By Michael Levey, Director of Public Relations & Communications
Olympus Corporation of the Americas
As the director of public relations in the Americas for a global medical device company, being successful in my role is all about building relationships. This can be with reporters, physicians, surgeons, advocacy groups, government officials, and others. Similar to a PR role, the core to medical device sales is building relationships with physicians, surgeons and other influencers in the hospital. Here is a look at some of the techniques I use to build relationships in PR that can also help the medical sales side of the business.
1 Leverage LinkedIn
Use LinkedIn to build and strengthen relationships with hospitals. Are there any influencers you know in the hospital who might send a LinkedIn request? Adding just five new people (friends or business associates) can potentially grow your network to thousands of new contacts—and might even surprise you by connecting you to the CEO or CFO of a major hospital. I’ve found LinkedIn helpful for connecting with target organizations through employees that went to my college or fraternity. In addition, LinkedIn can help when researching a customer or prospect in advance of a meeting: knowing their background and interests can help guide an engaging discussion.
2 Set Google Alerts
Setting alerts for important customers and facilities will help you stay in the know. If an important customer wins an award or publishes a paper, you can be the first to congratulate him or her. In addition, staying up to speed on a hospital can keep you informed with important news, whether it’s a major facility nearby, or a smaller one several hours away that you don’t see as often. An example is a company I worked with that sells rapid HIV tests to the public health market. We would use Google alerts to identify facilities that received large grants or funding for HIV testing that the sales reps would target.
3 Find Local Community and Networking Events
Search for local events important customers or prospects are attending. For example, I recently went to the Philadelphia Heart Walk where several local hospitals were sponsors. C-suites and nursing staff were in attendance. What better way to meet an important prospect than in a relaxed environment where you both share a passion for an important cause? Another example: I was recently asked by a sales VP how a new rep might connect to a hospital CEO in his region. After a quick Google search, we found that the CEO recently co-chaired a March for Babies event and is an active member and mentor in his local Chamber of Commerce chapter. Connecting to those organizations and events could help this rep greatly.
4 Introduce Customers to Reporters
Reporters are always looking for new sources and experts for their stories. When traveling to trade shows, I will connect physicians and surgeons to reporters at the Olympus booth, or make an email introduction for a rep’s customer who is willing to speak to the media. A simple introduction can go a long way toward helping our customers get quoted in articles. From my experience, many customers love to go to TV studios and be on camera. This can be done by reaching out to your PR and marketing teams who have these contracts, and can confirm if the customer is vetted and cleared for speaking with the media. In the past few years, our HCPs (physicians/surgeons) have been featured in hundreds of articles/TV segments, translating to $2mm of earned media and helping customers increase procedure volumes.
5 Sign up for Presentation Training
If you haven’t invested in a full 1-2 day presentation training course, consider it. I think the most useful part of the class is seeing oneself on videotape. Just as making a small grip adjustment on a golf course can yield a much better stroke, making a small change to your speaking style can do wonders with a customer. In a purchasing environment where VACs and C-suites are playing a greater role in the purchasing decision, presentation skills matter—in the boardroom, yes, but also don’t forget about your next in-service, surgeon dinner or bumping into the hospital CFO in the elevator. Two companies I like and have used are Dale Carnegie and Communispond.
6 Partner on Co-Marketing
At Olympus, we’ve built a hospital marketing toolkit website where physicians and surgeons can download templates and resources to promote our medical technology and procedures. We’ve found this to be a nice value-add for customers and already received thousands of downloads. All customers want to increase visibility to their practice and procedure volume. In many cases, the success stories in the news have driven other facilities near one of our users to evaluate our technology. To be compliant, we offer these resources to all our customers. We recently had a hospital in Pennsylvania purchase our 3D surgical video system. When asked what drove the purchase, the Director of Surgical Services referred to an article on our 3D technology she saw in the newspaper.
7 Remember Birthdays
This can be a customer’s birthday, son/daughter’s graduation, or other important date or event. In the book Never Eat Alone, the author Keith Ferrazzi shares an emotional impact he had on a customer simply by remembering his birthday. Birthdays are a quick and easy way to follow up with key customers by setting alerts in our smart phones. And customers are usually in a good mood on their birthdays!
I don’t think the fundamentals of relationship building in medical device sales will ever change: we must always provide differentiated products, be present in procedures and deliver extraordinary service. But collaborating with others in relationship building roles—across your company and other industries—might provide new tools that separate you from the pack. The good news is you can do both. •
Michael Levey, Director of Public Relations & Communications, joined Olympus Corporation of the Americas in 2013 as the Director of Public Relations for its Medical Systems Group. Prior to Olympus, he held account management and sales roles for the communications agency Zer0 to 5ive, where he worked with OraSure Technologies, Cohera Medical and other medical device companies. This year Michael was named one of the Lehigh Valley Business Journal’s “Forty Under 40”. Olympus is a global medical device leader, developing solutions for healthcare professionals that help improve outcomes, reduce costs and enhance quality of life for patients. Olympus is committed to the idea that less invasive procedures, such as diagnostic and therapeutic endoscopy, represent the future of healthcare.