The Rep-Less Medical Device Sales Model: Can It Work?

Strategy, Sales | February 12, 2018 | 4 mins read
If you’re in the medical device industry and you haven’t heard about company’s, or your company for that matter, trying to go “rep-less” you’re either living under a rock or don’t want to face the reality.
Buckling down to close a big sale or grow your existing business in the med device industry is hard work. It takes countless interactions with physicians, hospitals, ASC’s and other stakeholders before they are convinced of your product or service. These meetings often happen over weeks and months in the form of emails, texts, calls, and in-person demos, LOTS of in-person interaction. (Did I mention LOTS of in-person interaction?)
The Personality of a Sales Rep is Intangible
A lot of sales reps like to think it’s their captivating personality and rhetorical acumen that gets them a sale or converts a competitive customer in the end. At least this is the attitude of your conventional sales person – the one who bets they can sell anything under the sun because they are just so dang convincing. (And let’s face it folks, most sales managers want salespeople who believe they can walk on water, no matter the situation. These rainmakers believe so much in themselves that failure never enters their minds. These are the people sales managers love to hire…)
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It’s a theory that many people come to because of the nature of sales in the medical device industry. No software program had been devised that could generate more convincing results than the tried and true sales rep model, and so the intangible value of a medical device sales person has stuck throughout the years. And quite frankly, let’s face it, if it was easy everyone would do it!
Until now, that is. Today there are so many impressive medical referral management systems and CRM’s on the market that are “believed” to isolate leads and produce targeted marketing material on an individual level. Indeed, the emergence of truly effective CRM’s begs the question: can manufacturing companies save tons of money by cutting their sales reps and making it work with a medical referral management program or CRM?

The Financial Value for Companies

A rep-less medical device sales model would look something like this:
  • A manufacturing company hires an expensive digital marketing agency and begins putting together a lead-generation strategy for new and existing customers. The price would be lower because no salesman is taking a cut, the bargain being that they wouldn’t have to close as many sales without a sales rep as they did with a sales rep because of the cost savings. (Pretty straight forward, right?)
  • The cost savings could either be realized by the company as higher profits OR the company could pass-on some of those savings to its customers creating a more competitive pricing strategy at the customer level. Therefore, giving the customer what they want: cheaper prices. (And in the end completely devastating reimbursement from CMS, which kills the product or therapy in the long run… awesome.)
  • The physicians they target can read up about products and learn as much as they can about specs virtually. Companies would also offer more frequent labs/training seminars for physicians. They would have to request shipment of a free demo or ask any questions they have with a tele-sales rep and make a judgement based on these experiences. (If you work with surgeons you are probably rolling your eyes right now, thinking, “yeah right… I can totally see my docs doing just that. Sitting behind their computer listening to some bozo over the phone teach them how to operate.” But, virtual medicine is a reality these days and robots do surgery, so don’t think it’s impossible.)
  • The manufacturing company would hope that their digital content is accurate enough to answer most of the questions a physician might have, or customer/technical services can fill the gap. (Big gamble)
This might look okay in theory, but in practice it does away with the most important intangible in the medical device industry: trust between a manufacturer and a physician or hospital. If you ever wondered why building industry relationships was an important feature of the job, you just got your answer.
In most situations, the salespeople in this industry aren’t just Joe Schmo’s who sell a product and walk away. In more instances than recognized these reps are IN the operating room offering feedback and support about products to the physicians. In addition, these reps provide support, service and value that can not be achieved through a “virtual” assistant. This is something that can not be replaced.

However, there are products sold by many medical device reps that are considered commoditized. We’ve all heard it, “A screw is a screw, is a screw.” These are the models where rep-less sales territories are considered first, and in some scenarios considered efficient.

Another example is a very recent interaction I was privy to. A customer of ours was considering a rep-less model for one specific hospital in a major market, but the reality was that at some point they were going to HAVE to use a local salesperson to support the customer. Again, the model didn’t work.

Software Should Not Replace Sales Reps, It Should Help Them

It might take a little while for the company to realize it, but hopefully they will understand the true value of a sales rep AND the true value of a specialized Healthcare CRM. Marketing and sales need to integrate better, not replace one another. The fact is that software cannot replace the intangible human qualities of a sales rep because it is the emotional support and physical presence of an informed representative that is so valuable to a physician. They want to be able to meet in person and develop a bond of trust with sales reps.
At the same time, sales reps need a specialized Healthcare CRM designed specifically for them. Many company’s try the “Big Box” CRM’s and find they aren’t specifically built for their industry and leads to failure. Sales reps need to use a customized CRM that hunts and actually brings them to potential customers and offers insight into these doctors that is meaningful, insightful, and right on point. That’s why they need to use a Healthcare CRM like ProSellus, which allows you to filter by speciality, build solid physician networks, and track the status of your leads – all from your mobile device while you’re out on the road or desktop while you’re in the office!
Lastly, this topic can touch a nerve with many in this industry. We’d love your feedback or experience from attempts to make this model work.
To learn more about how you can avoid being a victim of the “Rep-Less Sales Model” check out ProSellus at blog.prosellus.com

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