The COVID-19 pandemic and the required shift to remote interactions have significantly reshaped medical device sales processes. MedTech companies have accelerated their digital transformations. To support remote interactions with healthcare professionals (HCPs) and nonclinical stakeholders, they have added more roles or expanded their capabilities and channels as follows:
- Capabilities: These include launching or growing their inside sales model. Inside sales structures allow reps to sell right from their office or home desk using remote tools such as emails, text messages, LinkedIn, and video conferencing platforms rather than spending hours meeting with prospects in person (outside sales).
- Channels: These include self-service portals, e-commerce, webinars, and social media.
Further, the availability of quality information through digital channels has made it much easier for business-to-business (B2B) buyers to gather information independently, meaning sellers have less access and fewer opportunities to influence customer decisions. According to research by Gartner, buyers value suppliers that make it easier for them to navigate the purchase process. Gartner research shows that B2B buyers spend only 17% of their total purchase journey with sales reps in person.1 Since the average deal involves multiple suppliers, a sales rep gets only about 5% of a customer’s purchase time.1 These insights signal drastic changes required in the seller role. Sales leaders should deliver substantial value to customers through digital and omnichannel sales models supported by sales professionals who can drive self-learning customers toward more confident decisions.
MedTech companies now have an opportunity to capitalize on how buyers and sellers function - by digitizing sales channels, building hybrid sales teams, and creating a true omnichannel experience for customers.
Digitizing sales channels
Rather than relying on only outside sales, content and virtual communication tools are taking a more central place in the MedTech industry. This shift enables stakeholders to make better and faster decisions for the benefit of patients and health systems.
Digital marketing efforts also help sales teams save time in the prospecting process. However, it is vital to vary communications to suit audiences by customer type and place of practice, whether they are in clinical, commissioner, or procurement roles. Interactions, content, and channels for nonclinical stakeholders will differ from those required for surgeon engagement.
Administrators look for leaner and simpler interaction, relying more heavily on digital tools, whereas MedTech sales reps often are an essential presence during surgeries. Hence, surgeons and sales reps are connecting virtually as medical device companies adopt technology solutions through collaboration or acquisition. For instance, in July 2020, Philips acquired Montreal-based company Reacts, which had supplied technology for Philips’ Lumify point-of-care ultrasound device. The Reacts technology allows for the remote sharing of the ultrasound stream during procedures, connecting physicians and reps over long distances.2 In the future, clinical support during procedures will shift even further toward a virtual or hybrid model so surgeons can independently access self-service digital channels and computer-assisted surgical systems while performing procedures.
MedTech companies are building a technology ecosystem to enable and support virtual sales. In addition to basic conferencing tools, companies are evaluating and enhancing other technologies such as content management systems, interactive presentation software, e-commerce platforms, virtual reality tools for customer training, and visual assistance tools for remote support. They are also using tools that simplify sales management and monitor operations. These include customer relationship management (CRM), email automation and tracking, sales data, reporting, and productivity tools.
Further, MedTech companies are developing virtual sales training and coaching plans to improve their sales reps’ general digital fluency and master their companies’ virtual technologies. They are revisiting and adapting their sales materials to make a more significant impact on customers.
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Creating hybrid sales teams and an omnichannel customer experience
The changing dynamics of the MedTech industry require organizations to shift from traditional in-person and inside sales to hybrid sales that move with the customer. For example, selling capital equipment such as MRIs or linear accelerators involves speaking to several stakeholders. Companies begin with inside sales for the initial qualification process, which includes setting an appointment, profiling the account, and identifying if there is an opportunity. Then, sales reps use outside sales to take the opportunity forward.
Hence, the next-generation sales model for MedTech companies will be to engage with customers using a combination of in-person and remote interactions, harmonized and integrated seamlessly with digital and online channels. This hybrid sales model will be informed by deep insights into customer needs, preferences, and actions.
Over the years, many MedTech companies have adopted inside sales and digital marketing to enable multichannel engagement and reduce selling costs. In MedTech, inside sales have proven effective for several initiatives, including new product launches, revitalizing underperforming territories and products, generating ROI from trade shows and whitepapers, and building market knowledge. Although the length of a sales cycle can vary depending on the buyer and offering, inside sales can make most cycles more efficient by employing a well-developed, methodical sales process that is predictable and repeatable by:
- using natural language processing (NLP) to create meaningful conversations with customers during the sales process
- communicating in the customer’s preferred style
- leveraging data analytics
- employing behavior profiling, and
- prioritizing prospects through an automated lead-scoring system
In the hybrid model, in-person engagement doesn’t go away entirely and is reserved for specific accounts and moments that matter. These include very large customers with complex needs and sales processes that feature groundbreaking or disruptive technology or significant opportunities where buyers have signaled their preference for face-to-face engagement or where a personalized touch and facetime are vital to fostering trust.
Hybrid selling is a flexible, scalable, and frequently more profitable way to reach customers. It orchestrates the customer journey across various touchpoints and is a critical capability in the omnichannel ecosystem. Due to its omnichannel nature, hybrid selling enables broader and deeper real-time customer engagement. A sound orchestration system allows MedTech companies to monitor customer engagement with different channels and content to develop effective next-best-actions.
MedTech companies must evaluate their sales processes and models to determine how to segment and engage customers. Sales strategies are not one-size-fits-all. What works for an organization and its team depends on several factors, such as which MedTech offering they sell, its cost, and how their customers value their propositions.
By actively listening to their customers and personalizing sales efforts based on their preferences and unique situations, MedTech reps can build trust, making a sale more attainable. As MedTech reps become more comfortable adopting channels beyond face-to-face interaction, they will embrace this hybrid approach that enhances the customer experience and grows a company's business by using carefully planned next-best-actions to reach the right customer through the right channel at the right time.
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- Ramaswami R. Future of sales 2025: deliver the digital options B2B buyers demand. 2021 Mar 10 [cited 2022 Sep 21]. In: Smarter with Gartner [Internet]. Stamford: Gartner. [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/future-of-sales-2025-deliver-the-digital-options-b2b-buyers-demand
- Salemi T. Tech bridges gap between sales reps and surgeons [Internet]. Cleveland (OH): Medical Design & Outsourcing; 2020 Nov 10 [cited 2022 Sep 21]. Available from: https://www.medicaldesignandoutsourcing.com/tech-bridges-gap-between-sales-reps-and-surgeons/