Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Q. We have love-hate relationships with our manufacturers’ sales reps. What do I need to know about reps to better understand them?

A. Your sales reps live in a crazy world and must be able to stomach different scenarios of risk and reward every day. Some reps operate as single individuals, while others are direct employees of a corporate sales and marketing company.

Good reps are specialists. Whether they are professional salespeople or accredited or licensed professionals, they bring solutions to their customers. As the eyes and ears for manufacturers, it is important that they understand and communicate market needs and possible product improvements and/or shortfalls. Additionally, it’s common for reps to be asked to in-service medical professionals on the features and benefits of the products they represent. Sometimes, the reps are requested to be part of the team of specialists working to meet a patient’s needs.

The best reps are those that communicate. Those who don’t - no matter their qualifications - are doomed to fail.

Reps live and die on commission. If they do not bring customers and orders to the manufacturers, they get paid nothing, nada, zip. As such, reps are eager to please. Providers should take advantage of this earnestness to get the most out of their reps.

For the most part, reps don’t have expense accounts, so everything they spend comes right out of their own pockets. Keep this in mind when a rep has driven two hours to supply you with a demo piece of equipment to help your staff make a sale.

Let’s work together to satisfy patient needs and all parties will benefit.

Mike Laky is president and CEO of MSL Associates. Reach him at