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Virtual Sales Visits: Meeting the Challenges of a Pandemic

Sponsored by Banner Health

By Jodi Shaffer with the Banner Imaging Business Development Team

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the whole world seemed to change overnight. Although deemed an essential service, many medical offices transitioned to telemedicine or simply closed their doors temporarily, drastically affecting those who provide services for them. On the other side of the equation, many companies, like Banner Imaging, moved to protect sales employees as well as the community by pulling sales teams out of the field. No longer could sales reps physically visit offices to perform their communication and service responsibilities, which is the main way this has been accomplished historically. They had to find other ways to get the job done.

Our team, as well as many others throughout the U.S., pivoted quickly to virtual visits, which can be conducted by many different communication vehicles such as telephone calls, text messaging, instant messaging, fax, email or video conferencing. We found that many of the same techniques of physical visits still apply to virtual visits, although sometimes virtual visits require a slightly different approach. From this experience, we have compiled a list of helpful tips and tricks for making virtual visits, which we have shared below.

Like physical visits, it is still helpful to plan your day. Write down the offices you want to reach out to and keep track of those contacts. If you do not finish reaching out to the entire list, roll over the offices you didn’t visit to the next day’s list. Planning helps you to not only ensure you are communicating with all offices regularly, but it also helps keep you accountable for what you accomplish. You will likely still have offices calling for service issues. Be sure to balance your touch points between incoming requests and outgoing service calls. Stay in front of the communication with your contacts so that your communication with them is not only for service issues. Since out-of-sight can become out-of-mind, remind your contacts that you are still easy to reach and available to send out information needed, even though you are working remotely. Be flexible to their needs and adapt to their schedule if necessary.

Virtual Sales Visits: Meeting the Challenges of a Pandemic

Try every line of communication. Find out what form works best for each contact or office and then individualize your communication method with each contact. Keep track of what works best for each person. If you send emails with attachments, send both an attachment and an in-line graphic as some people view emails differently than others, and in these days of email scams and phishing, they may be wary of opening attachments. If you are assisting with technology or an issue that requires you to physically show your contact how to perform a task, like accessing images in PACS, set up a videoconferencing meeting, even if you don’t use video. These types of meetings allow your contact to share his or her computer screen so that you can more easily pinpoint where there might be an issue. Don’t be afraid to set up a Connect Meeting or a virtual coffee. Often people are more willing to set aside a specific time when they can better focus on your message.

Remember that sales is about relationships, whether that is in person or not. Be sure to keep in touch with your primary contacts, but don’t be afraid to forge new relationships in this virtual world. If you ask the right questions, you can often find out when new staff members have been hired since you can no longer simply see the new faces in the office. Get to know them virtually as well. People are often very willing to be helpful if you just ask. It’s also a good idea to make sure that you are communicating with multiple contacts from the same office if possible. Not everyone is skilled at relaying information to others; sometimes they forget, or they simply get busy. Contacting many people in an office ensures that your message is getting relayed to all the people who need it. Always try to use the names of the contacts that you reach. You never know when someone who answers the phone will become your primary contact.

Email blasts can also be a great communication tool, but don’t just leave it at the email. Be sure to follow up with another method of communication, like a phone call. If you have a conversation with someone, send a recap email that states the information that you discussed and how to contact you if they have any questions. This also gives them something to refer to later if needed. If you send something by mail, call to follow up to ensure they received it.

Find reasons to make contact. Review your data and use it to thank them or question them on the differences you are seeing. Touch base with your leaders to find out if any provider offices need follow up, and don’t forget to ask what you can do to improve services for them. If you have a team, share your intelligence and work as a team on shared offices. This can help you to have a comprehensive strategy and help you to find reasons for contact.

Most of all, be persistent. Visiting offices in a virtual environment can be a challenge, but it doesn’t mean that you must provide anything less than excellent service, nor does it have to affect your sales relationships. Staying flexible and individualizing service can help you keep those relationships strong and keep your business top of mind, even in a pandemic.

– This column was written by Jodi Shaffer with Molly Calapp, Breeona Edgar, Amber Fernandez, Bonnie Hart, Dale Lee, Dianna Lomeli, Evelyn Marquez, Kyle Nasser, Kara Patena, Amber Rivenburgh, Jana Seely and Kathleen St. Geme.

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