Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Selling to Physicians Through Integrated Marketing and Sales

Physicians are the lifeblood of many a healthcare organization. As competition increases for their attention whether it be a hospital, specialty pharmacy, medical device manufacturer, or pharmaceutical company to name a few, cutting through the din of messages and relationships can be a daunting task.

For hospitals failure to build successful relationships and sales strategies mean that your docs could admit patients elsewhere. Note to hospitals: If you are not selling to docs, then you're missing a great opportunity to build volume by creating a more committed medical staff than if you just doing "relations or liaison" activities. You can sell legally and effectively if you know what you are doing.

For medical device manufacturers, failure to sell the doc mean a more difficult time selling your product into the venue where the physician practices medicine.

For specialty pharmacies, the physician sends his or her patients elsewhere.

So how do you cut through all of the chatter and have marketing and sales work together effectively?

No magic answers here.

No pixie dust either.

But here are 10 rules of thumb for moving forward:

1) Your sales people must be using a common sales strategy across the enterprise. I have seen too many organizations where everybody's left to their own methods resulting in incorrect messaging and using poorly designed home-grown materials which could have some significant legal repercussions for the organization. Your sales force activities are about relationship selling and acting as the liaison for the physician to your organization. If you don't have a method and training, chances are you will not be as effective as your competition.

2) Use a sales database system to collect information and the marketing department needs to have full access. If your just starting to look at one, marketing needs to be at that table. Don't assume that sales or IT knows what marketing needs. They don't. Systems breed accountability on all sides of the ledger.

3) Create an interdisciplinary marketing and sales advisory committee. Where most organizations fall down is the poor communication and working relationships between sales and marketing. You have to get past the "the feet on the street" don't deliver the brand messages and promise in the right way, and all that marketing is good for is creating stuff, because I need more stuff to leave behind attitudes.

4) Train your marketing department in the sale approach that your sales people are using. This way marketing begins to understand the opportunities and challenges faced, and how your sales staff is trained to overcome them. This means that all marketing materials should be created to be applicable and useful at some point in the sales cycle. It's all about shortening the sales cycle. Effective materials will assist in that goal.

5) Let your marketing people go out on sales calls and major presentations. They can be a new set of eyes and ears as well as providing them with new perspectives on how difficult the job is. Insights from other areas will make you a stronger organization.

6) Cut down on the number of slide you use for presentations. An 80 page slide deck is all about you and nothing about your potential customer. If you have to use more than 10 slides, you don't know what you are talking about and don't understand your audience. Talking head are boring.

7) Marketing departments need to see what sales people have created for use in their markets. Sales people are creative and resourceful. You may find some useful material to use and distribute across the entire organizations.

8) Have marketing attend you sales meetings and weekly funnel calls. It's about relationships and dialogue. Marketing should have a roll in explaining the organizational strategy, and what they are doing to generate meaningful leads for sales to follow-up on.

9) Joint marketing and sales goals and objectives should be established. Share in the pain and share in the gain.

10) Constantly evaluate and begin again.

Michael Krivich is Fellow, American College of Healthcare Executives and a Professional Certified Marketer, American Marketing Association and can be reached at michael@themichaeljgroup.com or 815-293-1471 for consulting services in strategic marketing, media relations and interim marketing executive leadership assignments. Huthwaite SPIN selling trained and a Miller Heiman Strategic Selling alumni, both highly respected and successful international sales training organizations , I can lead your organization though the challenge of integrating sales and marketing.


Walter said...

I agree with all the points made in this blog except the one that asks marketing people to co-op the pieces created by sales people in the field. If the goal is to have a consistent selling process, allowing people to use different materials that may say different things about the product(s) being sold sounds counterproductive. In a highly regulated industry such as medical sales, the thought of sales people creating and using their own sales materials sounds a bit frightening. This would be reason for termination in almost any pharmaceutical company. Device and diagnostics markets, while less regulated from a promotional claims standpoint, are still subject FDA oversight. It's probably a bad idea for reps to create and use their own materials in those industries as well. Perhaps I've misunderstood the author, but this point on the list is the one piece of advice that I'm a bit concerned about.

Michael J. Krivich, FACHE, PCM said...

Thank you Walter your comment and let me clarify. I agree that in major pharmaceutical and medical device as well as other entities the sales forces creation of materials is grounds for dismisal. Unfortunately as in specialty pharmacy for example, the industry is riff with Mom and Pop shops where the sales force is unattended to and create their own materials due to lack of formal sales training, organizational structure and accountability. Some hospitals behave that way as well in reaching out to physicians and employers. In some cases, I have seen instances where the sales materials developed were pretty good. But most of the time there were out of brand standard and in potential conflict with existing regulations. I for one agree that reps should never create their own materials, but in situations I have seen, you have to start somewhere and its a mechanism to build credibility with the sales force instead of using a heavy hand.

Andrea Becker, MLT (ASCP) C CM said...

Perhaps the situation within my organization is unique, but for us it is really ideal to have sales reps create collateral. This way the materials reflect the message we are conveying from our services lines to our physicians. The biggest drawback is the time constraints of heavily involving liaisons in collateral development when we should in fact be out on the road instead. Our hospital system is actually quite large for our area, and we work very efficiently together employing specialist to support collateral creation. In the end though, sales reps drive the process. I would welcome comments regarding whether other organizations (hospitals) do this as well or how they balance the collateral development with the sales force involvement.

Michael J. Krivich, FACHE, PCM said...


That was a most interesting comment and I have spent the past several days thinking about what you wrote. My apologies in advance and with the highest respect, all I could really say about what you are doing with your sales force is OMG, as my teenagers say.

This is so wrong, on so many levels, that I really don't know where to start.
Allowing your sales force to create sales collateral really indicates a lack of sales and marketing integration in your organization. There are so any factors to control from brand messaging and consistency, to style, image etc and even of its written in correct English. Then you get into the safe harbor regulations and FTC advertising issues. For in the end, sales collateral is advertising. How do you control for our sales reps not making claims and promoting outcomes that are not provable? Do you sales reps even use a common sales methodology such as Huthwaite SPIN or Miller-Heiman Strategic Selling? Is marketing trained in that sales methodology? Do you use a sales automation tool like saleforce.com , or something else and does marketing have access to it? How integrated is marketing into sales?

Please understand I spent the majority of my years working in the hospital side in marketing and with sales reps. Its only the last few years that I have been in medical device and specialty pharmacy looking in on hospitals' and their marketing behaviors. From my perspective you have some very serious process and structural issues with sales and marketing. I would highly recommend that that you fix them before it comes back to bite you.