Marco Weijers, a leading sales expert with sales and negotiation specialists, Huthwaite International, the team behind the world-famous SPIN® Selling, outlines why creativity is crucial to business growth and success in the Medical Devices sector.
In 2018, Huthwaite International surveyed 300 sales leaders in the European medical devices sector.
The aim was to identify the sales challenges the sector is currently facing, and crucially, the strategies they are putting in place to overcome them.
While the findings were wide ranging, two key themes to emerge were the need for increasingly creative commercial models to ensure success today, as well as an ability to truly understand how to sell to the Decision Making Unit (DMU) in the future.
Clearly then, professionals today are placing the ability to add value to a sale through innovative commercials – arguably out of necessity – over the need to focus on price-led selling, which historically is founded upon the pillars of strong relationships and innovative product sets. Here we explore this issue in more detail.
Selling to the Decision Making Unit
The research suggests there is a desire for professionals to create new commercial models. That may mean providing added-value services such as remote patient monitoring, new payment models like pay-per-treatment, or more effective patient intervention that reduces hospital readmission. And they may end up being more valuable to the hospital than the device itself. This innovation is being driven by a perfect storm of healthcare reform and involves a need to prove clinical effectiveness and control costs, along with increasingly complex sales and contracting models.
This is a result, in part, of the need for professionals to sell to the DMU, cost reduction and reallocation, as well as new – often digital – promotional channels.
Creative commercials aside, interestingly, the second most sought-after skill in 2018 was the ability to understand digital sales tactics. Interactive sales tools, mobile management, immersive interactive experiences or technology visualisation are on the list. This also involves professionals using emerging social listening capabilities to gain new real-time insights into market perceptions of their products and more effectively managing their brands.
The future of selling to the DMU
According to the survey, effective selling to the DMU is the top skill required not today, but in the next 10 years. While this is by no means a new development, it is perhaps surprising that it only ranks in fourth position today. Perhaps this is an indication that medical device sales professionals view this issue as manageable now, but one which is going to grow in complexity in the future.
A new approach
Effectively selling to the DMU requires a fundamentally new approach. Sales professionals no longer solely focus on the objectives of the clinician (who, largely, is concerned with their own department and their own clinical needs). Now the focus has to be on a much wider group of stakeholders. The conversations value specific to each as well as more holistic business issues. For the sales professional this takes more time, and importantly, skill, to effectively deliver.
Solutions and outcomes
Is the focus on commercial creativity and multiple stakeholders the answer to achieving success now and in the future? One thing is for sure, the medical device sales team of the future is a lean and agile organisation that provides effective clinical and economic information to a growing stakeholder community. It is firmly focused on solutions and outcomes. The new sales team considers the needs of individual decision-makers and their preferences for interaction, and then aligns the product and organisation accordingly.
The needs of individual decision makers
New sales roles are being created beyond traditional legacy structures, which is when creativity becomes essential. Included are a more diverse range of positions, from traditional product and technical specialists, to contract and commercial specialists. In respect of this, existing sales roles are being diversified and broken out to include value-creating sellers, commercial specialists, technical and product specialists. These new roles provide different skills, and their involvement often comes at different stages of the sales cycle. It results in the ability to offer different price points, enabling medical device companies to optimise cost while effectively engaging with an evolving client base. For example, where technical advice may have historically been offered freely by the technically focused seller, this is now a more formalised optional and costed add-on service.
Larger organisations are repurposing team structures on the back of natural divisions occurring amongst sellers. There are those keen to learn effective selling skills and therefore responding well to behaviour change training interventions and those preferring to remain in their familiar territory of features. There’s an argument for keeping people doing what they do best. There will always be a role for a technical articulation of product features; mainly to a technical audience and later in the decision-making process.
Securing and maximising high value sales
The flip side to all of this however is the need for Medical Devices companies to employ more roles to effectively secure and maximise a high value sale. To map this against selling skills and techniques, this represents a shift from traditional push selling techniques – based on factors such as mutual understanding, relationships and product features – to a more sophisticated and nuanced model of consultative selling. Here, the seller offers a solution and in some cases a whole new vision. It meets the client’s expressed and implied needs which can include commercial imperatives far removed from the product purchase in question. This approach is much more effective and sustainable, but does require the seller to be in command of their verbal behaviour, specifically their questioning techniques, to reveal the full needs picture and so align their solution creatively and persuasively.
The survey highlights the key difficulties in selling to the DMU, which we can expect to increase in the future as the tactics needed change. Here at Huthwaite International, we believe the solution comes from commercial creativity and a diverse set of skills in the sales team.
If you want to hear more about how Huthwaite International can help your sales team increase business revenue, contact [email protected]
Boeing, hit with $6.6 million FAA fine, faces much bigger 787 repair bill – sources
By Eric M. Johnson and David Shepardson
SEATTLE/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Boeing Co will pay a $6.6 million to U.S. regulators as part of a settlement over quality and safety-oversight lapses going back years, a setback that comes as Boeing wrestles with repairs to flawed 787 Dreamliner jets that could dwarf the cost of the federal penalty.
Boeing is beginning painstaking repairs and forensic inspections to fix structural integrity flaws embedded deep inside at least 88 parked 787s built over the last year or so, a third industry source said.
The inspections and retrofits could take weeks or even up to a month per plane and are likely to cost hundreds of millions – if not billions – of dollars, depending to a large degree on the number of planes and defects involved, the person said.
The Federal Aviation Administration said Boeing had agreed to pay $6.6 million in penalties after the aviation regulator said it failed to comply with a 2015 safety agreement.
The penalties include $5.4 million for not complying with the agreement in which Boeing pledged to change its internal processes to improve and prioritize regulatory compliance and $1.21 million to settle two pending FAA enforcement cases.
“Boeing failed to meet all of its obligations under the settlement agreement, and the FAA is holding Boeing accountable by imposing additional penalties,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement. Boeing, which paid $12 million in 2015 as part of the settlement, did not immediately comment.
Boeing engineers are working to determine the scope of inspections, including whether jets can be used as-is without a threat to safety, two people said. Boeing has not told airlines how many jets are impacted, another person said.
The FAA has been investigating instances of oversight lapses, debris left inside finished aircraft, and managers putting pressure on employees handling safety checks for the FAA, people familiar with the proceedings said.
For example, in August 2020, Boeing told to the FAA about the flaw involving structural wrinkling in the interior fuselage skin where carbon-composite barrels that form the plane’s lightweight body are melded together.
But the defect went unnoticed for months or longer because computerized safeguards that crunch data looking for quality flaws had not been programmed to look for the gaps, a third industry source said.
The 787 production problems have halted deliveries of the jet since the end of October, locking up a source of desperately needed cash for Boeing.
The fuel-efficient 787 has been a huge success with airlines, which have ordered 1,882 of the advanced twin-aisle jet worth nearly $150 billion (74.7 billion pounds) at list prices.
But the advanced production process and sprawling global supply chain caused problems over the years.
As of February, Boeing had fixed the 787 production process causing the wrinkling defect, according to two people familiar with the matter.
However, planes rolled off the assembly line with the flaw for more than a year, at least, continuing even after the flaw was discovered in August 2020.
“It’s difficult to see a definitive fix that is agreeable by the aviation authorities and all going forward,” Boeing customer Air Lease Corp’s CEO John Plueger told analysts on an earnings call Feb 22. “I don’t think that we’re there yet.”
Boeing has been working on the fuselage problem, and two additional potentially hazardous defects that arose since 2019, as it charted plans to consolidate final assembly of the 787 in South Carolina starting next month, at a sharply reduced rate of 5 787s per month.
One senior supply chain source said they will have to cut rate again.
Boeing said last month it expects to resume handing over a small number of 787s to customers later this quarter.
It has an ambitious internal plan to deliver 100 of the jets this year, one person said. Analysts say deliveries are not expected to recover to 2019 levels until at least 2024.
But before any jet is delivered, it must go through invasive inspections and costly repairs.
First, technicians must pull out the passenger seats, open up the floor paneling and use specialty tools to measure whether defects invisible to the naked eye are present, according to three people with direct knowledge of the process.
The repair work – already underway at Boeing factories in Everett, Washington and North Charleston, South Carolina – is even harder.
In the bowels of the jet, technicians have to remove multiple specialty fasteners on both sides of the inner fuselage skin, then install newly produced “shims” that fill out gaps and remove the structural dimpling. Workers then replace all the fasteners, re-paint, and re-install the interior, they said.
“It’s like open heart surgery,” one of the people said. “They’ll be retrofitting the fleet for potentially several years.”
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Additional reporting by Tim Hepher in Paris, David Shepardson in Washington, and Tracy Rucinski in Chicago; Editing by Nick Zieminski)
On a retro style milk truck, London entrepreneur chases a ‘zero waste’ future
By Natalie Thomas
LONDON (Reuters) – Heralded by the whirr of its underpowered electric engine and the clink of bottles stacked in crates on the back, Ella Shone’s ‘Topup Truck’ started life ferrying morning milk to the doorsteps of bleary-eyed Londoners.
Twenty years on, and the light vehicle known as a ‘milk float’ – once a ubiquitous sight on British streets – is enjoying a second career selling a range of goods and serving the 32-year-old’s quest to rid the city of single-use plastic.
“The fact that I’m driving around in a milk float does a lot for raising awareness in the local area,” said Shone, wearing a black beanie during her rounds in the borough of Hackney last week. “So now I’m operating at almost full capacity.”
Furloughed from her sales job during the coronavirus pandemic last spring, Shone used savings to start her new business, aiming to meet growing demand for household goods free of the plastic packaging used in supermarkets.
Customers book a visit from the ‘Topup Truck’ online and then purchase goods such as lentils, pasta, olive oil, shampoo or washing up liquid using their own containers.
From a low base a decade ago, the market for such unpackaged bulk goods could hit at least 1.2 billion euros ($1.5 billion) by 2030 in the European Union, according to a report https://zerowasteeurope.eu/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/2020_06_30_zwe_pfs_executive_study.pdf by Zero Waste Europe, an anti-waste network.
While handling the logistics can be a challenge, Shone calculates that her service has eliminated the need for at least 12,700 pieces of plastic since it launched in August.
Planning a crowdfunder to retrofit her milk float to enable her to serve a greater range of products to more communities, Shone hopes her novel approach will inspire others to find creative ways to tackle waste.
“If we want to have real change, it has to be a collective effort,” she said.
($1 = 0.8218 euros)
(Writing by Matthew Green, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)
Lufthansa adds more summer holiday destinations in bet on recovery
BERLIN (Reuters) – Lufthansa is adding more holiday destinations to its summer flight schedule from Germany in anticipation of a strong rebound in bookings, it said on Thursday, betting COVID-19 vaccines and testing will soon make vacation travel possible.
Germany’s largest airline said it was planning to add around 20 new destinations from Frankfurt and 13 from Munich to locations such as the Caribbean, the Canary Islands and Greece.
COVID-19 vaccines and testing, along with strict hygiene rules at airports and on planes, will be prerequisites for travel this summer, it said.
“We expect many countries to relax travel restrictions towards the summer as more and more people have been vaccinated,” Lufthansa board member Harry Hohmeister said in a statement.
Hohmeister said the airline, which secured a 9 billion euro ($11 billion) state bailout last year, expects a sharp increase in demand once restrictions are lifted.
Concerned about more transmissible coronavirus mutations, many European Union countries have reinstated border controls in what is normally a passport-free travel zone.
“There is a great yearning for travel and we believe that the summer months will reflect this,” Hohmeister added.
In Britain, holiday bookings soared this week after the government laid out plans to gradually relax coronavirus restrictions, giving battered airlines and tour operators hope that a bumper summer could come to their rescue.
Plans for relaxing coronavirus travel restrictions have not been announced yet in Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to discuss lockdown options with the head of the regional governments next Wednesday.
Lufthansa, which said in January it was losing a million euros every two hours, is due to publish its fourth quarter results on March 4.
($1 = 0.8187 euros)
(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa and Ilona Wissenbach. Editing by Mark Potter)
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