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"Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out."
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Selling Power Magazine Article
Rx for Success
"They were burning out," remembers Jim Fedio, RS Medical's director of sales development. "Plus, all that extra work meant our cost of sale was going up. All the dials were moving in the wrong direction. That's when we said, ‘We can't stay on this path.'"
A big part of the problem was that sales reps, sticking with what they'd been trained to do, were still having the same product-focused conversations with physicians that they'd always had. These conversations were no longer working in an era when innovative products can be copied by the competition practically overnight. "If your sales focus is on your product, you'll always be in a ‘me, too' situation," warns Fedio.
To change its results, RS Medical knew its sales reps needed to change their conversations. It was good timing. The new economic realities of health care were forcing physicians to think differently about their practices, and Fedio felt that RS Medical reps could leverage their experience in the market to help doctors navigate the changing business landscape.
"Physicians are now having to think about their practices as a business, so they are making decisions differently," he says. "They are asking, ‘How do I streamline patient intake? What opportunities will allow me to add revenue to the practice but don't involve treating more patients?'"
Fedio wanted reps to have conversations that tackled these kinds of tough business questions, positioning themselves as the go-to source for decision makers. Once that was achieved, reps would be able to demonstrate how RS Medical products could address some of these challenges.
To start down this new path, RS Medical last year introduced SPIN Selling®, which helped the sales team understand that data dumping is old school; asking questions is the new selling approach. It was a good start, but it had an unintended side effect: reps learned to pose questions, but for many, the questions became their new agenda.
"They'd ask all the right things, but they weren't paying attention to the answers," says Fedio. "They could be getting buying signals or indications that they needed to change directions or probe differently, but they were sticking fast to their lists."
Today, Fedio is trying to help reps shift from all-question mode to sharing ideas and helping educate physicians on becoming more efficient at running their practices. Through this transformative process, RS Medical has found that roughly 10 to 15 percent of its sales force is naturally adept at this brainstorming and idea-sharing process. Fedio says he will soon be implementing a program to profile that 10 to 15 percent and then assess potential new hires against that profile.
One of the most essential qualities the medical-device maker will be looking for in new hires is the ability to teach. "We want to get away from the cliché of going in as a consultant; instead, we want to go in as educators who can share what we have seen working for other doctors to increase patient retention or improve reimbursement rates," Fedio says.
It's all about reframing the conversation, he concludes. "We want to give clients a new way of looking at their practice. The most important thing for us is to get physicians to agree that they need to start acting differently. Once we do that, we have an opportunity to position ourselves by saying, ‘Here's how we think we can help you do that.'"
About RS Medical
RS Medical is a Vancouver, Washington-based provider of physician-
prescribed home electrotherapy devices. Its stimulators and related products have helped treat more than 1 million patients since the company was founded in 1990. The firm covers 195 major metropolitan markets with a team of about 100 sales reps, 7 regional managers, and 70 patient care specialists who support the sales staff by helping to fit patients in the field.
Jim Fedio, director of sales development, has been with RS Medical for 12 years. He started in sales operations and then ran the billing department before moving into sales development in 2010.
– Heather Baldwin
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