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  • Writer's pictureS Clarke

Be there. Network. Educate. Ask for the business.

Updated: Aug 26, 2020

Be there. Network. Educate. Ask for the business.

This is the mantra I have always tried to instil in the sales teams I have led within medical devices.

I’ve been lucky; for the most part people have bought into it for what it is, a very simple concept. They trusted my judgement and ideas enough to put it into practice and lean into it. Then they saw it really start to work for them. From then on it was self-perpetuating.

The first part is the most important - be there. If you're not physically working in your accounts/customer's premises, then you'll never be able to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. Being there will let your customers see your work ethic, your tenacity and your loyalty in working with and supporting them. Turning up now and again or only when you want something, is a very quick way to breed resentment and non-cooperation from your customers. True partnerships are for better or worse, whatever the weather.... From a market intelligence standpoint, it's also amazing what you can learn from your customers by simply being there; their daily challenges, their methodologies, your competitors, organisational politics, likes, dislikes. The list goes on.

This isn’t a hall pass to be there if you don’t have good reason to be, because that’s where this becomes dangerously double-edged, moreover this is aimed at helping the individual understand what can be gained and so to stop finding reasons, NOT to be there….

The second part falls in line perfectly once you're physically working closely with your customers. You can't help but network when you're with your customers and prospects so often. Networking will help you further develop your understanding of their business; the stakeholders and decision makers, the players on their team and the role that you can play. This insight will lead to opportunities; understanding the business and its needs will allow you to tailor your solution to their needs.

Being able to educate a potential customer or user on the performance characteristics and nuances of your product is of fundamental importance. Putting in the hours to learn and understand the ins and outs of the products you are selling, their indications, contraindications and the anatomy and physiology of what they’re involved in treating, is what separates those of us who are serious from those that are not. I was also keen to stress to my colleagues that they have a wonderful opportunity to edify themselves within their daily environment; the clinical professionals they’re privileged enough to work with being a hugely valuable resource to learn from. Being technically proficient is an absolute necessity.

As your relationships have been expanded and trust developed with the stakeholders and decision makers through your demonstrable commitment and knowledge, customers are more amenable when you ask for the business. They are certainly not surprised when you do.

There is no avoiding the transactional mechanics of making the sale happen, once you reach this stage; you are tied to your product and associated financial constraints and you need to negotiate an acceptable solution and way forward for all parties. But you simply won’t reach this stage unless you put in the work beforehand.

The buying and selling process can be multi-faceted and complex, but without being dismissive or risking over-simplification, these bare bones have been a framework of steps towards success for the teams I've been lucky enough to work with; empowering sales managers and freeing them from the shackles of more onerous and regimented approaches.

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