Blog Index
The journal that this archive was targeting has been deleted. Please update your configuration.
« The 8th Place Trophy | Main | Where have the Brigadiers gone? »

Technology vs Salesmenship

I was reading a blog the other day and the author was lamenting how there is nothing new in the spine industry. He went onto say that companies need to get off the schnide and get some new groundbreaking technology to drive the industry.  Now I do not totally disagree with this thought, however, I do believe that when technology slows, whether in this industry or others, the quality of its selling organizations are what drive the business. Those companies that succeed have one thing in common...the sales teams sell.  They do their job. This is an age old debate, salesmanship vs technology,  but one I think that needs revitalization or in the very least re-visiting.

Look at the companies that were built on strong selling organizations.....Stryker and Biomet are two that come to mind for me immediately.  Stryker I know because I worked there and Biomet because it is in their DNA to provide the best individualized attention to the surgeon customer.  Both companies had their share of product innovations, but the sales growth of both companies came from the sales teams...not the technology.  The model at Stryker was simple; you don't have to be the first to market, just be the best when you get there.  And being the best meant having the best trained, most professional selling organization.  You, as a salesperson, were expected to grow faster than the market.  I can not speak for the Biomet group, but I do know that all my competitors did one thing very well...they stayed close to the customer and listened to that customer.  The results were...strong sales performance industry wide.

Now in today's marketplace we are seeing the results of an industry shift of lowering the bar of salesmanship.  Salespeople no longer are trained on the finer points of salesmanship, they are given a power point presentation or a video conference on a new technology and expected to deliver the message as robots.  There is no longer a discussion between the customer and the sales person.  Why?  Because the "corporate" guys decided, somewhere around 2005-2007 that training, education and skill development was no longer needed in the sales environment.  That the knowledge base of battle tested veterans of the sales trenches can/could be replaced a web site, a tweet or God forbid another power point emailed to the rep from the marketing.  This was the infamous, "We are going to change the sales model." The appearance of the Pharma model was / is very attractive to the Medical Device leaders...with their 15 -18 % COS vs the 30+ per cent  in the ortho/spine business.  So if you change the sales model and lower the quality of the salespeople you can bring the COS down to ensure the profit expected.  In real world stuff its called " managing the bottom line."  Lower costs should bring greater margins...makes sense.  The CEO's job is to bring value to the shareholder.

So is it the CEO's fault we as salespeople find ourselves in the predicament?  Yes...and No.  I answer this way because the CEO is only responding to market conditions.  One thing I know about CEO's is that if something or someone brings value, they want to keep that value...even at a higher cost.  So that begs the question..."When did the selling arms of the ortho/spine business stop bringing value?"  My guess is it is somewhere around 2005-2007, when salespeople started the refrain, " I don't have anything new to sell!!"  My competition is smaller and they have the latest, hottest, technology and if I don't have that I can't compete with that.  This is when the salespeople stopped talking to the customer, they stopped asking for the business, they felt they earned the business and shouldn't have to work for it...everyday.  They stopped being a member of the surgeon's team and that is when they stopped bringing value to the customer.  When you stop bringing value to the customer, you stop bring value to the company.  It is the old domino effect. So in a sense, we, the salespeople have done this to ourselves.

But that is not to say, The company ( i.e. The CEO) isn't responsible for this situations too.  With the average ortho/spine company spending between 5 - 8 % on R&D and the average new product rolls out the door every 3 years,  there is less value in this group as well.  So the two pieces go together and the "blame" goes on both sets of shoulders.  The job of the sales force is to sell...especially when R&D is slow in getting new technologies and products to market.  The sales teams have to grow the business with what they have in the bag.  It is your value to the organization.  If all you can do is sell the new technology, then your value is diminished, especially in the eyes of the CEO.  He / she expects you to sell everything the company has to the customer.  Worry about whether you are creating value to your customer and your company.  Let the CEO worry about the R & D guys.

So go out and do your job...sell something.

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>