How important are face-to-face sales interactions in healthcare? Extremely important. In fact, there are probably very few highly successful healthcare sales reps that ever do business other than face-to-face. Why? Healthcare sales are all about relationships and typically relationships are developed, nurtured, and protected at a greater rate when they are done in person.
Top healthcare sales reps understand the difference between selling and relationship selling. Relationship building adds value to the sales process. Simply having a conversation with a new physician or purchasing department can reveal areas that need solutions and improvement. (Providers tend to seek solutions for patient care while healthcare organizations often seek means to ease the bottom line and maintain a standard of excellence in patient care.) Relationship sales also focus on eliminating concerns before a big purchase.
Shiela Kloefkorn from the Phoenix Business Journal sums it up like this:
Relationship selling is imperative if your product or service has a higher average selling price. Your prospects want to know that you’ll still be there for them after the sale if something goes wrong. To create that level of trust and faith, you need to build a solid relationship with prospects before you ever try to close a deal. These days, without a relationship, prospects are unwilling to risk buying an expensive product.
Now that we understand the value of face-to-face interactions in healthcare sales, let’s discuss what else you gain from these personal interactions.
You are not only selling a product or service. You are also selling yourself. Arrive on time for a scheduled appointment, every time. Make sure your interactions are genuine, but also upbeat.
If you schedule an appointment, sell, sell, sell. If you catch a doctor in a hallway, sometimes it is better to ask her how her day is going. Face-to-face interactions show that you are genuine, motivated, persistent, punctual, trustworthy, and presentable.
The Key Opinion Leader (KOL)
Face-to-face interactions put you directly in front of your key opinion leader. Typically, this is either the physician or the purchasing agent in a hospital, surgery center, or physician’s office. Having the opportunity to talk to the person in charge means that you have successfully navigated through other healthcare staff barriers—congratulations!—and are finally at the point of putting your product in front of the decision-maker. Don’t lose this opportunity, ever.
You are face-to-face with your KOL. Here is your opportunity to do what you do best—sell. Build trust through engaging conversation, but build value in your brand and your professional acumen by demonstrating strong knowledge of your product and your medical terminology. Here is where you bring out the models, literature and product demonstrations. Here is where you leave with a reason to come back.
Healthcare reps are constantly being questioned as to their importance and presence in healthcare settings. Consider this recent article from NPR discussing medical device reps in surgery:
Critics of the practice contend that device reps attend surgeries to strengthen their relationships with particular surgeons and thereby persuade them to choose one brand of artificial hip joint or stent or pacemaker over a competitor's. The device reps contend they observe surgeries because they are experts on particular devices and their accompanying toolkits, which often include hundreds of wrenches, screws and other hardware to aid in installation.
Building strong relationships with your physician, hospital, surgery centers and offices are oftentimes closely connected to your product or healthcare service standard of excellence. Reps, physicians and healthcare staff are hypersensitive to the fact that patient outcomes are on the line.
The Face-to-Face Sales Advantage
Have you ever read an email or text and been confused? Do you think it would have been easier to decipher if the message was delivered in person? Face-to-face interactions clear up a lot of message confusion. Many times reading body language can show you whether interest in your product is worth the time and effort for both the sales rep and the KOL. Determine, in person, if the product matches the clinical practice. If it doesn’t, ask if there is anything that may be missing from the practice and follow-up with resources—even if they are not yours. It shows that you are paying attention and that may be beneficial to you down the road.
If you aren’t in front of your physician, your competition is. Show your KOL that they are worth every bit of effort and time. If you don’t, someone else will be eagerly waiting to replace you.
Simply put, face-to-face interactions are integral to developing and maintaining a healthcare sales relationship. So show up!
About the Author
Carevoyance contributor Sarah Pike, M.B.A., is a freelance marketing copywriter based in San Diego. She enjoys writing about business, fashion, food, healthcare, leadership, motivation and technology.