Free! – Marketing Education for Medical Device Companies

Reading time: 4 – 6 minutes

What will you be doing to increase your marketing acumen and ROI in 2014?  Observing the marketing efforts of small and medium sized medical device companies; I continue to be amazed at how poor and misdirected the majority of these efforts are.  One problem for these companies is that they may not be able to afford true marketing and product management talent.  OK, if this is the problem, then why not task the person that has been put charge of marketing with looking for ways to gain some better marketing skills.

You can find great marketing skills information on the internet….for Free!!  For example, there are websites that allow you to download pretty good ebooks on various marketing topics.  At these same websites you may find webcasts that you can watch.  And, you may find some good videos and podcasts on marketing topics.

I like to read, watch and listen to marketing advice related to business to consumer (B2C) and business to business (B2B).  For example, today I watched a webinar on video marketing.  It was an hour well spent.  In the medical device world, the FDA and other regulatory bodies limit how we can promote many of our products.  However, there is a lot of good advice and inspiration in the B2C and B2B marketing.  Frequently, you can find a way to use their tactics within the limits of regulatory laws.

Below you will find the names and links to some of my favorite websites that provide a variety of marketing skills education and insight.  Earlier I said this material is “Free”.  Technically it is.  However, most of these sights will ask you to register with your name, address and email information in order to be able to download the desired item.  Well….for a free 30 page book on Email Marketing from Marketo I am more than willing to share my contact information.  Yes, you will be put on their email list.  For the companies below, I think it is worth it.  Do I profit from my relationship with any of these companies?  No.

Direct Marketing News webcasts – Managed by Haymarket Media, this site is a clearing house of news about direct marketing.

Marketo – A company that specializes in marketing automation software.

Medmarc – An insurance company that specializes in insuring life science companies.  Here you will find several webinars and podcasts related to staying within regulatory guidelines.

American Marketing Association – A great organization with free webcasts a couple times a month.  Also, very good marketing seminars that you must pay for but are reasonable in price.  It doesn’t cost a lot to join.

American Management Association – Like the above association, the venerable AMA has a lot to offer in free webcasts.  And, the AMA is not that expensive to join as a company.  Membership gives you access to a greater selection of webcasts and business educational opportunities.

Selling Power – Started out as a magazine years ago.  Lots of resources.  Blog posts written by experts.  Whitepapers, webinars, newsletters, etc.

Do you have some favorite sources of marketing education?  If so, share them with me and I will share them with all the readers.  You will get credit.

Start spending some time each week in self-education.  Or, delegate this to the person in charge of marketing at your company.  Then, on a monthly basis, ask that person to give you a one page report on what they have learned that might apply to your company and products.

If you like the content of this blog post, forward it to a friend.  Thank you!

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Plan Now For The Rest Of The Sales Year and Get Results – the Science of Sales

Reading time: 5 – 8 minutes

Like I said in a recent post, it is September.  There are only four more months remaining in the year.  If you are a medical device sales manager, are you getting the most out of your team?  If you are a salesperson, are you getting the most out of yourself?  How are you going to optimize the rest of the year?

A Sales Plan is a good start.  An end of year Sales Plan may get you that bump in sales that you need to achieve or overachieve you annual goal.  In this post I am assuming that you have the marketing and selling tools you need to get the job done.  If not, you may want to coordinate the following activity with your marketing colleagues.  Otherwise, KEEP IT SIMPLE!

For the Sales Manager, create positive tension by getting your team together either physically or on a Skype video call (GoToMeeting is another option) and asking them what they plan to accomplish the rest of the year.  Prior to the call, you can give them fair warning and tell them that you will be asking them this question.  You may want to ask them what they will accomplish in key product categories.  I call this positive tension because you haven’t rammed a sales number down their throats.  You have put the burden on them and asked them to set their goals.  I bet that they will offer fairly optimistic numbers.  Then at the end of the call you ask each of them to write a simple plan that explains how they will reach their stated goals.  Finally, you may want to consider an additional reward if they hit their targets.  Have that reward ready.  Only use it if the goals the sales people offer indicate that they are hungry to achieve.  Then pull out the reward and say, “Great.  I am excited by what I have just heard.  Whoever achieves their 4 month goal will receive a bonus of $ZZZ.  I am looking forward to handing out those checks in early January.”  Instead of money, you could also offer a gift card or a technology gift like a Nook or Kindle e-reader or an iPad.

The Sales Plan should consist of the following:

  • Four Month Sales Goal by Key Products:
    • Product Category One Touch Cure-All
    • Product Category B
    • Product Category C
    • Total
  • Monthly Sales Goal by Total Revenue per Month:
    • September
    • October
    • November
    • December
  • Key Strategies and Tactics to Attain Sales Goals
    • Strategy One
      • S1 Tactic One
      • S1 Tactic Two
    • Strategy Two
      • S2 Tactic One
      • S2 Tactic Two

In the Free Downloads page you will find the above outline as a spreadsheet with some simple formulas built in.

Make sure they understand the difference between a strategy and tactic.  If the strategy is “To reduce my use of carbon fuels” a tactic would be “When shopping, I will walk to all stores within one mile of my home”.

Also, as they are considering strategies and tactics, challenge them to select the most important things they should be doing to succeed. 

So, for a medical device salesperson, a strategy could be to “Increase exposure of Product One Touch Cure-All to doctors that specialize in Touchology”.  The corresponding tactic could be to “Increase my average call rate on these doctors from 10 per week to 14 per week through the end of the year”.  Typically, the best tactics are quantitative.  If one of your reps proposed such a tactic, you have something very specific to review with them every week.  Another tactic could be “Make appointments to see 8 doctors at our booth at the International Academy of Touchology in October.”

Once you have received all the plans, you will need to review them for any unrealistic goals, strategies and tactics.  When you are finished with the goal setting you have the basis for a closed loop management system as you review their progress toward goals on a weekly and or monthly basis.  Schedule those reviews ASAP so the sales people have yet another source of positive tension – the expectation that they have to review their progress with you.

For the Sales Person – If you are a salesperson in a small or medium sized medical device company where you don’t get much in the way of direction or supervision, take it upon yourself to create an end of the year plan.  Have courage and offer it up to your supervisor voluntarily.  Setting your own goals in writing will be very valuable if you ever are looking to step up into a higher level of medical device sales.  I have interviewed prospects from such companies. 

  • Ted – “Did you have a quota? And, did you achieve your quota?” 
  • Candidate -“No, we didn’t have set quotas. Everybody did his or her own thing. I was told I was doing a good job. ”

As an interviewer, this doesn’t help me understand a candidate’s drive and ability to meet goals.  Let’s change the above conversation.

  • Ted – “Did you have a quota? And, did your achieve your quota?” 
  • Candidate – “My company wasn’t organized enough to have quotas or other sales goals.  However, I set my own goals and strategies and tactics.  I exceeded my own goals.  If you would like to see my sales plan and results, I can show them to you.”

This candidate definitely has my attention!

Now that you have your sales team working on a four month plan, it won’t be hard to challenge them to an entire year plan for 2014.  

Good luck and let me know if this works for you.  

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Do you need to fire a sales representative? Should you slaughter a “sacred cow”?

Reading time: 3 – 5 minutes

If you are in charge of sales at a small to medium sized medical device company, have you taken a hard look at your sales team and how they are performing?  It’s August.  You have four more months left in the year.  Is this team going to get you successfully through the trade show season and to the end of the year?  Will they effectively follow up on all the leads you take?  Is one person dragging the performance of the sales team down?

The thought of firing or terminating someone is not a popular subject.  However, it is a fact of business life.   This blog post started with a call from a past client.  They are a small medical device company with a high tech software oriented product and one salesperson.  A non-sales executive manages this salesperson.  When I say “non-sales” executive, I mean an executive that does not have professional sales management training and experience.  This is a very common situation in small companies.  They hire an experienced salesperson, give them a decent compensation package and assume the person will be somewhat self-managing.  Then they rarely circle back to try to evaluate and coach this person.  Expectations are not clear.  Sales performance may not be optimal. This can go on for years.

After about an hour of conversation…mostly me asking a lot of questions…I made the recommendation that they terminate the salesperson.  This person had become a “sacred cow”.  And, I felt that many underlying traits and characteristics of this salesperson made the situation untenable. 

It is not unusual that small to medium sized companies have a very familial culture.  Employees know each other well.  In this kind of environment, it is easy for employees to become “sacred cows”.  When a “sacred cow” is an underperforming warehouse employee it doesn’t harm the company too much.  However, when the “sacred cow” is an underperforming salesperson it hurts the entire company a lot by reducing revenues and profits.  One salesperson in a four-person team is essentially responsible for 25% of the company’s profits! 

  • Everyone knows this particular salesperson isn’t effective.
  • You might not realize it, but the other employee’s probably talk about it.
  • The other hard working salespeople resent the underperforming rep.
  • All this is bad for morale.
  • And, if YOU don’t do something about it, the other employees respect you less.
  • Correcting this situation will actually create a feeling of positive change and renewal at your company as you finish the year.

OK, right now you are thinking  “This is very extreme. You haven’t even talked about giving the person a warning or putting them on probation.”  You are correct.  All employees should be treated with dignity.  And, you should carefully follow proper human resources protocol.  Most small companies can’t afford to have a trained HR person on staff.  If this is your situation then talk to your lawyer or an HR consultant.  If you use a payroll company, they may offer HR advice as part of their contract with you.  At one time, I used such a payroll company and their HR support was excellent.  A really good and detailed description of “how to fire” someone can be found at WikiHow

Remember, it is August.  The end of the year is looming.  Will your company meet its objectives?  If necessary, do something about it.  

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