You would think that because medical products and devices are sold with the best intentions and provide essential assistance to countless individuals, this would be an easy and straightforward industry to trade in. But in many respects, this couldn’t be further from the truth, as market challenges and ever-changing legislation throw up various obstacles that need to be overcome.
The United States is a particularly interesting example to look at. According to The US Medical Device Industry in 2012: Challenges at Home and Abroad study, the industry is worth a whopping $350 billion. The US dominates this market, with 32 of the $1 billion+ medical device firms located here, serving around 40 per cent of the world.
But at the same time, “unprecedented challenges” such as new regulations also exist, which could threaten the United States’ position as a global leader. While this could enable other countries and companies to gain ground, things like excise tax on medical device sales has already resulted in more than 33,000 jobs being cut, which could have a damaging knock-on effect for the industry as a whole.
This may only affect certain companies in the United States, but it is fair to say that similar hurdles and hindrances are becoming apparent in a number of other countries around the world. These carry a great deal of weight to due the increasingly global marketplaces we now operate in.
So in the face of ongoing obstacles and limiting legislation, what is the right strategy to adopt for medical sales? Well, a lot can be said for investing in Customer Relationship Management (CRM), retraining sales teams, implementing mobile platforms and applications, generating value propositions, and better data management.
Sales strategy suggestions
When you take into account the fact 35 per cent of profits are directly attributed to sales strategy, having some sort of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system in place makes complete sense. This can provide you with in-depth insights and information about your existing customers as well as potential patrons. However, it also enables managers to track industry trends while empowering sales staff with details about the customer’s wants and needs.
A CRM system can work together with both sales and marketing efforts to enable greater collaboration between departments. So, your sales team can benefit from more genuine prospects, which have been identified and qualified by marketing staff with access to lead generation tools and analytics software.
Seeing as hospitals and other medical institutions are having to adapt to regulatory and economic changes, the need to reduce overheads and introduce cost cutting initiatives is paramount. This means they now have a different outlook on the buying process, which calls for sales teams to adjust their own approaches too.
In the past, sales staff might have concentrated on new and novel innovations, but medical buyers are now more interested in the technological, clinical and economic value of products. Thankfully, this can be addressed through training, which will improve the ability of employees while serving the customer with greater attention to detail.
As stated by a recent ZS Benchmarking Study, the highest priority for medical product marketers back in 2012 was the development of mobile platforms and applications. And thanks to the meteoric rise of smartphones and tablets since then, this looks like it will take even greater precedence now.
Mobile platforms and applications can bring about a plethora of benefits to medical sales teams, such as the ability to collaborate via the cloud, conduct video conferences, improve the quality of product demonstrations, and communicate effectively with customers regardless of location. What’s more, these can work in conjunction with CRM systems too.
A Booz study that looked at the changing times in healthcare found that in addition to hospitals and healthcare systems changing their structure to remain viable going forward, customer expectations would also force medical institutions to generate value propositions for care, access and costs.
From a care perspective, research and development leaders are looking to attract customers interested in the best treatment and technology, whereas specialists are more concerned with those wanting a single-minded focus. For access, some hospitals and medical institutions will favour convenience with a full range of clinical services, while integrators must create value via bringing together fragmented aspects of healthcare. Finally, cost can be broken down into the very best in comfort and privacy, the lowest price point possible and overall value for money.
Ask any medical marketing professional what their most important resource or tool is and they will probably say data. However, the way in which this information is managed, maintained and monitored can make a huge amount of difference when implementing new sales strategies. In all honesty, the hospital or healthcare systems’ choice of data management and analytical tools will be a unique consideration based on individual circumstances.
It must provide decision makers with easy-to-understand yet actionable data, which can better inform marketing and sales activities. Data management must also improve customer service and satisfaction without using up too many financial resources.
When confronted with such a challenging landscape in terms of regulatory and economic challenges, the medical industry cannot afford to lose focus on the customer, which is often difficult in the pursuit of favourable returns. So for many, this will mean adopting a new strategy.
However, this doesn’t mean to say you should limit yourself to just one organisational change, as the vast majority of hospitals, healthcare systems and medical institutions will benefit from a range of different approaches.
A lot will be dependent on what the customer requires in terms of care, access and cost. But other factors such as innovation and technology will also come into play. Nevertheless, the medical industry must rise above current challenges and take a proactive outlook towards change, rather than staying the same and remaining stagnant.