The Most Surprising Thing About Selling to Physicians

Selling to doctors used to be more straightforward than it is today.

Reps could drop by the practice office with lunch or snacks in hand, and catch the doctor in between appointments to chat about the latest products or technologies. Not surprisedly, the MedTech and Pharma industries historically relied on interpersonal networks with individual physicians to execute transactions and drive growth of their technologies.
It’s surprising how rapidly and drastically processes for purchasing medical technologies have changed over the past 10 years. Access to physicians is way down as more practices, clinics and hospitals control the flow of sales reps through their halls.

​In addition, rather than simply placing orders for products based solely on a physician’s preference, hospitals and other facilities are assessing value across all purchase categories, looking for reductions in costs or an improvements in outcomes.

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​The changing dynamics is especially true for more expensive products like imaging equipment, surgical robots, surgery assistance tools, complex medical devices and health information technologies or services.

​Today, commercial teams find that both clinical and financial decision makers are weighing in on purchase decisions. MedTech commercial teams must convince a broader spectrum of influencers and buyers that they understand their business and can help solve the challenges they face in their market.

Contributing to this changing dynamic within healthcare purchasing processes are broader ownership and employment trends. Last year the AMA reported that less than 50% of physicians has an ownership stake in their medical practice. This continues a years long trend of doctors foregoing the hassle and risk of running an independent practice, in favor of employment by bigger medical groups or hospitals.

Carevoyance research gathered from AMA Benchmarking Study and Beckers Healthcare.

In this blog post we’ll explore strategies for adapting to these new realities to strategically navigate hospital or medical practice purchasing processes.

First, you have to know the dynamics for your targeted audiences

The role the physician plays in medical equipment or device purchasing decision may have evolved but physicians will always have an important seat at the table. It’s still vital to build relationships with the physicians involved in these purchasing decisions.

The key difference now is understand what role the physician has – direct buyer or influencer?

If the physician is still self-employed running her own practice, then obviously the physician is going to have full purchasing power. But it’s gets more complex depending on if the physician is fully employed or partner of a larger group practice or surgery center.

A tool like Carevoyance can help you figure out these important relationships and understand the role any given physician may have in assessing and ultimately purchasing your technology.

If the physician is part of a bigger medical group or fully-employed as part of the hospital staff, then physicians that have more influence on purchase decisions in these complex organizations often are the ones bringing in the most revenue.

Your medical technology will likely have a targeted physician profile in mind. But sorting through which of the dozens of individual specialty surgeons will have the greatest sway over hospital purse strings can be much, much trickier.

​Knowing which physicians produce the most revenue or bill the most services related to your product will ensure you focus on developing business with the right physicians.

Make every interaction count

One way to establish credibility is to do your research before you step foot in their office. Never go in blind. You’ll avoid going into a meeting unprepared and risking wasting a valuable interaction.

Build a robust account plans before your first (and every subsequent) interaction, by doing much more extensive research:

  • Which procedures does the doctor specialize in?
  • Did the physician invent a medical device?
  • Where else does she work?
  • Who else is on his team?
      • Don’t overlook the smaller offices as often times these opportunities may be less competitive.
  • Where did she go to medical school?
  • Who are current referral partners they already know and do business with?

Understand the physician mindset​

The challenging part is always convincing a physician to become your product champion.

Ultimately the clinical data and outcomes on your product will seal the deal. However, during the initial phases of engagement it’s actually more effective to NOT sell your product. Instead, focus on how to help. Initially, your prospect doesn’t care about your product…. physicians care about their patients, their competition, their business.

The most influential person in a physician’s life is another physician. Therefore you’ll need to figure out how to get other physician’s to endorse your product and appropriately reference other physicians, including key opinion leaders or researchers related to your product or therapeutic area.

Another possible inroad is to get introduced by others within the physicians network. Remember that research you did as you developed your account plan? See if you can find points of intersection between your networks given their med school classmates, referral partners or hospital affiliations.

While the opinions of other physicians factor in heavily to decision making processes, don’t forget the others who operate in their sphere.

The physician practices as part of a team and you can’t neglect the nurses, medical assistants, or billing team members that interact with the physician day-in, day-out. If they don’t trust you, they won’t ever let you into the inner circle. And neglecting the staff for favor of the doctors will get you in hot water every time.

All it takes is one team member to express displeasure for you or your product in front of the doctor and you lose major credibility, making it very hard to recover.

A first hand example to bring it all together

One of the medical device sales representatives we work with at Carevoyance sums up how he has overcome new complexities in selling to to doctors. ​He realized that any prospect, especially physicians, requires time build trust as well as repeated exposure to a message before they will take action.

​High-performers stay in regular contact with their physician prospects and deliver value in every interaction.

One of my accounts was a multi-specialty ambulatory center that had been using an outdated wound care product. My first few meetings were focused on how I could help. Personalized reports, generated automatically from Carevoyance, about their business were my wedge in to build rapport and engage one of the surgeon leaders.

Early on, we’d have discussions about the physician’s service mix and how he was performing against other surgeons. We also uncovered new referral sources that weren’t previously on his radar. As the relationship developed and I proved my value to his business, I was able to get additional time to dive deeper into my product’s clinical data and other benefits.

After only two months, he championed the product with the Value Purchasing Committee which ultimately granted approval. We used similar strategies to deliver value and insights to other physicians within the organization as I worked to pull-through the product. I became a trusted partner which is a huge differentiator compared with the other reps who compete for the physician’s time and mind-share.

Want more great tips on how to find, engage, and sell more of your medical technology to doctors and hospitals?

​Be sure to download our free case study on other ways sales teams have successfully build stronger relationships with providers.

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