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There are three factors that play a pivotal role in healthcare sales reps’ ability to adjust to this virtual selling environment and deliver value that results in more appointments and more closed deals.

Between the virtual selling environment and the added pressure to fill unanticipated revenue gaps this year, even the most successful healthcare sales reps may be feeling a bit thrown off their games right now. The comfort zones of their tried-and-true practices are gone. Drop-in visits? Not likely. Hands-on product demos? Forget it. Instead, they’re being forced to adapt to a selling reality that requires getting an appointment, running a technology-driven meeting and adhering to tightly scheduled agendas. 

While the current situation is the byproduct of the pandemic and social distancing, salespeople shouldn’t expect that one day a light will switch on and everything will go back to “normal.” As hospitals, clinics, physicians and their practices begin to adapt to this new dynamic, you can expect that they’ll realize it has some benefits. They may decide that they don’t need as many reps coming by so frequently, or that they want to limit in-person meetings. Tighter policies could also restrict onsite access going forward. In all likelihood, the future of healthcare sales will be a blend. And that means salespeople need to sharpen their virtual selling skills now so they can be as comfortable and confident building relationships with customers through technology as they are in person.

Helping Healthcare Sales Reps Adjust to Virtual Selling

Here are three factors that play a pivotal role in healthcare sales reps’ ability to adjust to this virtual selling environment and deliver value that results in more appointments and more closed deals.

1 – Mindset Matters

Any selling situation that begins with a salesperson thinking “I can’t” or “I’m not sure” is starting out on the wrong foot. Because it’s so new to many healthcare sales reps, virtual selling has the potential to create inner doubts that will have a ripple effect on their success.

For example, a sales rep’s view of selling might be extremely positive when they’re in the customer’s environment and can see how what they’re doing impacts people’s lives. In a virtual situation, they might be more nervous and focused on the technical details and timing, losing sight of their purpose.

They might also question their belief in their abilities, wondering if they have the skills to be successful selling virtually. And their commitment to activities can also be affected, especially if they’re more comfortable with the old informal, drop-in culture. Now they have to book an appointment, do a lot of planning on the front end, use technology and be more deliberate overall.

From a coaching and training point of view, sales leaders need to focus on these mindset issues and beliefs first, because once they are in alignment, it will unleash the person’s energy and achievement drive. They can move on from the why to the how.

2 – Preparation is More Important Than Ever

We think of prep work as the basics, the fundamentals. But time is precious in virtual selling, which means everything you do outside the meeting itself is even more consequential. If you’re trying to get a customer on a web meeting or phone call, you need to be able to articulate what you’re proposing and, most importantly, why.

A great experience for the customer will be one that provides value, and to do that, you have to understand as much as you can about the customer and their situation, from their market to the research they’re involved with to the influencers and gatekeepers around the key stakeholder you’re trying to connect with and how they want to be communicated with.

Once that appointment is confirmed, the prep work moves to pre-call planning: What’s your objective? What one or two high impact questions do you need to ask? What questions might they ask you? What digital assets need to be queued up? Who needs to be on the meeting? Pre-call planning has always been important, but salespeople haven’t always been diligent about it. It’s much more complex — and more important — in virtual selling.

3 – Adapt Your Dialogue and Sales Strategies

Even if you’d never do it in a face-to-face meeting, it’s all too easy to fall into one-way presentation mode in a web conference meeting. Salespeople need to draw on all the principles they use during in-person meetings and upgrade them for an environment that’s one step removed. You can’t see all the body language cues, but you can sense the energy, pay attention to Behavior Styles and be vigilant about engaging in a two-way dialogue.

Another challenge of virtual meetings is that your time can unexpectedly get cut short. Here again, the fundamentals still matter: Establish a connection with the customer at the beginning and focus on building rapport, trust and credibility. If that’s all you get through, you’ll probably earn the right to another meeting.

One of the most effective ways to do this is through empathy — putting yourself in the shoes of your customers. This makes it much easier to deliver value that’s meaningful to them, and it ensures you’re making the best use of the customer’s time.

Don’t Forget the Healthcare Sales Managers

Healthcare sales managers may be nervous about how to coach and support their teams, since many of them haven’t done a lot of virtual selling themselves. Companies need to make sure they’re equipping their sales managers to coach effectively for virtual selling.

If you’re a manager, make it a point to learn everything your sales reps are learning and doing. Join them on calls. It’s much easier and more feasible now than it ever was. Use the video conferencing capabilities everyone’s developed over the past few months to give sales reps the opportunity to practice new skills and role-play in breakout groups. Take advantage of the positives that can come out of this virtual environment.

Ultimately, virtual selling demands not just a renewed commitment to the fundamentals, but an upgrade. With all the pressure everyone is experiencing, the risk is that salespeople will leave customers feeling like they’re being pushed to buy something rather than getting meaningful value out of the relationship. Get these three factors right, though, and your team will be prepared for not just virtual selling but whatever the future of healthcare sales brings.

About the Author
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John Crowder

John Crowder brings over 25 years of sales and leadership experience in the healthcare industry to the Integrity Solutions team. Prior to joining us, he worked for and led sales teams in medical device and pharma ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, spending a significant part of his career working in key account management, sales and leadership development, and marketing. Prior to his career in the medical space, John spent six years as a Division-1 football coach including a three year stint at the United States Naval Academy where he also served as a Commissioned Officer. John’s decades of experience and passion for coaching allow him to understand and address the unique needs and challenges of those in the sales and leadership professions. He lives in Annapolis, MD with his wife and two daughters.
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