Laura MacDonald: An RT docs respect

Thursday, March 31, 2005

STRATFORD, Conn. — One of the hardest aspects of the HME sales job these days is getting in to see the doctor. While the typical family physician sees more patients and works longer hours than ever before, the line in the waiting room consists of a burgeoning number of sales reps from what seems like the entire healthcare continuum.
The doctor is a very hot marketing target and the gatekeepers are increasingly protective about who passes through the clinic door. Yet Laura MacDonald, sales rep for Air Products Healthcare, usually gets a nice welcome.
“Seeing the decision-maker is the greatest challenge reps face today,” said Tom Gaffney, Air Products senior vice president of sales and marketing. “Laura knows how to read people, she interacts with people at different levels, is non-threatening and is extremely well received. Laura carries the highest level of integrity, which is important for our industry. She instills trust. They know dealing with her will be within fair boundaries.”
MacDonald, an RT who has been a sales rep for 11 of her 14 years in the healthcare field, concedes that competition for the doctor’s time has gotten fierce, but that a substantive message ultimately wins out.
She credits a clinical background as integral to her sales success because referral sources see her as a peer, which sets her apart from the crowd in the lobby. Because of her credentials as a respiratory therapist, MacDonald has credibility when strategizing with physicians about which therapies are most cost effective for patients while maintaining the optimum standard of clinical quality.
“What I’ve found is once you get to that referral source who is really looking out for the patient and sees what you have to offer, they will call you,” she said. “Sure there are those who want something in return, but most want what’s best for their patients, and they’re the ones who deal with us regardless of the competition.”
Once MacDonald clinches an account, she bends over backwards to exceed expectations — a process she says takes the cooperation of the entire company. In order to deliver on her promises, she facilitates communications throughout the organization to make sure everyone is on the same page.
“After I identify a customer’s needs and expectations, I talk to the folks back at the office,” she said. “Inter-company communications is essential to effectively serve my referral sources. I identify the person I called on, what his or her needs are and how we meet them. This is a coordinated effort between myself, the director of operations, the sales manager, customer service and our clinicians. Everyone is aware how we will serve this customer.”