If you spend a day with a highly accomplished medical sales person then you are probably going to hear that one of their primary drivers for success is cultivating surgeon relationships. It is a rather obvious point but there is certainly more to this story. You will hear such things as “champion, KOL, thought leader, advocate, race horse, Big Dog and a host of other terms of endearment.
They will tell you that they possess the unique ability to build solid relationships very quickly. It gets real interesting when you then ask them how they are able to do so when so many others cannot to the same degree. The typical response is something like “I just do what comes natural” or “it is hard to explain but I just see things differently” or “I have the rare gift of connecting with my customers” or “my customers just know that they are in good hands with me.” You walk away feeling like you just had a close encounter with Haley Joel Osment from the Sixth Sense ( I see dead people) or maybe “Luke Skywalker” and being that you are a mere mortal, the “force” and the super natural are beyond your comprehension. Do you have a “Luke Skywalker” in your sales force? I bet you do and I also bet that he is your #1 sales trainer based on his performance. I found this to be of particular interest because this is often the very same person that is used as the gold standard for “what good looks like” in the sales force. “Houston,we have a problem…“
This is where the story gets really interesting. Poor old “Luke” is being paraded around like a show pony and asked to train most of the new people but he is unable to actually articulate what makes him so successful. Since repetition is the mother of all learning, maybe we can just have the trainee spend the next six months with “Luke” to learn his moves. It worked for Danielson in the Karate Kid(Wax on, wax off) and maybe Mr. Miyagi is looking for a job as a sales trainer. On second thought, that probably won’t work either. Instead, we settle for a 3-5 day field ride whereby the trainee watches “Luke” perform his magic show hoping to bottle it up and take “it” home upon the completion of the training ride. It begs the question, “Is selling medical products an art or science? I would argue both and in the meantime you may want to consider giving “Luke” some science classes.
“First management had plans, and then strategic plans. Now we have vision, and we’re only one small step from hallucination.” – Ainsley Throckmorton
Devin Hughes is an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at CONNECT, an independent non-profit organization servicing the San Diego region that links high technology and life sciences entrepreneurs with the resources that they need for success: Technology, money, markets, management, partners and support services. Springboard, CONNECT’s flagship program, is a business creation and development program. Innovators at all stages receive hands-on mentoring by successful business leaders in the Entrepreneurs-in-Residence Program. He mentors for start-up pharmaceutical, biotech, diagnostics and medical device companies.
Image above acquired through Wikipedia.