My Medical Device Sales Career
Desperate times call for desperate measures. During such times you need to step out of your comfort zone and do something that you would never consider otherwise. Sometimes you need to poke the bear!
Despite our best efforts there are times when a customer simply won’t respond as we think they should. They do not buy or commit when there is no reason not to. They have offered no objections – in fact, they are usually the glad hander who tells you over and over that they intend to move forward with the sale. Problem is, they never do.
After trying all other approaches, you may determine it’s time to poke the bear. Now, what might happen if you poked a real bear? That’s right, you may find yourself face to face with an angry beast that could do some real damage! Herein lies the risk: some very negative things can happen to us if we “poke” our customer.
Why, then, am I advocating “poking the bear?” There are times when we simply need to generate a response – good or bad, to get to the truth. We need to get to the heart of the matter even if we risk making our customer mad in the process. Some customers won’t reveal their true objection or reason for lack of action without a strong stimulus – like a poke from a sharp (verbal) stick.
In this situation the best approach is very direct. Be courteous and professional, but be direct. You must confront the situation without wavering. Summarize what had been discussed before and ask why the customer has not followed through on their commitment. As you can imagine, this kind of confrontation can be very uncomfortable and physicians and nurses do not like being put on the spot by us sales people.
In my experience, this technique has elicited both good and bad responses from my customers. One time the physician was so shocked that he acknowledged his lack of follow through and promised to correct it. And, he did!
Other times did not go so well – at first. I had to be willing to upset my customer to get my point across and uncover the real reason behind their lack of commitment. In those cases I was able to come back on a subsequent call and begin to make progress. I had to “apologize” for my previous actions but the point was made. I learned what I needed to, so we were then able to move forward and grow our business together.
I have not seen a customer truly alienated by this technique, but I can see where it could happen. You have to assess the risks and then be willing to live with the consequences. Again, you’re poking the bear, so be prepared for what can come next.
This week, as you venture out to fight the good fight, consider whether or not you have some bear poking to do. Is there a stagnant opportunity that needs some new life? Do you have a customer who is simply unresponsive? Poke the bear! If you live through it, you just may see some sales that would have otherwise gone into hibernation. Good luck!
By Kevin Onarecker