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SEPTEMBER 2019: True salesmanship—professional selling—is an honorable trait and attribute. This is especially true in our field of medical device sales. Good salespeople solve problems. They are excellent at critical thinking. They are organized with their redemption of time and record-keeping. They are accurate in the conveyance of information the customer needs to know, especially when it comes to the use of medical devices. They know how to build relationships on foundations of integrity and clarity.
Ten Techniques of Surgical Selling
Leon C. Hirsch is credited with the original Ten Techniques of Surgical Selling during the 1980’s. The Company he founded was U.S. Surgical Corporation (a/k/a AutoSuture). I worked at AutoSuture from 1989 through 1994 as a sales rep, or Certified Stapling Technician. This company and its products forever changed and shaped how surgeons sutured. Instead of a needle and “thread,” AutoSuture introduced surgical staplers that would apply staples one-by-one, or in automated rows through the use of disposable cartridges.
The use of staplers revolutionized general surgery. They reduced O.R. time, anesthesia time, blood loss and resulted in faster recovery for the patient. Hospital stays were shortened and as a result, costs were reduced. Then came the innovation of minimally invasive surgery starting with the resection of a patient’s gallbladder (laparoscopic cholecystectomy) and eventually expanded into nearly every surgical specialty. This further benefited patients and lead to same day outpatient procedures, or just a one night stay that once called for several days spent in a hospital bed.
Even more remarkable is that Mr. Hirsch invented the first true professional medical device rep. It was done through an intense selection process, high standards and expectations, advanced clinical training and detailed sales training. At one point, the Wall Street Journal labeled the AutoSuture salesforce as “the Green Berets of the surgical selling world.”
So how does this relate to the spinal implant sales professional or selling an expandable cage like L-Varlock®?
In every way possible. Spinal implant sales professionals need to know their products better than anyone in the world, know their customers’ needs, know their roles in helping surgeons, hospitals and the O.R. staff solve problems, and most importantly: ALWAYS have the best interests of the patient in mind. The patient is always the ultimate end user of a medical device. Although these attributes of professional medical device selling have not been completely lost, they are not as prevalent as they once were.
At SpineSource, we have no choice but to try to resurrect the art of salesmanship. The reason is because the L-Varlock Expandable Cage has unique features that result in benefits. These features and benefits are intuitive:
- Easy design.
- Easy to use and implant.
- Up to 24° of angle
- Up to 7 mm of expansion.
- Large amount of bone graft in an open framework design that can be packed prior to and after implantation.
If these differences are not correctly presented, they will never be assigned a value in the mind of the customer. But selling differences does not start with any selling at all. It starts with creating enthusiasm.
1. Create Enthusiasm
The first thing you must do to create enthusiasm is to be enthusiastic yourself. It must be honest and genuine. If you don’t believe in what you’re selling, then do not sell it. If you do believe in it, then your enthusiasm should come naturally. Enthusiasm begins with a smile, firm handshake and direct eye contact. Once you have mentally engaged your customer, your voice tone, cadence, body language and smile will continue to engage your customer. Body language is most important and speaks louder than any vocabulary. You must be a happy person and project that to your customer. Not fake. Genuine.
To create your own internal enthusiasm and project it outward, you need to know your product. Be trained on it. Be confident in its capacity to deliver safe and consistent performance. Believe in what it can do for the patient which will translate to benefits for surgeon, hospital and O.R. staff. You must invest time into yourself as well. Have a positive and relaxed mental attitude. Exercise daily. Eat right. Dress professionally. Engage people intellectually, emotionally and verbally while always being positive. Don’t be intimidated by the negativity we see in our healthcare industry at times and culture. Live above the circumstances and be a light and positive influence to all those in your periphery.
Try It Yourself
Do an experiment with people around you and approach them two ways: without enthusiasm and then with enthusiasm. Observe how they change in their level of attention to you and how they listen and respond to you. Create enthusiasm. It is contagious. It is the first step to engaging your customer to get their attention, have interest that will lead to the desire, then to take action on your product.
For me personally, I have been wildly enthusiastic about most everything about life in general and about every medical device SpineSource has provided since 2004, especially the L-Varlock Expandable Cage. It truly is an incredible product that is better than the competitors for a lot of reasons. It works consistently as indicated. It is safe and effective and that alone gets me “excited” about the future. I know it can positively impact the lives of people in many different ways! I hope it does the same for you.
Next blog will be on Technique #2: Open-ended Probes.
SpineSource, Inc. was founded in 2004 and is based in the St. Louis suburb of Chesterfield, Missouri, USA. SpineSource has a consistent history of introducing disruptive innovation within the medical device industry: primarily expandable cages used for intervertebral spinal fusions and vertebral body replacement. These expandable cages have benefited surgeons, hospitals and most importantly, patients with spinal disorders because they provide an atraumatic surgical technique, as well optimal sizing and positioning. Please visit www.spinesource.com for more information.