August 14, 2022 | Sales Tips

5 Common Medical Sales Mistakes to Avoid

Mistakes happen in every profession. The medical sales industry is no exception. However, some errors can be costlier than others when it comes to medical sales mistakes. In today’s post, we’ll examine some common sales mistakes, why mistakes happen, and some strategies for reducing your risks.

Common Medical Sales Mistakes

For medical sales reps, it’s important to learn about sales mistakes and how to avoid them in medical sales as early as possible. In many cases, the mistakes made by reps in the medical sales industry are the same as the ones made in other field sales-oriented industries—though some are either unique to heavily-regulated industries (like medical sales) or have different consequences for companies in the greater B2B medical/pharma products and services environment.

Medical sales leadership can help their reps avoid the most common and basic errors by including examples of the following sales mistakes to avoid in their new hire onboarding and ongoing sales training content:

1. Violating Restrictions on Giving Gifts to Prospects

For a long time, face-to-face interactions have been the bread and butter of medical device and pharmaceutical sales. In the past, these meetings may have involved the rep trying to “wine and dine” the prospect to build a positive relationship and encourage them to close a deal.

However, this practice should be avoided these days. Why? Because they may violate the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute (42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7b(b)]. Additionally, medical device and pharmaceutical companies should also avoid launching pay-for-referral programs, since they also violate the law when they run up against Federal health care programs.

The wording of the Statute is somewhat vague—it covers virtually anything of “value.” This can include hotel stays, meals, gift cards, etc. So, it’s best to avoid giving anything to a prospect outside of business cards and sales collateral.

2. Simply Reciting Product Features at Prospects

This is a common mistake made by many sales reps (especially inexperienced or nervous ones) in all kinds of industries. Sometimes referred to as “showing up and throwing up,” the sales rep goes through a quick introduction and starts reciting product features to try to impress the prospect.

While pointing out relevant product or service features can be useful for convincing a prospect who is trying to decide between two similar things, just rattling off a list of features without considering the prospect’s needs does not help. Instead of being impressed, the prospect will often start tuning the “sales spiel” out while waiting for the rep to stop talking and leave (or worse, outright tell the rep to leave).

It’s a better idea for medical and pharmaceutical sales reps to build a rapport with their prospects—ask questions, get to know the prospect’s pain points, and find ways to help resolve those pain points regardless of if those solutions involve the company’s products. This helps to build a relationship of trust that the rep can then leverage to generate sales.

If a prospect asks about a product or service feature, then the rep can talk about them. However, even in this instance, it’s important to focus more on the benefits for the prospect rather than the features of the product itself.

For example, instead of touting how a hip replacement product is made out of a specific material, emphasize how that material increases durability, reduces the risk of rejection after implantation, or helps the clinic reduce costs.

3. Using the Same “Script” with Every Prospect

Sales scripts can be useful for some types of sales interactions. Newer or less experienced sales reps can use them to avoid making egregious mistakes as they build confidence.

However, medical device and pharma product sales typically requires a more in-depth approach than simply reciting a fill-in-the-blanks script with every prospect. This is not an industry where a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach will provide consistent success. Every medical practice will have distinct needs and priorities—learning these needs is key for crafting successful and impactful sales tactics.

For example, a clinic may be worried about the cost of a specific device or drug that isn’t covered by Medicare/Medicaid or some specific healthcare plan common to their patients. Finding an alternative that is covered by insurance (government or private) or one that is extremely affordable so patients can pay for it personally may be a higher priority for that clinic.

At any rate, delivering a personalized touch is almost always a good idea, since it demonstrates that the sales rep knows the customer’s needs and is making them a priority.

4. Failing to Research Prospects Ahead of Time

How big is the business the sales rep is dealing with? What is their specialty? Which products and services are the most likely to align with their needs? Who are their customers (and what do they want)? What’s the name of the decision-maker in the business?

These are just a few examples of the questions that sales reps need answered even before they walk into the door of a business. Failing to research a prospect before reaching out can result in a confused, floundering conversation that does not impress.

A lot of this information can be found relatively easily through research on LinkedIn, the prospect’s business website, or by conversing with their staff before reaching the decision-maker. Having more information can help the rep prepare their conversation points ahead of time so they can ask better questions and make the prospect feel like the rep knows and understands their needs.

5. Not Following Up with Prospects

In sales, it’s fairly common for reps to need to reach out to prospects numerous times before securing an in-person meeting with a new customer—let alone getting to close a deal. Some estimates say it takes eight cold calls just to reach a prospect.

While wasting an excessive amount of time and effort on a prospect who isn’t going to convert can be a drain on resources, failing to follow up after just a single failed attempt can mean missing valuable opportunities.

The question is: “How can you tell the difference between a prospect who won’t (or can’t) convert and one that just needs some extra time and effort?”

This is often a matter of experience for individual sales reps, but some things that can help them sort good-fit prospects from bad-fit prospects should come up in their initial research. If the prospect doesn’t stand to benefit at all from the company’s goods and services, then it’s probably a good idea to pursue other leads instead. However, if there’s a clear need or benefit, then it may be worthwhile to put in some extra work to pursue that lead.

Why Sales Mistakes Happen

The mistakes sales reps make can be incredibly varied—the examples listed above are just a small fraction of the potential errors. But, why do these medical sales mistakes happen? There are a few different causes of sales performance issues that need to be addressed:

  • A Lack of Training. The regulations governing medical device and pharmaceutical sales can be revised at almost any time. When medical sales training is lacking, sales reps can fall behind on the rules—leading them to make an error that can be very costly.
  • Low Motivation/Poor Fit for the Job. It takes a high level of dedication and skill to be a successful sales rep. Sales reps who are a poor fit for the job or who are severely unmotivated may not put in the extra time and effort needed to be effective communicators—leading to basic mistakes in their sales efforts.
  • A Lack of Time. How many clients/customers are sales reps expected to meet in person in a given time frame? If sales reps have to meet with too many prospects or customers too quickly, they may end up cutting corners to save time (or they may become demotivated due to being forced to accept unrealistic process goals). This is why it’s important to keep the sales team to an appropriate scale for your level of business—which is something that outsourced sales services can help with!

How to Minimize the Risk of Errors in Medical Sales

Considering the common causes of mistakes in medical sales, how can you prevent your team from committing basic errors? Some potential solutions for minimizing risks in medical sales include:

  • Committing to Continuous Training. Keeping medical sales rep skills up to date is not only a good way to avoid common sales mistakes, it helps to keep your team up-to-date with the latest tricks of the trade! Launching an ongoing sales training/education program can be highly effective for minimizing your risks.
  • Scaling Your Sales Team as Needed. Even the best sales reps can’t be in three places at once. Hiring additional sales staff, even on a part-time contract basis, to meet spikes in demand can be a life-saver for overworked sales teams. At the very least, it can allow you to focus your best in-house staff for your most lucrative prospects. That being said, it’s also important to...
  • Carefully Vet New Hires for Both Skills and Cultural Fit. While having the skills to pay the bills is important, it’s also necessary for sales team members to be a good fit for the organization’s culture. Bringing on someone who’s good at closing deals but alienates the entire rest of the team to the point where their performance is affected can do more harm than good in the long run. It’s important to build the right sales culture to help nurture the skills and success of all your pharma/medical sales reps.
  • Leverage a Contract Sales Organization to Meet Staffing Needs. Need help scaling your team quickly and finding the best talents to match your steep skills (and corporate culture) requirements? Consider working with a contract sales organization (CSO). Sales outsourcing services can help you find dedicated experts that work, think, and act like a part of your in-house team.

Need to build your medical sales team fast? Reach out to Axxelus today!

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