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Sales Reps: Getting More From Them In Your Medical Practice

Getting More From Your Sales Reps

My career in ophthalmology began as a sales rep. I loved it. Some sales reps view their job as transactional, where they get paid a commission when a doctor buys their product or service. 

I viewed my role as being a “change agent,” helping eyecare practices move into the modern era of computerized instruments to improve their diagnostic capabilities and clinic efficiency. 

Today’s medical device industry is far more complex than when I started out. Regulatory statutes and sales compliance have made it harder for reps as well as their physician customers to interact. Instant information online has threatened to obsolete the educational role of the salesperson; it is easier than ever for doctors to learn about new products — the good and the bad — in a matter of minutes from their phone or computer. 

The question every sales rep should ask themselves before they walk in the door: How can I add value to this practice before I ever start talking about my product?

The truth is we still need sales representatives. We just need them differently, especially when we are pressed for time. My days helping oversee operations in the clinic entail the planned meetings as well as the inevitable issues that arise. If I’m going to devote time to a sales rep, they need to demonstrate more than their product.

The best reps recognize this reality and have adjusted their approach. It’s no longer about donuts or sandwiches for the staff (although these are appreciated by front-line team members). 

What doctors and practice managers need are insights to help them improve what happens inside the practice. I personally love it when a sales rep reaches out to tell me how they use content from my book to enhance their interactions with a practice. Common-sense business principles can be applied to improve a medical practice.

These are the reps that will win now and in the future, as they demonstrate a caring that transcends the product and focuses on the success of the practice. Because sales reps see a wide variety of practices and don’t live inside one the way you do, they are in a unique position to help you improve with a more objective perspective…especially in the realm of patient experience.  

By asking questions and then offering feedback on what they observe, they move beyond “sales representative” toward “trusted advisor.” It’s the industry parallel to my goal for doctors to view themselves as being in the transformation business, placing their practices at a higher level than that of a medical service provider.

The very first insight in my book poses the question, “What business are you in?”; it applies to sales representatives as much as it does doctors and administrators. 

I’ve been working with several companies to help their reps re-frame their specific role in light of this question. I encourage you to challenge your reps the same way. Expect more and you will likely get more value from those interactions — with the very best becoming known and trusted friends and advisors to your practice. 

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