This morning, I met the Conmed Electrosurgery sales representative at a local hospital. Raquel* (not her real name, but you knew that already) has been representing Conmed Electrosurgery for about a year. She had prior medical sales experience, including some O.R. sales experience. In her first quarter with the company, she catapulted her underperforming territory into the top echelon of the company.
When we originally began talking about this day, she said, “Everyone wants to be in the O.R.. That’s the glamorous part of this job. But there is a lot of work that goes into getting to that point. That’s what I really want to show you.” So today, she showed me just that- the cold calling and prospecting that goes into uncovering opportunities.
Before we went into the first hospital, she explained some of the things she does as part of her pre-call planning. She reviews the rolling history report, which shows what the facility has been purchasing over the last 18 months. In this case, even though it was not a major ConMed Electrosurgery customer, the facility was buying pencils used in the electrosurgical generators. She also checks which GPO the facility is under. In this case, it was a contract that Electrosurgery is not on; however, the particular GPO does not generally require a high level of compliance. She also established a few goals for the call: finding out the types of equipment in the facility and seeking out a key contact who might be able to facilitate a CE course.
Before today, I did not realize that the ConMed Electrosurgery reps offered CE (or continuing education) courses to their customers. They have a number of topics they teach to hospital, such as a course on the importance of smoke evacuation. The hospital personal benefit by gaining CE points, necessary as health professionals. The rep gains a suitable audience.
When we entered the facility, we headed to sign in on RepTrax. Once Raquel had signed in to the RepTrax computer, it printed off a sticker for her to wear while in the facility. Most hospitals now have a similar vendor management system, which requires that all reps register and sign-in when visiting the facility. Those who don’t may find themselves escorted to the exit. When you are done in the facility, you must sign out. If you overstay the time period you’ve specified, then you get a black mark on your record.
From there, we headed to biomed. This was a mid-sized hospital, but the windowless halls were labyrinthine. At every intersection, there were signs indicating different directions for different departments. The thought occurred to me that as a new rep, one might have to allow almost as much time for navigating an unfamiliar hospital’s hallways as the roads to get there.
The first thing we saw when walking into the biomed office was a dismantled System 5000, the workhorse of the Conmed Electrosurgery product line. After introducing ourselves to the two friendly biomedical engineers, Raquel began examining the unit and asked the head biomed engineer what was wrong with it. She knew her product well and identified a possible need for an in-service to prevent a recurrence of the issue that had sidelined that particular unit. She also asked what I thought was a pretty good question, “Who yells when these are broken?”
The biomeds were quite willing to share information about ConMed Electrosurgery’s history and equipment in the account, as well as competitive equipment and status. They also gave her an overview of how many operating rooms there were in the facility. One of the biomeds mentioned that he was on the committee for new product evaluations. She also found out the names of several key contacts in the account.
Raquel had noted that biomedical engineering was a great place to gather information when first calling on a new account, and I could see why. When we left biomed, we had a pretty good initial overview of the status of the account.
From there, we called on several other departments in the hospital, including the O.R., GI Suite and Labor and Delivery. At each point, she gathered more information, and more contact names and numbers. Later, she shared her point of view on approaching gatekeepers with me. She said that when she begins talking to people, she shares information with everyone she speaks to about who and what she represents. She is careful to wait until she has a conversation underway before asking, “Who’s in charge (of making the particular decision)?” Asking this question upfront can sometime offend people, because they might think she’s implying the are not important enough. She also said because she makes sure everyone knows who she is and what she has to offer, that sometimes these gatekeepers will spread the word on her behalf if a need arises.
Before the end of the day, we made similar calls on a couple of other facilities. In these other facilities, she had more established relationships, so she followed up on specific opportunities. We did not go into the O.R., but she said on average she is in surgery a couple of times per week.
Between calls, I had a chance to ask her my 26 questions, and was able to get answers to pretty much all of them. That is more that I can write about in one post, but I promise to write more in the coming days. I learned so much today and can’t wait to share.