If you look at it from a high level there are really two types of medical sales jobs. Those based on transactional selling vs. relationship selling. This impacts every aspect of the day to day of a job. The funny thing is companies never describe it to reps like this. They want every rep to think that it is all about the relationship. They want every rep to think that it is in their hands to use a relationship to get a sale across the finish line. We take a look at transactional selling vs. relationship selling in the medical sales space.
What Is The Difference Between Transactional Selling And Relationship Selling?
Transactional Selling In Medical Sales
1. Product Focused
Transactional medical device sales are product focused. The customer is focused on the features and benefits of a given product. It is not about who will support the customer or what the implementation will look like. It is about the specific features that define a product. As an example, consider the Iphone vs. Samsung debate. It is not really a matter of convincing. People have their preferences based on very specific set of features.
2. Focused On Innovation & Technology
Closing business in a transactional selling vs. relationship selling environment relies on conveying information on the technology and the recent innovation. In these types of instances a physician will not be purchasing a device or piece of equipment because they like you. They are focused on the technology and seeing how the product has evolved since the last release.
3. Focus Around A Single Sale
Products that are not purchased very often typically fall into the transactional purchase category. A customer knows that once a decision is made they will probably not see the rep again for awhile. This makes it more challenging for a rep to leverage themselves and the relationship to close a sale.
4. Product Used Only For Specific Applications
There is a different psychology when buying a product that will not be used very often. It doesn’t have the same critical mass or emotional engagement from the customer. They look at options, make a decision, and move on. This differs from medical equipment or medical devices used by a provider day in and day out.
Relationship Selling In Medical Sales
1. Products That Require Case Coverage
According to LinkedIn “relationship selling refers to the sales technique that focuses on the interaction between the buyer and the sales person, rather than the price or details of the product”. A medical device that requires frequent visits by the sales rep is more likely to be a relationship based sale. The surgeon may have to work with the rep multiple days a week. Not only do they want a product they trust, they want to find someone they can tolerate working with. If you meet with someone multiple times a week you are more likely to develop a deep relationship. You get to know the customer, their interests, learn about their family, etc.
2. Medical Device Commoditization
A commoditized medical product is one in which a customer can choose from many comparable substitutes. This means the differentiators between the products are minimal. In this type of sales environment a medical device rep has to leverage their relationship. The doctor is going to buy from the rep they know and are comfortable with.
3. Pricing Based Purchasing Decisions
Reps need a strategy to address the price issue in medical sales. As a medical product becomes commoditized pricing becomes more of a factor. When you have a innovative product with a unique set of features you can demand a premium price. When a customer views all of the products on the market as similar, this does not work as well. Reps hate it when things become all about price. In the current high inflation economic environment medical device companies are even more focused on sales margins. In this type of environment reps needs to leverage their relationships to win business.
4. Products Used Regularly
A medical product that is used every day will be important to the doctor. It will be a core part to how they practice medicine. This means they will be highly engaged in the selection of the optimal product. A highly engaged customer is fun to work with. It provides the perfect opportunity to build a strong relationship. In my experience, frequently used medical devices are more likely to be purchased through a relationship based sales interaction.
5. Personalized Sales Experience
If done right, a relationship based sell is about being a resource for a customer. This means understanding their organization and the current pain points. It means being an active listener. Then aligning your solution with the customer’s needs. Give advice that is tailored to the customer, and offer value in each and every interaction.