Victory in medical sales requires Division I competitiveness, a palate for humble pie, a wizard’s touch for pulling POs out of thin air, a geeky curiosity about all things medical, the patience of a preschool teacher, luck, relationships and of course…the driving stamina of a long haul trucker!
Want to get a little more out of that windshield time and maybe even enjoy it? Here are some great podcasts for the road…
For reps in the OR
Ever wonder why scrubs are green, where instruments get their names or who performed the first laparoscopy? Get ready to geek it out and look like a knowledgeable stud with these great surgical podcasts:
Your Customer’s Perspective
As the wise old rep once said, “our doctors have forgotten more than you’ll ever learn.” That may be true but we can still try. Here are some podcasts by doctors for doctors. What’s their world really like, what keeps them up at night and what are they really thinking about? Explore and enjoy:
Medical Sales Focus
Unfortunately, there just aren’t many great podcasts (yet) about the nuts and bolts of medical sales. Here’s one worth adding to your playlist though. Great for new reps and those who want to step up their game.
Every salesman of medical devices faces the same conundrum. You’ve got a great product which you know backwards and forwards. You know that the product would help the patients of a specific doctor and would help the doctor herself, both in terms of time and efficiency as well as reliability. If you could get in front of the doctor, you could make a pitch that would stick. The quandary lies in how to get that toehold in the doorway.
Even after twenty-five years in practice, I can’t give you a surefire method of getting to the back office. Part of that comes from not being sure how the system worked even in my own office. Most doctors have a wall of protection ringing them that they often did not set up. The staff is doing their best to keep their providers focused, both in the interest of patient care and in expediency. Remember, a doctor’s delay effects everyone in the office from patient to billing agent.
But there are ways to present your case that are better in establishing a level of trust with a provider. You might not make an instant sale, but at least getting the doctor’s attention, however briefly, may lead in the long run to an effective and lucrative partnership.
So here are just a few tips that I can share, a small peek into the mind of the working surgeon, to give you a clue as to what will catch the doctor’s eye and ear and facilitate the exchange of the crucial information that will get your product into the doctor’s hands.
KNOW YOUR STUFF:
The most important thing to remember is that a doctor’s time is precious (at least in their own eyes). Another is to understand that we are great at detecting bluffers. If you don’t know something, admit it but promise to follow up. That may even be more advantageous as it almost guarantees a second look.
The first pitch should be efficient, but not too slick. Touch on the important facts and how your device or product ties into standard practice and the specific doc’s one.
Also, try to share your doctor’s enthusiasm for the subject. Most of us are in the field we chose because of abiding passion for it. Show you are curious, invested and eager to learn about our favorite subject and we will often take the time to work with you.
KNOW THE DOCTOR’S PRACTICE:
What does the doctor treat and how does she treat it? For instance, there is no point in previewing a new TLIF system to a pediatric spine surgeon.
Also, know the doctor’s personality. Is she formal or casual, serious or funny, bookish or outgoing? When in doubt, ask the nursing or support staff. They know us far better than we would care to think.
KNOW THE DOC’S BACKGROUND:
It sounds silly, but if a surgeon is trained in one place, he may have rivalries with another. Telling him what those rival surgeons do with your equipment may not be the best strategy. It’s better to pick a neutral side or whenever possible one that is firmly in the sphere of influence for the provider. The info is out there although sometimes you need to put two and two together to understand it. Check the doctor’s web page and other bio sites.
SHARE EVEN THE MOST ARCANE DETAILS:
When you do get in, give as much detail as you can, even if it doesn’t seem to be the most important info. You never know what aspect of a system will catch the doc’s eye the most or what kinds of thing she might be thinking about using it for. Be ready for offbeat questions about equipment and instruments (without compromising your “on label” integrity). Most doctors are very creative and the novelty of an object, product or instrument is what will catch their interest
SHOW THE SCIENCE:
Most of us would rather see a real study than testimonial letters. A white paper is okay, but even unpublished data will be much more convincing as long as it is well thought out and organized. Although most docs are not scientists, we are all trained to understand and respond to scientific articles.
A corollary to this is to know the literature yourself. Most providers will ask what studies are out there defending a product. Have those studies on hand, even printed out in list form if possible. Whenever you can actually have reprints that is even more effective
Never, never, never make a statement that is not backed up by the data. Never boast or brag and never claim that your product will make the subject a better surgeon/ doctor. Even if it is true, that is no way to influence people of high confidence
FEED THE STAFF:
Some docs like a bite of lunch themselves, some don’t. Ask about the office policies first, and always adhere to federal laws (i.e. Sunshine Act). Often a provider will draw the line at taking a meal from a rep for the optics of it all. But we all appreciate it if you bring something for our loyal and tireless staff. Remember, the way to the heart of a back office is through breakfast.
NEVER TRY TO ENTICE A SALE:
It is not worth your while or even that effective to try to wine and dine. A steak and an expensive bottle, although seldom refused, will seldom lead to any lasting interaction. I have been to a couple of “working dinners” at less expensive restaurants where the rep actually put the instrument cases on the table for us to look at over food. It was much more effective and memorable than an overpriced steakhouse (although we did raise a few eyebrows in the restaurant).
ANTICIPATE THE DOCTOR’S SCHEDULE:
Some surgeons will work through the day, but many like to “come up for air” late morning or at lunch. Although there is always work to catch up on (charting, calls, etc.), most often the provider is at her highest mental acuity and receptiveness at these times. Most of us actually like to hear about new technology during this period.
DON’T BE INTIMIDATED:
We are fellow humans (although we may not always admit it). Although some docs have been known to have a temper, most will be courteous and at least hear you out. Consequently, don’t be afraid to approach them in a surgical lounge or in an OR corridor. Worst case, you get shot down. Best case, the doctor is looking for some way to pass the dead time anyway and may give you a good listen.
ASK FOR OPINIONS:
The surest way to engage a doctor’s interest in a product is to ask her advice about it. How does it look to you? How does it fit into your practice? Will other doctors benefit from it? Let the provider know you care about her opinion and she will be much more attentive to both the product and to you.
There are other methods but remember that most of us do not like being ambushed. Tackling a doctor in the parking lot is poor form as is stalking them at their house.
None of these techniques will work all the time. All docs are different, and even an individual provider may be different from one visit to the next. But in general, if you are honest, engaging, respectful of the doctor and her staff, definitive and confident – in other words perfect – it will go a long way. It is best to think of your interaction as a relationship and not a sale. By forging trust, mutual confidence and a sense of equality and professionalism, you may be able to create a working environment which will yield the kind of long-term and stable collaboration that truly is good for patients, doctor and you.
We get mixed messages about the world of social media. It is described as both an untamed wilderness full of dangerous pitfalls and an unlimited resource of vital information. We hear dreadful stories of doctors slitting their professional throats with imprudent comments. At the same time we read testimony of physicians who saved lives because of a chance kernel of knowledge that fell into their surfing laps.
The truth is that the internet and particularly the social media in all their manifestations are both ubiquitous and ever-changing. There are both dangers and riches of opportunities to be found there. Like all things in life, the outcome depends on what you are able to put in and how much you know about it.
We at Peer Spectrum are no more knowledgeable about the vagaries of the Internet than any of you our readers. Chances are you know as much or more than we do. But through collective and sometimes painful experience as well as innate common sense we have put together an approach that we feel avoids the pitfalls and protects you as a professional user in the social media world:
Stop and Smell All the Flowers – In other words, take a good look around before you plunge in to any communication on social media. Like a city, the Internet has safe and dangerous areas so it’s good to get a sense of the lay of the land. If you want to establish a Twitter feed or a YouTube channel, spend some time looking at what is already out there. That will save you the trouble of reinventing the wheel, show you what has been well received and most importantly reveal the tone of on-line discussions. Read the notes and comment sections and make sure that where you are going to post is not a minefield or a swamp.
Separate Work From Play – If you are on Twitter or Facebook as a professional, try to maintain that status wherever possible. Don’t use a work feed to show off your hobbies or share humorous videos, unless you think your personal interests will give people some insight into you as a professional. One way to separate the two “yous” is to have completely different feeds for your work and your home. But resist the temptation to follow or like yourself from the other site. We recommend you try to keep the work site as far removed as possible from anything that you might have on your personal computer.
Remember Who You Are – Social media are great platforms for self-expression with the added benefit of being done at a safe distance and with some measure of anonymity. It is far too easy to rip off a response to something you see or read without having to worry about any real world repercussions. But there are significant consequences to much of what you post. An angry response can follow you to other aspects of your internet footprint. If you offend someone by chance or on purpose, that user can attack you on other platforms both to your face and behind your back.
But there are other aspects unique to your role as a medical professional. Remember that HIPAA is in effect for all medical communications including social media. Even a story like “I treat a guy who…” may be recognizable without identifiers such as name, age or location. There are secure (HIPAA protected) sites for exchanging information and advice about cases (SERMO, Medscape, etc.) but if you are unsure as to the level of security you should refrain from even anecdotal discussion without careful attempts to generalize (such as “some people who have this pathology are known to…”).
Finally remember the responsibility (and potential liability) you have as a medical pro. When users read your posts they will accept your opinions as informed and definitive. They may be inclined to treat what you write as medical advice despite your intent. Make sure that everything you write is well-founded and authoritative. Don’t delve into medical matters where you don’t have expertise. And try not to respond to specific cases or questions for medical advice. Resist being the sage as satisfying as that role may be.
The Internet is Forever – Everything you post or say can be found again, even if you delete it. Internet and social media posts cannot be protected or made non-discoverable in legal settings. Be aware that everything you have ever posted or shared contributes to both your internet and your community reputation.
Is That What You Meant To Say? – Users who visit your site are likely to come from a wider range of locations and walks of life than in your personal practice. You should be very careful to stay as neutral in terms of regional and other biases as you can on order to avoid putting anybody off. The same is true of politics and religion. Unless you are very sure that your personal views are an integral part of your professional message, they should be left off of any formal on-line communication.
Beware the “time sink” – It is very easy to get caught up in the entertainment and companionship that social media provide. But your professional time is precious. Be careful of the noise and the frank waste of time that even professionally oriented sites such as Linked In may cause.
Eliminate the Negative – There is so much despair and rage expressed on social media. If you are already angry at the government or an insurance company it is easy to get lost in the morass of negative thoughts that are present. These sites are not the best place to get news or information and may only serve to feed your anger.
Safety In Numbers – The most effective way to use any of the social media may be to find a group of users to share information. Professional sites often have special interest subgroups but even widely used sites like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram have established groups for a wide range of interests. Members of the groups share posts and links so save you the effort of scanning the entire internet to find the sites. A lot of these groups are by invitation so that gives another measure of security and validity to what is posted.
In summary, social media are part of the fabric of our society. A medical professional cannot ignore but should not be consumed by it. The same rigors of safety, quality and efficiency should govern your use of the internet as in all aspects of your professional life.
Once, it was the most widely read daily publication in Washington. Each morning, before 6AM, a White House driver picked up the first printing. Also in line: the personal driver for the Vice President, couriers from the State Department and the CIA, and runners for the chiefs of each branch of the military. The earlier you received it, the more important you were. By noon, it had reached every corner of Washington, from the Pentagon to Capitol Hill. It was read by the most important people in the US government, and it was also read by those who wanted to know what those important people were reading.
What was inside that was so important? Was it sensitive national security intelligence, classified summaries of world hot spots, or encrypted diplomatic cables? Who wrote it and where did it come from?
Actually, it contained nothing classified, nothing sensitive, and nothing unavailable to the general public! It was called the “Early Bird,” and it was simply a collection of news clippings and summaries, put together by a grandmother of nine, along with her small team at the Pentagon. It allowed readers to quickly digest the day’s news sources (mostly related to national defense), free of unrelated articles and advertisements.1
The “Early Bird” began in the 1960s as a collection of news clippings and summaries, printed every morning. Over the years, readership grew and the “Early Bird” eventually transitioned to online publication.
Today, you have access to tools that would make those “Early Bird” readers drool with envy. Think the Internet is plagued with useless noise and irrelevant distractions? “Early Bird” readers felt the same way about the countless newspapers, magazines, and nightly telecasts. They didn’t have time to consume them all. They needed a quick way to sift through the noise. They needed to uncover, what Nate Silver calls, the “signals in the noise.”
Today, modern technology gives you the power to create your own “Early Bird,” tailored to you!
Why you need your own “Early Bird:”
-Support real journalists doing important work.
-Support researchers and colleagues doing important work.
-No one is entitled to your time;stop giving it away.
-Filter useless noise and distracting “click bait.”
-Ensure you don’t miss what’s most important.
-Needle in a haystack? Use a big magnet!
Create your own “Early Bird” with these screening tools:
-Just like the afternoon “Early Bird” readers, you can see what’s being read (and said) by people you consider important. Kim Kardashian shares her thoughts with millions of Twitter followers every day. So what! You won’t see it because you’re an educated professional who’s not going to follow her.
-Still think Twitter is a silly and unimaginable waste of time? Not if you use it correctly. Use Twitter as a noise filter, not a noise feed!
-RSS is nothing new. There are countless options and apps available online.
-Updates from peer reviewed journals in your specialty
-Updates when your mentor/ colleague publishes something
-Updates when a specific pathology, treatment or medical device is mentioned
-Updates when you or your published works are mentioned
Curious for more? The Early Bird has an interesting history, and you can read more below. Where can you find the “Early Bird” today, you might ask? Well, after transitioning to the Internet, the Early Bird continued publication until the 2013 government shutdown. When the government reopened two weeks later, the Early Bird vanished and it hasn’t been seen since.
Written by Colin Miller
Links to more:
“U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates reads the early bird while holding for a meeting during a recent visit to Krakow, Poland, Feb. 20, 2009. Gates was in Poland to attend the Krakow Defense Ministerial Conference. DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jerry Morrison”: http://archive.defense.gov/PhotoEssays/PhotoEssaySS.aspx?ID=1102