MedTech sales forces have been losing customer access for a while, but COVID has intensified the trend. And some see it continuing even after a vaccine becomes available.

Naturally, sales reps are spooked. Many are being labeled “non-essential.” They’re working harder and longer just for limited access. And some are being locked out across entire health systems, not just at isolated offices.

It’s a big problem for MedTech companies. In addition to having trouble driving demand and filling the funnel, their sales-force-centric strategy has been blunted. They still have access to current customers, but without in-person access to new customers, they can’t generate new business. Period.

Now, more than ever, MedTech marketers need to reevaluate the overall value of the sales force. Read on.

In a large majority of cases, customers see reps as commodities. If this weren’t the case, all reps would be considered essential. But if you perform win/loss customer interviews, this is what you’ll hear:

“They (products) were all basically the same. Some have strengths here. Others have strengths there. It came down to what company wanted our business and gave us the best deal.”

Until reps provide customers with greater value, they’ll be seen as non-essential and they’ll be locked out. Here are some ways to provide value and begin to unlock access:

Great MedTech marketers see the world through the eyes of their customers. Imagine you’re a busy clinician and you meet with a rep who messages X, Y, and Z. Then, the next day, you see a competitive rep who messages exactly the same thing. A few weeks later you attend a tradeshow, meet with 3 or 4 companies – and their messages are also all exactly the same.

Sameness = Commodity = Non-essential

Customers don’t see value when every company walks and talks in interchangeable ways. Banish sameness with a differentiated value prop that empowers customers to transform care. If you represent a unique value to customers, you’ll get noticed and respected.

Many MedTech companies end up being labeled non-essential because they practice product marketing. They get no traction because they have a product-first or technology-first approach that messages a laundry list of undifferentiated features and benefits.

Product-centric marketing does not work. Marketing solutions to customer problems works.

To relate to customers and hold their attention, begin by acknowledging their challenges. Customers are motivated by pain reduction and avoidance. MedTech marketers should exploit this by promoting their pain, and by promising to solve it with their unique solutions. Reps that execute a solution-marketing strategy are more like consultants. They’re engaging, they’re seen as essential problem solvers, and they succeed.

In light of how diabolically difficult it’s become to get time with new customers, reps who do get it have to make it matter. Start arming your reps with short, easily recitable, targeted messaging.

Replace your shotguns with sniper rifles

The kitchen sink messaging approach doesn’t work. Instead, perform market research with customers and find (and test) the short, specific narrative that can extend a 30-second call into a 30-minute call. Don’t know where to start? The message should be a concise, easily delivered version of your value prop.

Many reps have made themselves essential by becoming valuable members of care teams. They consult on cases, follow up with patients, lighten the care team’s load, educate with best practices, and help enable better patient outcomes. Many have innovated new customer engagement models that bring greater value to the customer. One surgeon we interviewed had this to say about a rep who architected an entirely outside-the-box approach and who’d come to be seen as essential:

“We don’t see Jack as a sales rep. He is part of our patient follow-up process. Post-discharge, he sees my patients in their homes, making sure their wounds are healing. He sends me a Facetime or pictures of the wound. Now, I don’t have to see the patient at the two-week follow-up period, freeing up my practice to see more patients.”

COVID is exposing the limitations of marketing organizations. Those who’ve taken a more strategic, systematic approach are well positioned to exploit digital and non-personal channels.

Who are they? They’re the organizations that robustly use marketing automation systems. They create engaging content. Their sales forces use CRM. And they measure and optimize their work. Their organizations are led by marketing, not by sales. They have a deep understanding of customer behavior throughout all stages of the buying journey. And they make sure their reps have the tools and content they need to engage and nurture leads online.

Getting removed from the non-essential vendor list doesn’t happen overnight, but it needs to happen quickly. It requires fundamental, customer-centric MedTech marketing that produces brand experiences that outperform your competition. It also requires that marketing leads sales, not vice versa

If you aren’t sure where to start, VIVO can help. As a MedTech marketing agency, we have the experience and the expertise to rapidly improve the value and effectiveness of your sales force. Our multidisciplinary team can guide you every step of the way. Reach out and let’s make shift happen together!

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