Letting the Marketing Cat out of the Medtech Bag

This week in Pedersen's POV, our senior editor has the skinny on why medtech reps hate their marketing colleagues.

Amanda Pedersen

May 22, 2023

3 Min Read
Pedersen POV 5-22-23 quote graphic about medtech reps and marketing professionals.

Call me naïve, but until recently I thought marketing professionals and sales reps liked each other.

Then I came across a LinkedIn post from Omar M. Khateeb, a medtech podcaster and consultant for medtech reps, that revealed how very wrong I was. In the post, Khateeb goes as far as to say that medtech reps hate marketing.

"Most medtech marketing isn't really marketing," Khateeb said. "Marketing is doing 'sales at scale' by tapping into existing market desires and channeling them towards a product or service."

He acknowledged that most medtech marketers are experts in product management, KOL development, and events.

"But they never carried the bag, let alone sold anything in their life," Khateeb said.

He goes on to complain that marketing professionals lack the ability to study and understand what it takes to sell and how they can use marketing to enhance the process.

"They don't know anything about pipeline velocity, meeting-to-demo conversions, show up rates, or sales process optimization," he said. "Worse, they don't go and find out."

And here I thought marketing and sales teams shared a common goal of helping the company succeed. Silly me.

Khateeb admits that medtech reps don't help the situation because many of them are equally clueless about those metrics.

"They just want to focus on closing deals and see sales as an event rather than a process," Khateeb said. "Until these things are addressed this negative dynamic will persist."

I'm not a marketing professional myself, nor have I ever "carried the bag" so I really don't have a horse in this race. But it seems like an easy solution (or at least a step in the right direction) would be some job shadowing. Why not invite your marketing colleagues to spend a couple days in the field with you? I've heard medtech CEOs talk about doing this when they first join a new company to get a feel for the pain points of both their reps and their customers. Surely the same strategy could ease tensions between sales and marketing?

"I am glad you said most and not all… because I would have been really offended," Sherrie Van Oss, a senior marketing manager at Hyperfine, told Khateeb in the comments of his post. "I swore when I went into marketing, I would never be the marketer who lived in the clouds and was out of touch with the boots on the ground."

Lisa Sullivan, a training leader for medtech sales reps learning new technologies, agreed with Khateeb that there is a significant gap between marketing and sales.

"Sales can take pieces and parts of approved marketing content and create useful pieces for each stage or stakeholder, but few want to take the time," she said. "Marketing could also do the same, but again, they don’t know how to simplify and apply from a sales perspective. Marketing likes the PhD version where sales would like the picture books."

Khateeb suggests that marketing should start to own revenue. In other words, if sales misses a quota, he believes the marketing team should have some ownership in that miss as well.

Mark Copeland said he also agrees with many of Khateeb's points, and he points to a lack of branding in medtech compared to other industries.

"Don't you think they need to do more actual customer or potential end user surveying and analysis? If you ask Ford who buys the new Mustang, they'll tell you all about who that buyer is, what they aspire to, etc.," Copeland points out. "Some of it is nonsense, but a lot of it is actual market research."

These are all interesting points that makes me think the problem Khateeb describes is widespread in medtech, and perhaps in other industries as well. And while I'm not able to speak from experience on either side of this debate, I would reiterate my earlier point about job shadowing. Cliche as it may be, both reps and marketers could gain a lot of insight from carrying each other’s bag for a stretch.

About the Author(s)

Amanda Pedersen

Amanda Pedersen is a veteran journalist and award-winning columnist with a passion for helping medical device professionals connect the dots between the medtech news of the day and the bigger picture. She has been covering the medtech industry since 2006.

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