Today’s article is how to enhance and modernize a legacy sales process. The purpose of a sales process is to win more deals, win bigger deals and to do it faster. As a guide, download our 10th annual workbook, How to Make Your Number in 2017. Turn to the sales strategy section and flip to the Sales Process phase on page 279 of the PDF.
Standard one-size-fits-all sales methodologies no longer work. The competitors can license the same sales methodologies from the same vendors you can, so there is no competitive advantage to be had by adopting the latest sales methodology from the sales training industry. To increase deal sizes, improve win rates and shorten sales cycles, you need to adopt a custom, proprietary sales process/methodology.
To address this topic, we interviewed Lori Chmura, Vice President of US Sales for Cordis. Lori has over 28 years of business experience, and has deployed a version of a customized sales process during her tenure. During the interview, Lori will demonstrate how she re-deployed a legacy sales process.
You need to win more deals in less time. Upgrading your sales process is one way to do this. Specifically, by deploying a customized sales process. To structure the conversation, we are using SBI’s Revenue Growth Methodology.
The following are the key questions and responses from my interview with Lori.
Lori, let’s package this up in a neat little call to action for the audience. What are three things that you think they should do immediately following this show, what would you have them do?
I feel like you can boil the ocean with this and do so many things. I think the first thing I would say is take the time to look at yourself and your organization very critically and ensure that you really do have a process and a system that drives accountability, whether it’s fancy like salesforce.com or as antiquated as what we’re using in the AID sales process is to really understand how it’s being used in the field and how it’s being used to drive your number.
Then I would take the time to meet with your sales leaders and your field leaders and really hear from them what’s working and what’s not working, and then roll up your sleeves and continue to drive the processes and drive the accountability that you need to get the results that you need.
How do your customers buy your products?
That’s a great question because that is really transforming as we speak. As healthcare reform is out there and changing the way that hospitals do business, what we’re seeing is that’s represented a transformation in our market as well. Historically, our products were all purchased by the physician alone, and there wasn’t really anybody that challenged them or looked at it. It’s a highly complex medical device at the time, and it was largely decided upon by the physicians and how they want to use it with their patients.
What we’ve seen over the past about two and a half to three years is that now it’s becoming more what I would call a complex sales process, in that the physician is one decision-maker, who’s a very important decision-maker, but really the decision is now being made by the economic buyers who are challenging some of those recommendations of the physician.
Does your company use a formal sales process? If so, does it now map to this different buying environment, or is it still legacy based on the old way these products got bought?
That’s a great question, and it’s certainly something that we struggled with internally. I think the short answer is we really don’t have what I would declare a formal sales process, but we have a robust, jerry-rigged, if you will. When I joined the organization about a little over two years ago, as you said, there was really no mechanisms in place at all to really track, monitor sales, or have a sales process.
That was probably one of the things that I brought forth quickly is looking at how we can get some robust data and use it to integrate into what we’re doing and what our decision making is. Most of what we use right now is spreadsheet-based, dashboard-based, and we really home-grew it, if you will, to make it as comprehensive as we need to really look at how customers bought.
I would say that, and getting a little bit off-track but I think it’s relevant, because the focus was so on the physician before, and it was very relationship driven, I would say, and transactional, what we were noticing is that the business was opportunistic. As physician relationships where there and the rep was physically in the room, they had the opportunity to demo the product and they got the product used.
What we started to notice, though, is that we really didn’t have repeat business. The churn rate was just very, very high. It was very transactional. One of the things that we immediately started to do was to say, “How can we really sustain some business, develop a strong foundation so that we can grow from there?” The only way that we knew to do that is to start coming up with what kinds of tools and spreadsheets and data that we can use to help drive that.
You’re a great example of what I see a lot of right now, which is a very effective approach. Instead of waiting for the parent company or headquarters to understand the change in buying behavior and come up with a formal program and go top-down with it, what you’ve done is you and your team are close to these customers and you understand how they’re changing. You’re bootstrapping a bottoms-up organic process. Very often, when it happens that way, the results are great because it’s driven from what’s happening day-to-day versus maybe something that might be a little academic that comes out of a sales training department.
Right. Exactly. We layered that. What we did is we took those processes and we formalized them, as I said, through the spreadsheets. Then we implemented what we call, and I think it’s relatively standard, but a quarterly business review process. Every quarter, we bring the division managers in and started to look at the granularity of the business, starting from the rep himself or herself, and looking at what competencies that we saw that drove results from a rep perspective, what their track record of success was, what their development opportunities were, what their strengths were.
Then the second page was really a granular and robust look at how they’re performing within the territory. We looked at their top 10 accounts, what the percentage of those top 10 accounts do for their overall business, are they declining, are they growing, and just really going through a week-long process, manager by manager, rep by rep, and helping to track pipeline.
Again, it’s old school, roll up your sleeves, no salesforce.com, no fancy funnels, just, “Okay. You said you were going to do this last quarter, we’re looking at this quarter. Are the results there or are they not there? Why not? Was it a rep problem? Was it a market problem? Was it a product problem? What drove our lack of success or success?”
Lori, how do your sales reps know when a buyer moves from one stage in the sales methodology to the next, moving along the buyer’s journey?
Yeah, that’s a great question. I will tell you that, candidly, we’re probably not very good at predicting that right now. I think it’s one of the areas of opportunity that we’ve identified from a cycle perspective. Because our buying process have shifted from the physician … It was simple before; the rep would meet with the physician, they’d detail the product, they’d be standing in the case, they’d look for an opportunity within that particular procedure to use and deploy the product, the physician would try the product in the case, it would work. He would sign a sell sheet and the rep would walk down to the materials management office, hand it to them, and they’d order it.
Today what we’re seeing is that sometimes the reps not even allowed in the labs or the operating suite to even can demo the product with the physician. They’ve got to go through a value analysis committee. They’ve got to present detailed information not only on our products, but on our competitors’. We compete with anywhere from seven to nine folks in the space, which is relatively unusual, I think, in the medical device space. They’d go through that process, and oftentimes that process by the hospital is still ill-defined because the hospitals are also transforming.
We really, again, go back to the old school, grassroots, asking a lot of questions. Where is it in the process? Who signed off on it? When do we think, it’s going to close? As I said candidly, a lot of it is very subjective and a lot of guess work. Because of that, our sales cycle is much longer, I think, then it needs to be to be effective, so we need to have far more deals working to get a hit rate that helps us to make the number.
I appreciate your honesty and transparency in telling us where you guys are in terms of your journey here to react to this new environment that we’re operating in. What was interesting about your story there is that not only are you changing as a company and learning how to sell to this new buying dynamic, but your customers who are making these purchase decisions, they’re developing their own new processes in reaction to the new environment. There’s chaos on both sides.
Right. That’s exactly right. I often will be heard saying that the medical device company that can figure out how to be that conduit between the economic buyer and the clinical buyer and define that process very well I think is the one that’s going to win, because I think that’s really a tremendous opportunity.
I sat in at a presentation at a recent conference. It was supply chain conference and I was the only device manufacturer in the room.
The entire discussion centered around how do the supply chain folks and the economic buyers gain control of physician preference items because it’s costing their hospitals millions of dollars by not conforming, by not consolidating, by not being compliant. I think the one thing that they felt is that the rep is really the evil person in this because they felt like the rep plays the physician against the supply chain person. The supply chain team was looking at how do they provide the same services, which is helping the physician with procedures. What’s going on in the industry and the marketplace so that they can get alignment, drive alignment, and really drive compliance?
To me, as I was sitting there and listening, I think that reinforced my thought that, “Gosh. If we can just crack that code and we can do that with the customers and we can bring them together and provide those solutions and provide a robust process for them to follow, I think they’re wide open to it and ready to take that on.”
As a buyer moves through their journey, so to speak, what we’ve seen work is when a company has a formal codified sales methodology that maps critical sales activities spelled out in the sales process to make sure that that rep is facilitating the purchase, acting as a consultant, and helping the buyer buy because, to your point, in many of these environments where it’s chaos on both sides, the person who’s trying to give you an order is struggling with how to do it in the new way. Identifying how you can help there, I don’t know, three to five key steps and handing that to a sales person when they run into that, can really shorten sales cycles and increase win rates.
As you’ve gone old school on this, maybe even a little bit more tactically teaching a sales rep what to say and how to engage when they find themselves in that very situation, have you attempted to do anything in that area?
Yes. We rolled out a process. It’s old school. It was what the organization had before I joined. Rather than introduce a brand new selling process, I basically shared the vision with the team on how we can become more focused and more organized in terms of our process. One of my division managers really, who has a real affinity for this selling process, he took it on and embraced it and is doing it as an expansion role now in which he’s leading the execution of the sales process.
You’re familiar with the process. Really, it’s a relatively basic process. They all have different names. It starts with the approach and ends with the close.
Under me in the US, I not only have sales, but I have sales, marketing, commercial operations, pricing and contracting, strategic accounts. I’m able to really drive good alignment. What we did is we introduced this selling process to the entire commercial team so that everything that we do at least we’re using similar vernacular and we can start to map out along the process where we are. Again, old school, but it does give us that common language so we can see where we’re stuck.
One of the things that we see through the QBR, as we look at the 11 competencies that we rate every quarter in the QBR, when we see that someone is struggling or getting a one or a two in creating and closing opportunities, we’re able to peel back the onion on specific accounts that we’re looking at and say, “Where are they losing it?” What we see is it’s typically in that validate stage where the rep can go in and validate that need so that they can drive it through whatever process is in that hospital.
Again, a little grassroots, a little old school, but it’s what we had to work with. I think it’s been working pretty well because we actually posted the first quarter growth in over three years, which was exciting.
Right now, we just closed August. Our August closed on Friday at 101%, which is spectacular for us.
Congratulations. That’s fantastic.
Are you using any type of technology to provide your reps an easy way to facilitate these new sales processes that you’ve installed?
We have iPads, and we started to deploy a lot of our materials and such on the iPad. I will say it’s in its infancy, and we’ve not really capitalized on the full potential right now. We are a company in transition, so there’s a lot of other competing priorities right now, but we have started with the iPad and are looking at different apps and different ways to leverage that technology.
What was it about the iPad that attracted you?
I think that, first, it was pretty readily available to us because it was something that the company had invested in across the entire corporation, and so we knew that we had that. We felt like it was a vehicle that, because of the app creation aspect of it, that wasn’t as cumbersome in terms of deploying things that are more customized.
We have a gentleman in our operations group, he’s just like a rain man with all this stuff. He’s really been able to come in in a relatively short period, look at a lot of our processes, and he started to develop a bunch of different apps and mechanisms of tracking. One specific is we deal with consignment. In our industry, that’s a standard in which we put product at our expense on the shelves of our customers. As they use it, we bill it, and then we’re in charge of maintaining it, ensuring that it doesn’t go outdated, and replacing it.
We were writing off a large percentage of all the inventory we had on the field on a quarterly basis because we don’t have a good mechanism of tracking it. We didn’t have good strategy in deploying it. As I said, this gentleman came on board and looked at the process, looked at where the gaps were, and we developed a strategic process. Then he was able to, utilizing the technology available with the iPad and the apps, is to create an entire tracking system so that we can segment accounts, understand how we can manage our inventory better, how we can count it, how would it interface with all the different systems.
iPads are great for that because they’re so mobile. If you have sales reps deployed counting inventory, that’s helpful.
Exactly. They can take a picture. Because they have to send back a lot of inventory, and then it goes through the process, the nice thing is they’re able to take a picture of the inventory, a picture of the package, and have that all so that we can track it through the process.
You rolled out this sales process. Obviously, you had to train the people on it. How did you train them on the new sales process?
That’s a great question. What we did was at the beginning of our national training meeting, probably about a year and a half ago, what we did is we brought all … First, we gave folks some pre-read stuff to do. Then we brought all the leadership team in a day early. Like I said, because I have all the commercial organizations under me, I could drive that alignment. We brought everybody in, our marketing leadership, commercial ops, pricing, contracting, everyone, and we did a full-day training event. We’ve literally, from start to finish, it was very hands-on, it was very interactive.
We chose a leader to follow-up on the process. He now is doing follow-ups routinely. Every quarter, when they come in for QBR, we’re doing a refresher on one element of it, we’re continuing that training. Then he’s deployed two reps that are good at this. They are hosting series, they go through a series of eights session in which they just get on the phone, they do a WebEx, and they bring real-life situations to talk about, and they go through the process on different aspects of the process.
We also incorporated it into our marketing materials so that they know in the process if we’re rolling something out, they know where. If it’s in the process, to your point earlier, what to say. Again, that alignment between all those cross-functions, I think, is really helping to reinforce that training.
Since our interview, Lori became the CEO of Dune Medical Device. Dune offers surgeons and radiologists the ability to detect cancer in real time. Congratulations to Lori and we plan to bring Lori on the show again to share her perspective as a Chief Executive Officer.
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