The sales process is increasingly complex for customers and suppliers in many industries, including medical sales. Mapping your sales cycle accurately can help simplify the sales process and shorten the sales cycle for your sales team and your customers.
How complicated has the process become? Here are some eye-opening, assumption-challenging statistics:
The following aims to provide your sales and marketing teams with a good road map for simplifying and abbreviating the medical sales cycle by properly mapping it for your company and your products.
Map the Customer Journey
This first step is a map within your map. Much has been written and reported in recent years about mapping the patient journey in healthcare. Mapping your customer’s buying “journey” in medical sales should be no less important.
You don’t have to reinvent any wheels in mapping the customer journey. No less an authority than Google lays out these 5 steps for customer journey mapping:
Clearly, customer journey mapping requires research as well as direct customer feedback. Customer feedback on the mapping of the buying journey can be conducted for each customer, but similar types and sizes of companies may have similar buying journeys.
Solicit feedback from customers you already have converted for the same product, particularly from customers similar to your prospective new customer.
Identify & Prioritize Prospect Organizations
One of the biggest time-wasters for reps in medical sales involves engaging with the wrong prospect. Qualifying potential buyers takes time and research, but it ultimately saves time and can substantially shorten your sales cycle.
For example, if your target is a specific physician or even a provider organization, and you have accurate data on which physicians conduct the most procedures using your product or write the most prescriptions for your medication, you can focus on your best prospects and stop wasting time with less-qualified prospects.
Even if the physician is not the ultimate decision-maker, the ones who do the most cases or write the most medically appropriate scripts are often key influencers in the final purchase decision. To learn more about clinical datasets useful for identifying and prioritizing prospects, check out this definitive source of data on healthcare providers.
Another part of the qualification process is drilling down to discover prospect needs as it pertains to your product or solution, as well as understanding where the prospect is in the decision cycle -- early, middle, or late. Be careful to avoid making assumptions about your prospect’s perceived need for what you offer.
Responsive vs. prescriptive sales approach increases the likeliness of purchase regret and leads to higher customer success and retention.
Identify Decision Makers & Decision Influencers
Depending on the source, you can find diametrically opposed opinions regarding the value of identifying and building relationships with internal “champions” who are not the final decision maker but could be a decision influencer.
Physicians, especially ones that have a substantial impact on a hospital’s finances, often play a influential role in the healthcare buying process. For guidance on how to effectively market and sell to physicians, check out our blog post 9 Tips to Improve Email Marketing to Physicians.
HubSpot features a well-researched guide to organizing your time with influencers and decision makers.
Getting and spending quality discovery time with your prospect is vital to your success in medical sales or any other B2B sales role.
This is the step in your sales cycle mapping where you validate your understanding of your prospect’s need and eliminate misassumptions that lead to misunderstanding and disappointment for both buyer and seller.
Every experienced sales rep recognizes the importance of discovery but sometimes it’s the more seasoned reps that consciously or subconsciously shortcut the discovery process and fall into a trap of wrong assumptions.
Here’s a great refresher on discovery-driven planning from Harvard Business Review.
Raise Awareness of Your Company & Product
Raising prospect awareness of your company or product should not mean simply providing information. In collateral from your marketing team, as well as in your direct conversations with prospects, be sensitive to the balance between helpful and information overload.
Many of your prospects may have already researched your product or at least the product category and options before you ever speak to them.
Responsive selling is based on giving the prospect the information they request. The problem is that they may not know what information would be most helpful in simplifying rather than complicating their decision.
Prescriptive selling is a process of offering a specific solution supported by a specific rationale. Prescriptive selling also includes helping your buyer navigate their internal process to get or receive final approval.
Nurture Your Relationship With Your Buyer
Nurturing is the sowing that must precede reaping. Many salespeople are under too much quota and deadline pressure to feel comfortable taking the time required to develop a relationship and human connection with their prospective buyer while showing respect for the prospect’s time.
Nurturing helps you establish personal trust and credibility in addition to whatever level of credibility your company and product may enjoy in your market. Companies purchase from other companies, but specific people in their company will buy from specific people in your company based on your personal credibility as much as or even more than your company’s credibility.
Nurturing includes providing free, genuine value, assistance, and guidance before you earn the right to ask for the sale.
Presenting the Solution
Here’s an eye-opening stat:
57 percent of B2B prospects and customers feel that their sales teams are not prepared for their first meeting.
Many reps and sales organizations subscribe to the belief that the most important meeting with a prospect is the meeting with the individuals or team that have the authority to make the final purchase decision.
Others contend that your first presentation meeting is your most important face-to-face opportunity with a prospect because if that meeting does not go well, you won’t ever get in front of the decision authority.
The ideal objective is to have the decision authorities attend the first meeting, but that is often unrealistic.
4 Key Criteria for Setting up a Successful Presentation Meeting
Take the time and ask the right questions to make sure your objective for the meeting aligns with the prospect’s goal for the meeting. The agreed objective, combined with the decision process in the prospect organization, should determine who should attend the first presentation meeting.
Creating Customized Presentation
Most medical technology and pharmaceutical companies have templates and standardized presentations. The best salespeople and their managers understand and use the standard presentation as a starting point and foundation for a customized presentation.
Prospects are interested in your product, service or program only to the extent that they can see how well it applies to their specific needs and challenges. Looking for more? Check out our Library of Healthcare Intelligence.
Vetting Presentation With & Getting Feedback From Your Champions
If the meeting will include the decision authority, you should share and get feedback from your internal champion(s) regarding your presentation before the meeting takes place.
It doesn’t matter how many times you have given a similar presentation. If you have not rehearsed each specific presentation in advance of that meeting, you risk appearing unprepared or presenting on nonspecific autopilot.
Hundreds of articles and books have been written on follow up process after the initial sales presentation. For medical sales, the follow up process often boils down to these three categories:
Failure to define and get mutual agreement from your prospect on specific next steps can leave you and the client in mutual mystification limbo. Worse, a competitor who has defined and gained agreement on next steps can get the sale at your expense.
Closing the Sale
If hundreds of articles and books have been written on the sales follow up process, thousands have been written on closing the sale.
While there is always a definitive point in which a sale is considered closed (signed contract and initial payment), the process of closing is not a single event or activity. A successful salesperson is closing from the very first contact – in a way that does not make the prospect feel pressured or manipulated.
The popular sales acronym ABC (“Always Be Closing”) was popularized in the iconic movie “Glengarry Glen Ross,” but this approach to successful sales has been applied for as long as there have been sellers and buyers.
Post-sale support in large companies generally falls to account managers, help desks or customer service reps. However, since sales are all about relationships of trust and value, the successful salesperson builds time and process into personal post-sale support.
Many sales organizations and sales managers want their frontline sales teams to hand off the client to the support team after the close so that the “hunter” can keep hunting. Too often, this philosophy comes back to bite the entire organization because they client can feel abandoned or ignored by the individual who developed the trust and relationship that resulted in the client’s decision to purchase.
Repeat Sales & Upsells
Upselling and repeat sales are only possible if the customer has a positive experience after and as a result of their first purchase.
That positive experience includes the customer’s relationship with one of a team of people inside the company that made the initial sale. This is especially relevant in medical sales because of the stakes in terms of the lives and health of the customer’s customers.
Companies that are most successful in upselling and reselling customers work hard to continually nurture the personal relationship with their customers. You have to earn the right to ask for the additional sale.
With that in mind, top sales organizations build their sales cycle to prepare the ground for future upsells and repeat sales from before the first contact.
The medical sales cycle often faces many unique challenges due the overall complexity of the healthcare system; medical sales aren’t just based on relationships or who your reps already know. By following the guidelines above to accurately and effectively map your sales cycle, you can simplify the medical sales process, shorten the sales cycle for your sales team and your customers, and close more deals.
About the Author
Carevoyance contributor Lonnie Hirsch is the Founder and CEO of Hirsch Healthcare Consulting, one of the premier consultants and strategists for helping medical practices and hospitals across the U.S. and in other countries achieve profitable top line and bottom line growth.