Sales Execution

Is Relationship Selling Dying in Medical Devices?

David Campbell, Commercial Account Executive (Healthcare & Life Sciences) at Clari

David Campbell
Commercial Account Executive (Healthcare & Life Sciences)



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Photograph of a medical device salesperson talking to a healthcare professional
Photograph of a medical device salesperson talking to a healthcare professional
  • Relationship sellers have dominated the medical device industry, but the rise of data-driven sales strategies, processes, and operations is shifting that 
  • Hospitals and physicians are increasingly focused on the value a seller’s product and service provides, not just their relationship with the sales team
  • Value-based selling can be more challenging for the sales rep—it requires a deeper understanding of the product/service and customer’s needs—but it also leads to better outcomes for both the buyer (higher satisfaction) and the seller (long-term fit) 
  • Above all else: the fastest-growing companies used a value-based approach to sales (87% of high-growth companies take a value-based approach to sales compared to 45% of negative-growth companies) 

Relationship selling, or selling based purely on personal relationships, is powerful because it can’t be easily reproduced or mechanized. It requires a unique skill set and allows reps a high degree of autonomy.

And it has been the dominant form of selling in medical devices for as long as anyone can remember.

However, times are changing. 

  • Travel and entertainment budgets have tightened
  • Policies on gifts and freebies have narrowed 
  • Leadership teams are becoming more data-oriented
  • Modern sales teams are tracked on all sorts of metrics such as productivity, engagement, meetings per week, time to close, and more—all in pursuit of maximizing revenue 

This represents the larger wave of digital transformation and centralized procurement rigor that the entire healthcare landscape continues to invest in.

Because of this evolution, relationship selling is no longer enough. To be successful, med device reps must focus on selling value to customers, a.k.a value-based selling.

Value-based selling sounds like a phrase created by a bunch of consultants. (You know, the type that disappears for a month into a dark room only to come back with slides filled with business jargon).

So what exactly does value-based selling mean?

Value-based selling is a data-driven approach focusing on the customer's needs and how the product can best meet those needs. This type of selling requires a deep understanding of both the customer and the product. 

In this blog, I’ll discuss why value-based selling is the future of medical device sales and share tips on how companies can adopt these value-based selling techniques.

3 reasons why value-based selling is the future of med device sales 

  1. It’s easier to overcome sales objections and beat out other competitors. Simply showing the product is not enough in a world with an increasing number of products in the market. Focusing on the benefits (value) helps overcome early rejection and stand out from the competition.
  2. Reduces sales cycles. A value-selling approach reduces the time a customer needs to make a purchasing decision because they have continuously received the information they need (e.g., ROI) to take action. This is especially helpful given budgets are tightening and negotiation stages are lengthy.  
  3. Value-based selling leads to more and larger sales. Value sellers see increased customer satisfaction and loyalty in the long run because the entire sales process focuses on helping the customer rather than selling them a product or service. By selling on value, you can maximize your revenue while reducing risk and getting the deal through faster. Value selling helps you speak the language of executives and convince finance that your solution is worth the price.

Which tools can help you adopt value-based selling?

A powerful sales tech stack enables a data-driven, value-based sales process.

So if someone tells you “all you need is CRM,” they are not your friend.

CRM is time-consuming. CRMs require 7-10 hours of manual data entry each week. That’s time sellers can get back to win more deals.

CRM is complex. CRMs weren't purpose-built to be easy for sellers to use. In fact, 50% of sales managers say CRM is difficult to implement.

CRM doesn’t provide the value sales reps need. Only 29% of sellers admitted to using their CRM for key activities such as prospecting, deal progress, opportunity management, and lead tracking.

You need a platform that can deliver:

  1. Data Hygiene (automatically capture activity data to enhance CRM)
  2. Account Engagement (understanding territory planning + strategy)
  3. Pipeline Visibility (assess which deals are real and which deals are at risk)
  4. Actionable Analytics (analyze how deals change throughout the week/quarter/year) 

Becoming a value-based seller requires the right data and tools, as well as a customer-centric mindset. When med device companies have these things in place, their reps can deliver an exceptional customer experience that will lead to long-term loyalty and satisfaction.

Ready to adapt? If not, the competition surely is

Value-based selling is the future of medical device sales, and those who don't adapt will be left behind. 

Budgets are tight, but you can win your share by showing how your product or solution will make a difference for the company. Plus, the digital transformation of the entire healthcare industry and buyer maturity is changing how med device reps sell. It’s crucial to realize that revenue is a critical business process and should be run like one.

Those who don't embrace these changes will be at a disadvantage. 

The shift from relationship selling to value-based selling is already underway, and I believe it is here to stay. Medical device sales reps who want to be successful in the future need to start adapting their sales strategies now. See how Clari’s Revenue Platform can help

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What do you think? Is relationship selling dying? Why or why not? Shoot me a note and let me know your thoughts! | LinkedIn

About the Author: David spent 10+ years in medical device sales. He started his career working for Stryker Orthopaedics in various roles for five years. His most recent roles before coming to Clari included a wound care startup and a high-growth biotech manufacturing company.