Back in the dark ages when I first got into the med tech business it was easy to walk into the office of any hospital clinician. And clinicians were happy to see field reps. They brought news of innovations….and snacks, pens and coffee mugs. Cold calls were critical to building business, they started conversations, built relationships, and uncovered opportunities.
Cold calls essentially do two things for the rep: build rapport with the prospect and generate product interest. Cold calls work when they do two things for the prospect: introduce the rep and provide something useful (information and/or food or a coffee mug). A successful cold call is a win-win situation.
But times have changed. Clinicians are busier, and hospitals have higher security and vendor management systems that mandate an appointment and a stop at purchasing. The pens and coffee mugs are now forbidden gifts, and most importantly, clinicians no longer look to reps for information on the latest innovations.
So does a cold call have a place in hospital sales today? Showing up without an appointment at a busy clinician’s office is now often more of a burden than a welcome break. Clinicians no longer look to reps for news of the latest innovation, or even coffee mugs. An in-person cold call has a much lower return on the investment of time.
The end of the in-person cold call does not mean an end of prospecting for business. It just means that cold calls are not in person but are made with electronic sleuthing and authentic email.
One of the benefits of the in-person cold call was the ability to get into the clinician’s office, see the degrees of the wall, the commendations, the golfing trophy and the picture of the child playing soccer. It gave information on how to bond with that particular clinician.
Well, if you aren’t in the office look at the clinician’s electronic footprint. Check the Hospital website for clinician profiles, hospital initiatives or mentions in the newsletter. Look at their LinkedIn profile and Twitter feed. Search PubMed for publications and do a simple Google search and see what turns up. This may seem like it takes a lot of time – for one prospect, but it is still more efficient than driving to the hospital for the hopes of a meeting.
Once you have your background build a plan to build trust be delivering value added authentic communication. Don’t SPAM your prospect with irrelevant “hey do you want to connect’ emails, or impersonal bulk messages about your product. Provide something of value to the particular prospect, and include a personal message. But, don’t be creepy – no asking about things in their personal life you uncover, like “heard you won the club golf tournament last week.”
The electronic cold call is not a one time email – it is an electronic conversation. Continue to provide value, maybe it is a recent clinical publication, maybe it is letting them know of a nearby hospital that is now successfully using their product and an offer to connect them. If your company has a strong inbound digital marketing program there might be blogs, handbooks and articles ready made for you to share, with the added benefit of sending them to your website to become a warm lead. In the old days the cold call brought the clinician valuable information, today’s electronic cold call needs to do the same.
There are many benefits of the electronic cold call. One is that you can do a dozen in a morning from the kitchen table in your sweatpants. Pick one piece of content and send it to 10 different prospects who might be interested with a personalized note. Another benefit is that you can take multiple bites at the apple, try different angles with the same prospect, when one works you have a very clear roadmap of how to proceed.
Once you get a response, you have a warm lead. Set an appointment, warm up the car, and start your sales process.