5 Data-Driven Insights for Managing Sales Teams at the Speed of Change

Here's how medical device companies can hire and train new sales representatives to understand the fast-changing needs of customers in order to sell the technology effectively.

August 1, 2016

5 Min Read
5 Data-Driven Insights for Managing Sales Teams at the Speed of Change

Here's how medical device companies can hire and train new sales representatives to understand the fast-changing needs of customers in order to sell the technology effectively.

Rick Trank and Lisa Clark

As the medical device industry continues to undergo significant changes in how it operates, the requirements of accountable care organizations (ACOs) and customer-centric approaches have become the highest priority for hospital administrators and healthcare providers. The ACO, in particular, places a degree of financial responsibility on healthcare providers. This means that medical device reps need to understand and speak to changing healthcare regulations, while simultaneously demonstrating how the technology and services offered can improve patient outcomes and lower costs to the business.

The result of these evolving marketplace dynamics includes greater complexity in developing and coaching sales reps for success. As organizations continue to add new sales professionals to meet growing revenue targets, they'll also need to consider new approaches to achieving their goals. The following data-driven insights can help managers cost-efficiently onboard, develop and coach new reps to deliver desired results at the speed of change--for both the organization and the customer.

  1. Identify baseline skills of new recruits. The sheer volume of information, especially technical information, that new medical reps are required to take in can be overwhelming, and ensuring that the onboarding program targets their individual skill gaps can go a long way in reducing the dilemma of "drinking from the fire hose." Yet, without evaluating new hires' baseline proficiency in all areas at the start of the onboarding program, organizations cannot know where these reps stand in their level of sales skill or industry knowledge, and a "one size fits all" program is not as effective. Using data to understand baseline knowledge, organizations can tailor programs that recognize new hire strengths and close any gaps in the knowledge and skills required to be successful with buyers.

  2. Correlate proficiency with productivity and performance. Sales support and reinforcement strategies are imperative to the development process. When new hires come onboard--many of them new to the medical device industry--they require more than just an intensive training program to meet their goals. Without data-driven insight into whether reps are on track with required skills, managers are unable to proactively course-correct. Real-time proficiency data can show, for example, that a rep who may have booked only two meetings over a three-week period compared to another who booked 10 meetings over the same period, may be struggling with prospecting skills. Data insights such as these enable onboarding teams to focus their early-stage efforts on highly targeted opportunities for improvement.

  3. Identify and measure proficiency and improvement over time. In an industry that emphasizes customer service, medical device reps are often called upon to handle a wide range of client demands. This dynamic requires sales readiness at a level above other industries, and the need to keep sales support programs in continuous synch with ever-changing requirements. By measuring proficiency and improvement of knowledge and skills of reps over time--not just during onboarding--management can proactively address gaps before they negatively impact market share. In the case of top-performing teams, this is managed at scale through ongoing reinforcement and insights achieved through sales capabilities platforms designed to track proficiency against the knowledge and skills that matter most in driving ACO buying decisions.

  4. Create a sales coaching plan with data. A recent CSO Insights study found that companies that provide proactive coaching saw 68% of their reps achieve quota versus only 48% of those where coaching practices were substandard. However, most organizations face obstacles to effective coaching. Sales managers are universally strapped for time and may lack the skills to coach. Moreover, some managers may focus on a single opportunity with a prospect rather than help new hires gain core skills and behaviors needed for ongoing success. Using data insights to achieve a good understanding of reps' skills and performance, managers can more easily diagnose the skills each rep needs to improve and target coaching on areas that will have the greatest impact.

  5. Optimize future hiring profiles. While a comprehensive onboarding program is essential to sales success, it's equally important to hire the right people. Using a data-driven approach, organizations can correlate proficiency and performance with the background and experience of top-performing reps, and create a profile that reflects the skill sets and background most likely to succeed in the medical device industry. This will help hiring managers to understand the ideal qualities and capabilities for future hires and predict the potential for success in the medical device field prior to making hiring decisions.

By evaluating the knowledge and skills of reps on a continuous basis, organizations can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their sales development programs. Research shows that firms that employ continuous reinforcement approaches achieve 20% higher quota attainment, adding up to millions in revenue each year. Moreover, a proactive, data-driven approach lets management quickly assess whether medical device sales reps possess the capabilities to meet value-based selling criteria.

Rick Trank is director of Commercial Excellence at Medtronic. As a member of the executive sales management team, he helps to lead the strategic, cross-functional planning, and execution sales strategy and alignment, programs, and compensation. 

Lisa Clark is Vice President of Marketing at Qstream. She has 20 years of experience building high-value software companies, brands, and market share.


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