The MedTech industry is having another active M&A year, fueled by new technologies and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) broadening their portfolios to provide new products to the markets they serve. Mergers, however, can create uncertainty for your customers. They may have heard horror stories of how doing business with a company can change after a merger. Perhaps they’ve even experienced firsthand a decline in customer service or product quality — and in the MedTech space, neither of those is acceptable.
Your sales team is the strongest and probably the most influential connection you have with your customers. Here are five tips that can help sales reps retain current customers and, ideally, even close business with prospective customers during a merger.
1. Strategize Before the Merger Announcement
When word is out about the merger, your prospects and customers will want answers immediately. To be ready, you will need to develop messaging in advance of the merger announcement. Start by putting yourself in both your prospects' as well as your customers’ shoes. You will likely need to develop messaging for both audiences
What could cause concern about the merger? Will the prospect or customer view the merger positively or negatively? Have they had any interaction of the other party? Proactively address those issues with the messaging you develop, including assurances of quality control, access to supplies and clinical support, as well as product traceability.
Also, remember that people simply don’t like disruption. Your internal operations may be changing to some degree, but don’t expect your customers to be willing to make concessions. Communicate to your customers that you will do everything you can to maintain your business relationship status quo. Reassure your prospects that you understand their concerns and still want to move forward.
While you are assuring your prospects and customers that they won’t experience a downside from the merger, remember to also strategically stress the upside. Will the merger mean that your customers will have access to an expanded product line? Easier path to compliance? Reduced risk? Faster service? Greater convenience? Make sure every customer conversation includes the good news, broadcast loud and clear.
2. Train & Practice
Before the announcement is public, sales managers will need to train their sales teams to ensure that they accurately and consistently convey information about the merger. Mergers are often popular topics of conversation among end users in any market, and inconsistencies won’t go unnoticed.
Enlist your marketing department or other resources to create presentations and other content or messaging that the sales team can leverage during the merger so all communications remain on point and consistent.
Of course, your sales team isn’t just meeting with customers to discuss the merger. They’re there to sell. Work with your sales team to develop specific strategies and messaging to turn conversations from the merger to making a sale. Your sales team may not have had to broach these types of subjects before so consider recording and distributing example conversations on how the team may handle questions, objections or other concerns. You may even go as far as to pair up sales reps with sales managers for role-playing as a way to practice and anticipate different scenarios they may encounter in the field.
3. Stay Visible
Mergers are busy times. In addition to customer-facing activities, sales teams will have added responsibilities internally preparing for organizational changes. That doesn’t mean, however, that your customers and prospects will be understanding if their sales reps are unresponsive or absent — quite the contrary. Being unresponsive, or worse, totally absent sends the wrong signal! They may think it’s a sign that the merger will negatively impact service. Stay visible and responsive throughout the merger process to put your prospects’ and customers’ minds at ease.
Keep in mind that you should stay visible and keep communications flowing not only with your immediate buyers but others in their organization. If you typically sell to physicians, then think through who else at their medical practice or within the hospital needs to be communicated with or kept in the loop on the impact of the merger. If you typical buyer or customer is the hospital administrators and executives, then map out who else may be impacted.
4. Brace for a Challenge From the Competition
While you were strategizing prior to the merger announcement, you can bet your competitors were as well. They will be studying your every move to find something they can use to their advantage when they approach your customers. Keep an ear to the ground for competitor activity and prepare countermeasures. It may be helpful for sales reps to have the power to offer special pricing or value-adds during this time to close more deals and counter the competitive threat.
5. Work Smart
During a busy transition time, sales can benefit from technology that streamlines processes. There will be times when your sales team or individual reps want to reach an entire list of customers and prospects, whether it’s to provide the customers or prospects on that list with information or to make a special offer. A customer relationship management (CRM) solution with marketing automation functionality makes it possible.
The right platform will enable you to send personalized messages, as well as formal announcements, saving precious time during the busy transition period. CRM analytics can also make quick work of showing the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and promotions and help sales reps stay on track with sales follow ups.
Your campaigns will be even more effective with clean, enriched data about every prospect and customer.
Above All, Stay Focused
Mergers not only create distractions and uncertainty for your prospects and customers, they can also have the same effect on a sales team. Sales managers and company leadership need to set the tone, creating a culture that supports normal day-to-day activities and a positive outlook. Depending on the circumstances, sales territories or responsibilities may change, but during the actual transition, you need to find ways to make sure that customer service continues at the same, exceptional level. The success of your merger depends on it!
About the Author
Carevoyance contributor Bernadette Wilson of B Wilson Marketing Communications is an experienced journalist, writer, editor, and B2B marketer, specializing in content for technology companies.