COVID-19 has changed the game for medtech companies and their access to accounts. Early in the pandemic, only essential workers were allowed into healthcare settings. With COVID cases on the rise again, some of these restrictions could come back, and longer term, only representatives who have clinical reasons and strong connections to the hospital will be allowed access to stakeholders. There’s been a discussion about medtech representatives’ presence, particularly non-customers.
This shift in hospital engagement creates a clear “home field advantage” for incumbents and makes it more challenging for medtech manufacturers to win competitive accounts. Customers are expected to slow down switching from existing vendors, creating opportunities for incumbents to consolidate business and increase share of wallet. As an analog to the challenges the healthcare system is facing, a recent ZS survey shows that we are still seeing limitations in new patient visits and diagnoses (see Figure 1 below). Patients often aren’t showing up based on COVID fears, and therefore hospitals are limiting access to minimize COVID spread and are less likely to switch to a different medtech supplier.
This new home field advantage means medtech manufacturers need to get more creative in driving commercial execution. Here’s how to change your strategy to be successful with new accounts:
- Expand the playbook: Having a “solution-oriented” mindset vs. a “features and benefits” mindset is more important now than ever before. Have a hook, something new and valuable that hospital and surgery center stakeholders care about. COVID-19 has brought several issues such as hospital finances, staff wellness and infection risk to the forefront for both clinical and non-clinical stakeholders. Your field representatives will be more welcome at new accounts if they can directly address these problems, or other unique challenges stakeholders have. For example, a medtech company that sells primarily to general cardiologists (GCs) changed its overall selling approach. During pre-pandemic times, reps focused on the features and benefits in their portfolio. However, as access declined, they pivoted to focusing more on clinical success and decision-making by the GCs. The conversations shifted from “what our products do” to “how our products can help advance your clinical decision making, practice and research.” This approach made it easier for them to access and talk to customers.
- Expand the field: Leverage an underused asset in medtech: marketing. Marketing departments can create compelling and relevant digital content to get clinical stakeholders excited about the company’s offerings. Digital and on-demand programs, webinars and trainings will help grow new relationships. Don’t reduce overall SG&A, but rather reallocate it between in-field and non-personal channels. COVID-19 has also accelerated the pace at which procedures are shifting to non-hospital settings such as outpatient and ambulatory surgical centers. Find ways to expand connections there through a different service or offering, partnership model or value proposition than the ones for acute settings.
COVID-19 has changed the game for medtech manufacturers, and it’s time to adopt a different approach for customer engagement when going after competitive accounts. This doesn’t just require a shift in sales force behavior, it requires a 360-degree change in commercial execution. Your marketing, sales and customer service departments need to work together on customer orchestration to help break your competitors’ home field advantage.