As the healthcare landscape changes, every player in the healthcare ecosystem is looking to reduce costs. One area that device manufacturers have been considering lately with renewed interest is virtual coverage. Virtual coverage can mean anything from inside sales reps selling over the phone to telehealth support through video coverage.
I sat down with Franny Goolsby, Director of Sales for Salelytics, formerly West Revenue Generation Services (which offers specialized agent services for life sciences companies as part of its portfolio), to discuss her experience driving optimal execution with inside sales, video conferencing, analytics and the future of virtual coverage.
Q: When working in hospitals, how can inside sales reps be successful? What’s working well?
FG: A lot of people have a preconceived notion of what inside sales is. They have this vision of a call center lined with agents, and that certainly isn't the case. Inside sales associates meet the same professional criteria as reps and many see it as a career. They approach hospitals the same way a sales rep would. A process that we've applied, that we've seen as vital, is a consensus selling approach, where you’re developing relationships with everybody within that entire facility and building an effective communication plan with each of those individuals, ultimately reaching that key decision maker in an account.
For example, we got into an account where the field was not allowed access. But from an inside sales perspective, what we say is, "Just because it's a no-see account, doesn't mean it's a no-hear account." So, we were calling into that facility everywhere from that initial gatekeeper to the nurse, to procurement, materials management and the physicians. You're building those relationships with key individuals, being respectful of their time, just as if a field rep were there doing it. While the field was unable to get into this account, our inside sales team still could and drove growth.
Q: How typically does the field and inside sales collaborate in a tandem model?
FG: Where the field rep has sold a piece of capital equipment or has convinced the doctor or surgeon to use their product, the inside sales rep can come in and do additional training. Or it could be selling a warranty agreement or an additional service agreement. Team selling could mean that inside sales takes a portion of the sales process or a portion of that field rep’s territory. We have statistics showing that the market falls off 50 miles outside of home base for field reps. In a team model, inside sales could play outside that 50-mile radius.
Q: What are key factors that make this tandem model successful?
FG: There are multiple factors. First, it must be rolled out the right way. When you communicate the tandem selling model to your field team, it can't be portrayed as a lead generation model, where the inside sales team is developing an opportunity and then throwing it over the fence for the field to follow up on. It needs to be a consistent, frequent collaboration between the field and inside sales.
It starts with how executive leadership communicates the model to the field. And in most cases, our recommendation is that you don't change the field commission structure when you implement a team selling model. It’s going to make the field very protective of their accounts. But those field reps who adapt to the new model quicker and use their inside reps more often, are the more successful field reps. For one medical device manufacturer, we found a nearly perfect correlation between the level of collaboration and the annual revenue growth in the field reps’ territories.
Q: What have analytics taught you about what approaches are most successful?
FG: First and foremost, you rely on the art of selling to be successful, but we can apply a more scientific approach through analytics. We can take simple business rules and apply our approach where you click the “next sales call” button and based on those business rules, the account with the biggest propensity to purchase will appear for the sales associate to call next. It includes something as easy as doing a heat map analysis based on successful times you're reaching certain individuals within a facility and measuring successful conversations. For example, calling a cath lab at 2 o'clock in the afternoon because we know this is the most successful time to reach them. And again, that's all done through analytics. It's about making that sales associate more powerful by providing a scientific approach, versus relying solely on the art of selling.
Q: How are virtual video calls being adopted as part of the selling cycle?
FG: Voice is our primary channel, but video has been a growing component of our business. With video conferencing, you can enhance productivity and workplace collaboration. You can increase financial flexibility by reducing travel and operational costs. Analysis across our medical device portfolio shows that deploying video as an additional channel has increased win rates and decreased sales cycles. One specific case study that we have for a surgical instrument provider shows a 17% reduction in sales cycle, 87% increase in conversion rate and product penetration grew from three [products] to five per account.
Video has shown value for several reasons. With virtual sales capabilities, you can demo complex products and devices remotely. You can engage with many customers simultaneously, either on demand or scheduled. This allows the inside sales associate to better work around providers’ schedules, meet their needs, offer multiple sessions and engage with them in a medium that’s non-intrusive.
Q: What do you see as the future of virtual coverage in life sciences?
FG: It's changing so fast, all due to technology. When I started in this industry eleven years ago, the phone was the primary channel of communication. Now, on average we're using two to three channels of communication. That could be e-mail marketing, chat, video, SMS, fax or phone. Now we're layering in things like speech analytics and gamification. We're deploying proactive chatbots with a few of our healthcare clients. Previously, the healthcare industry would stay away from chatbots but that's where we see things evolving in the future.
As you can see, there are multiple opportunities to reduce costs by leveraging virtual coverage. And with careful adoption, field sales can greatly benefit from the collaboration along with both the top and bottom line.