach to Medical Device Sales

In medical device sales, there are absolute “bare minimums” salespeople have to achieve.

For example, you need to finish the year, quarter, etc., reasonably close to your sales targets. In striving for this goal, you wind up providing product demonstrations for customers, nurturing new targets via phone and email correspondence, and using some sort of software system to target physicians in your area.

But aside from hitting your sales targets, what kind of value do you offer customers?
The traditional medical device salesperson would say they provide value by:
  1. Being on time
  1. Being prepared
  1. Being informed about the finer details of a surgery
  1. Always having all products needed
  1. Being “Johnny on-the-spot” during the case

While these qualities may have cut it in the past, in 2018 they are considered the bare minimum requirements of the job. (I train and work with healthcare companies of all shapes and sizes. You’d be amazed when I ask what value they bring to their customers and the first thing that comes out of their mouth is “I’m on time. I’m prepared. I have all of my implants. Etc.…”) If you can’t offer more than the 5 simple things above, you may as well pack it up and find another job.

Those 5 things, that many salespeople believe is providing value, is the bare minimum. It’s simply the price of admission to a very expensive game.
If this is the value you or your salespeople bring, then you do have something to worry about when you hear rumblings of a rep-less sales model.

How Can You Differentiate Yourself?

The reality of today (and the future) is that hospitals and manufacturers are looking at cost-effective alternatives to the direct sales rep model. If you want to avoid becoming a victim of the rep-less sales model, you may want to try the following:

  • Identify the most critical services each customer wants. It’s not good enough to be the salesperson who the office likes or is just “good” in surgery.
  • After working with the same customer for a some length of time, you should know what it is they value. Is it an ability to call you with any questions they might have? Great, then keep yourself available.
  • Or is it the fact that you offer them affordable product solutions to issues they did not even know they could solve? Even better. That means you are listening intently to their problems and staying on top of product development in the industry.
  • Bottom Line: the M.O. should be to find nuances in the customer relationship that competitors don’t notice, and exploit that.
  • Look for a unique service you can provide that customers cannot live without. How can you show your value beyond the traditional model? It all depends on the needs of the customer and the insight you have in the industry. It also means looking outside the traditional purview of a salesperson and offering solutions to other operational issues.

How To Offer REAL Value to a Customer: Patient Outreach

A rep is only as successful as the customers they keep.
If a physician is not adding new patients, their business death is an impending reality. Not to mention if they’re not adding new patients they have no patients to prescribe a pharmaceutical for, provide diagnostic tests to, or implant medical devices in…

Patients are the lifeblood of any physician practice. (And I don’t care if their practice has been purchased by the hospital. They NEED patients to survive. That will never change.)

They are the commodity that keeps the physician practice alive. If they are suddenly hard to come by, then everyone on the supply side is going to lose out.

An engaged salesperson should realize patient outreach for the physician, hospital, clinic, etc., is in the best interest of everyone involved. If the salesperson can influence where patients go, it means they enjoy significant influence in their region and can offer their customers unique value that no other salesperson can. (And quite frankly, this is what keeps the lights on.)

A physician will quickly realize the immense value of a salesperson who can bring in new patients and offer cutting-edge products for testing and surgical procedures.


Finding pockets of real human value in the sales process is incredibly important in this day and age – otherwise, you risk being replaced by some kind of rep-less or less-rep model that puts a premium on dollars, not you or your relationships.

If you’d like to talk more about not becoming a victim of the Rep-Less Sales Model or how to truly deliver value to your healthcare customer, check out what we do at .


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