The lifeblood on the Med Tech industry is innovation. Innovation is a word that is tossed around often. It can make or break any organization. Often, we will hear organizations discussing their quest for “disruptive and innovative products”. Why is it then that some many organizations and individuals come up short when pursuing this goal?
Over the last several months Med Tech Gurus has had several guests discuss various aspects of this very topic. The information provided across this landscape of several guests has been dynamic and loaded with amazing nuggets of information. Collectively, I feel there is a playbook for developing a culture of innovation.
So exactly what is innovation? The first step is to define it.
Innovation- is commonly defined as the “ carrying out of a new combination that includes “the introduction of new goods, the opening of markets, the conquest of new sources of supply, and the carrying out of a new organization of any industry”.
Economists will tell you that innovation is also the most important ingredient in an modern economy.
Sandy Rihana, Ph.D Chair of the BioMedical Engineering Department at Holy Spirt University of Kaslik. Dr. Rihana appeared on Episode #71 of Med Tech Gurus.
Dr. Rihana explains the process of Innovation starting with the 3 phases of innovation.
In this phase an organization needs to identify a need or needs in the marketplace. To address these needs the organization should start to work on concept generation and screening. Those involved should not be closed minded at this point. The brainstorming and idea generation is most important to develop the options.
Once an exhaustive list is generated that’s where the use of filters is important to further qualify these ideas. Filters such as regulatory requirements, Intellectual property issues or challenges, and reimbursement should be used. A particular industry may have additional filters, the key is to start to refine the list based on obvious “rule out” criteria.
In our discussion Dr. Rihana broke this down into the 5 Ps
Identifying the problem is always the catalyst to innovation. Once identified the goal is to focus on a positive, measurable, scalable solution.
The patient should always be at the core of the value proposition. In Med Tech Gurus Episode #56 Mr. Peter Maag, the CEO at CAreDx discusses “always keeping a patient picture in mind”. Peter explains that an organization cannot lose sight of the fact that we are really here to serve the patient. To that end Peter discussed that CareDx has a patient come in and tell their story at each quarterly employee meeting.
The outcome of this is” that at the end of the patient presentation there is not a dry eye in the room” Peter explained. “these patient stories keep us focused on what our true mission is.”
Tune into Med Tech Gurus hosted by Tom Hickey
As the world [hopefully] begins to exit the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders of start-up med tech companies continue to struggle mightily to get their technology noticed, much less adopted.
Those tradeshows companies previously attended with the goal of boosting awareness have been postponed or cancelled outright. To further complicate matters, medical centers have severely restricted or eliminated onsite access to all but the most essential of sales professionals. These days, it’s maddeningly difficult to receive a return phone call or response to an email.
In a world chock full of new realities, what’s a med tech start-up supposed to do?
How do I reach my end-users?
There’s no denying this harsh reality: In today’s healthcare environment, even if you’ve developed a great new medical device that could truly help a medical center or clinician, it sometimes feels like you’d have a better shot at hitting the lottery than capturing the time and attention of key decision-makers and influencers.
Unless you go about things the right way, that is. More on that in a bit.
The crux of the issue is hospital executives, supply chain teams and clinicians are beyond overwhelmed. Even as the pandemic begins to subside in parts of the U.S., there simply isn’t enough bandwidth [or desire] to see beyond what needs to happen today. Forget about next week, next month or next year. These folks are trying to keep their collective heads above water … today.
Imperative to have the right message
In Med Tech Gurus episode #68, April Zambelli-Weiner, Ph.D. and CEO of TTi Health Economics, discussed the dichotomy that exists in today’s healthcare environment. Yes, hospitals and clinicians are overwhelmed and exhausted. Yet at the same time, they’re hungry for meaningful change that brings some degree of normalcy and improved patient outcomes back to healthcare.
So how do you deal with that? To even have a shot at reaching key decision-makers, you absolutely must customize and differentiate your messaging so it cuts through all current distractions and demands, and allows your great new med tech device to stand apart from competition.
The truly frustrating part is your target[s] may indeed be highly interested in your product but it all comes down to the issue of time … or lack thereof. How do they navigate the often-time-consuming process of product review, purchase and implementation when they don’t have two seconds to sit and think strategically?
It is indeed a big, fat, frustrating conundrum for all. But don’t give up.
Begin by looking in the mirror and being honest with yourself. Is your value proposition a “one-size-fits-all” at a time when a healthcare system is looking for tailored solutions? If yes, it’s time to change that.
One of the key components here is to do your research and gain a clear understanding of each of your potential customers’ workflow. Understand what they will need in order to make a change and incorporate your solution. This will definitely take more work on your part but consider it a wise investment in future success.
If you are able to demonstrate meaningful, measurable budgetary impact or ROI in very short order, you will enhance your chances of gaining their attention. The key is to ensure the data and numbers you’re using are accurate, relevant and easily understood. Remember, in today’s world, your target customer simply doesn’t have the time to do the usual analytics. That’s now on you!
Total Cost of Ownership
One of the ways to go about this is to be very clear about your product’s Total Cost of Ownership [TCO]. Help your client understand both the Capex and the Opex. This may seem counterproductive -- perhaps you think it will even hurt your story – but being open and transparent about total costs is vital to the sales process. In Med Tech Gurus Episode #67, David Newton, V.P of Supplier relations at Attainia, discusses this very situation. David explains that this is all about controlling the message.
If you clearly and accurately explain implementation costs, training and failure rates, this “no surprises” transparency may actually boost your value and enhance perception of that great new medical device of yours. Your customer will eventually figure TCO out anyway so, if you can demonstrate this with strong, up-front data, you will build a solid, trusting relationship from the get-go that may well evolve into a long-term, mutually beneficial partnership.
Using things like extended warranties, training webinars, etc. might also help your customer better manage TCO and set you up for a quicker purchase and, ideally, upgrades a couple of years down the road. At the same time, this may prevent your competition from gaining a foothold later.
Finding the right team to help
For many early-stage companies, much of this data development, message creation and reaching the right supply chain and value-analysis professionals might seem difficult, if not impossible.
There are wise, experienced and knowledgeable professionals out there who can work with you to create compelling messaging and pricing strategies specifically tailored to an individual organization. No more “one-size-fits-all” approaches, they’re so yesteryear. Most early-stage companies, and even mid-size companies, simply don’t have the players on their bench that have this type of specific insight about every medical system.
If you want to take a deeper dive into the best practices of Value Analysis, check out Med Tech Gurus Episode #16 with Excelerant Consulting’s Barbara Strain. In this episode, Barbara shares the Value Analysis playbook and key “best practices”.
You should give serious consideration to engaging the services of a qualified consultancy. Excelerant Consulting is one such firm. They are a team of seasoned, savvy and battle-tested sales executives with a comprehensive understanding of Group Purchasing Organizations [GPO] and Independent Sales Networks [IDN]. Excelerant offers value-analysis professionals to help hone your system-specific messaging. They also have strong relationships with health economics companies to assist with heavy lifting of data development. All of this go-to-market gold is at your fingertips for less than the annual cost of a full-time National Accounts Executive.
Unless you like banging your head against the 2021 wall, I encourage you to contact Excelerant today [email@example.com . Their team of professionals can help you develop and implement a winning strategy.
TUNE IN: Thomas Hickey is host of Med Tech Gurus, a podcast focused on Medical Entrepreneurship and Marketing [available on Apple Podcasts and other platforms].
Have you ever said, “I wish I could come up with an idea or concept so I can start my own company!” In my interactions with individuals in the industry I hear this comment often. Clinicians, sales types, engineers etc. I have heard this statement from all these folks.
In my role as the Host of Med Tech Gurus. I have had the pleasure of speaking to individuals who have successfully made this leap.
What I find interesting is that I have found many common traits in these individuals that are worth noting.
Sean Runnels, MD founder of Through The Cords, LLC and Mr. Dan Allen founder of Allen Medical and D.A. Surgical have both been guests on Med Tech Gurus. One of the first qualities both entrepreneurs mentioned is the need for passion. Passion to help patients, clinicians, and the healthcare system with quality outcomes.
Both gentlemen indicated that financial success is your driver you may have a difficult time. Not that financial success is an admirable goal, however it is the desire to improve patient care and deliver quality outcomes that matters the most. The challenges in launching a new technology are daunting, and the hours and commitment to launching a product correctly require nothing less than a full commitment and the passion to deliver.
The Need Be “IN” Your Business
Both Dr. Runnels and Mr. Allen describe how the products they developed came from being deeply involved in their business and the product they developed solved a nagging problem. The solution for both gentlemen came in a sentinel moment while they were doing other things.
It should be noted that this “flash” of inspiration was just the being and not the end point.
In both instances the product and subsequent company require years to get things properly developed, tested and launched. There were many challenges along the way.
In the case of Through The Cords, Dr. Runnels company, he discussed getting the right team together. Then he had to be with them every day. His background provided much of the clinical input. However, he relied on individuals who were experts in engineering, quality, and business to help round out the team.
Mr. Allan came from a slightly different approach. He had the design knowledge and could see the problem. However, he sought out the clinical expertise for continual improvement. Then he also had to seek how design and production people to provide their input into the development.
Patience IS Important
In the Medical Device world, it is very rare to have anything close to an overnight success. This is especially true in today’s healthcare environment. With the regulatory process, the formation of large health systems and GPOs the road to success has become even longer.
Both entrepreneurs noted that it is very important to have the right investors if you seek outside funding.
Dr. Runnels stressed that most venture capitalists have a 3-5-year attention span. He noted that it often takes 6-8 years for a product to start to make inroads. Mr. Allen validated this.
So, if you need outside investors to help fund your endeavor it is important that they are bought into the length of time it might take to develop the product strength to make a financial sound exit.
Don’t Underestimate the Sales Cycle
One of the other common themes from both entrepreneurs was the sales cycle and contracting. This process has become exceptionally long and complex. Back in the day the old saying was “If you build a better mouse trap, the world will beat a path to your door!” This is not true in Medical Devices any longer.
As noted by both gentlemen you need the right experts around you. Engineering, quality, and regulatory are often thought of as must haves.
That is only have the story. You also need a strong commercialization team. A team of seasoned professionals that help guide your company through the Group Purchasing and Large Health System contracting process.
That is where a team of specialist like those found at Excelerant Consulting is paramount to your success. Excelerant has the team with the right mix of experienced sales and contracting executives to help you through this p[art of the challenge on your way to success.
Consider this: A year ago, your team released an innovative, new technology. Fanfare was there, enthusiasm was through the roof, and the sales team rally was beyond terrific. Clearly, planets were aligning and blockbuster success was right around the bend.
Twelve months later, sales results lag far below forecast. Fingers are being pointed and the once-promising, can’t-miss, new technology can’t even get itself off the ground.
Sound familiar? Has this ever happened to you and your team? Did your new technology – so full of incredible potential – ultimately get shelved? Looking back, what could have been done differently to change this outcome?
Quality & Clinical Knowledge Gap
The root cause of what happened here may have begun long before the sales team ever got the product. The situation may have started much earlier in the design process. So says Martie Moore of Immersive Health Group, and a former Chief Nursing Officer, who recently joined us on Med Tech Gurus Episode #20 to share some insight as to why some “sure-things” sure don’t work out like we’d hoped.
Martie said most companies don’t, or won’t, as a first step, immerse themselves in the clinical area for which they’re designing the product. There’s a critical knowledge gap when that happens and, as a result, clinicians must adapt to the new product instead of the new product being a natural fit for the clinician.
Design of any product should always align with the needs of those utilizing it. This is not a news flash but it occurs more often than you might imagine. The goal should always be to produce a product that is immediately intuitive to the clinical practitioner. Ideally, the goal is to elicit a response along the lines of, Where have you been all my life!
Conversely, the moment a clinician must adjust their practice to a new product in order to achieve a desired outcome, the product already has a strike against it. The more extreme the adjustment, the less likely the new product will be embraced and find success.
Martie also points out most companies do not empathize with nursing and fail to realize all nursing functions are high-risk. Because registered nurses have normalized so many nursing functions as part of their everyday practice, they’ve not only made the difficult look easy, they’ve made it easier for companies to overlook their needs during the product design process.
Product developers must understand, if there is a protocol that requires the RN to step back and take an action that isn’t part of their standard approach or process, there is potential for resentment and, more importantly, error.
Kathleen Vollman, in Med Tech Gurus Episode #23, says product design must neatly fit into the normal clinical workflow. The new concept must legitimately and consistently enable the clinician to do the right thing. Martie added to that point, suggesting, for example, that color-coding for key steps, or differentiating steps, can make matters easier for clinicians immersed in life-saving procedures.
Simple steps like these go a long way when it comes to product acceptance.
To Focus Group, or Not to Focus Group ...?
Many companies believe engaging a focus group will help mitigate this issue. However, the issue within the issue, as Martie and Kathleen point out, is that a focus group can make biased outcomes based on how the group is assembled. Lazily selected focus groups can automatically lead participants to the conclusion the company hopes for, thereby providing false validation that the product is ready-to-go in its current iteration.
It may be. Chances are, it’s not. And companies need to realize and accept this.
Martie reminds us that this is why it is much wiser to first “immerse and analyze” in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the workflow challenges clinicians face every day. Too often, companies expect human intervention to be the step that bridges gaps in new technology. This can create significant acceptance issues for the new product.
It is only after the immersion and analysis is complete, and your product has been designed with that understanding in mind, that the focus group should come into play. Doing your due diligence in gaining knowledge and designing to that knowledge will allow you to craft the proper type of focus group experience.
Listen, Listen … and Listen Some More.
It is also imperative the company does not fall in love with their own technology prematurely unless, of course, heartbreaks are your thing. Reality is, focus group participants may tell you your baby is ugly. You must be prepared for that possibility.
However, if the company maintains an open mind and truly listens to the feedback and input it receives, it is quite likely clinicians in the focus group will share valuable insights that allow you to significantly refine and improve your product.
As such, you must be prepared for probable redesign work. Further, your company must be willing to invest the requisite dollars and time to implement recommended changes. If your product development team is willing to do this, you are likely to achieve your key goal: An exciting and genuinely innovative, new product that best supports the clinical area, is embraced and, therefore, is profitable.
On the other hand, if you choose not to act on the recommendations, prepare to hear that dreaded, snarky aside from your clinical customer, “So … this was designed by an engineer, right?”
In summary, begin by immersing yourself in the clinical area you’re seeking to support so your product design is based on a complete understanding of the clinicians’ needs. Secondly, ensure your focus group is carefully and artfully selected then listen lavishly to their candid feedback and take it to heart. Finally, be prepared to dedicate the dollars and time it takes to leverage those valuable insights and refine your product.
Do all this and the odds soar in favor of you delivering a can’t-miss new technology that helps change the world for the better … and makes your bottom-line shine!
AND HERE’S WHAT A MED TECH COMPANY NEEDS TO KNOW
Partnering with the right GPO can clear your path to success and profitability
As host of a popular podcast that strives to help medical device executives stay at least a step ahead of their industry Med Tech Gurus , I have experienced, first-hand, the very real frustration, confusion and angst when it comes to vetting, selecting and partnering with Group Purchasing Organizations [GPOs].
One size simply doesn’t fit all. And that’s a very good thing because no two med tech organizations are alike either.
Clearly in today’s marketplace, GPOs play a critical role when it comes to developing the right go-to-market strategy and moving quickly and efficiently along the path to success and profitability. The savvy med tech executive understands this and knows how to best utilize the services of a GPO.
But which one …?
From time to time, I come across skeptical or stubborn folks -- you choose the word -- who declare, “A GPO contract is no more than a hunting license!”
In many ways, they’re exactly right, So let’s stick with that for a moment.
If a GPO contract is indeed “no more than a hunting license”, why then is it some hunters are tremendously successful while others while away their time in the woods, oiling their guns, and never bagging a catch?
Successful hunters will tell you, you must first understand the animal and the ground you are hunting on. You can’t just wander in, look around and take a wild shot at matters or you’ll forever be relegated to the ready-fire-aim heap which is neither a fun nor a profitable place to be.
Let’s break this down a bit so you can emerge as the successful hunter and not the wannabe.
In a recent podcast [MedTech Gurus – Nine Ways to Find Success with Group Purchasing Organizations], Dale Wright, a former GPO executive and now a state representative in Missouri, acknowledges not all GPOs are created equal, and explains the three basic types:
Each behave differently so you, Mr. or Ms. Med Tech Representative, need to understand how they work to enhance your chances of establishing a long, lasting and profitable relationship with your GPO.
Typically, more difficult to contract with due to long contracting and bid cycles as due diligence is conducted, Single-Source GPOs normally only partner with proven and established market leaders. Thus, as a start-up or early-stage company, unless you have a clearly identified and proven value proposition, getting on contract with this type of GPO will likely be challenging, if not fruitless.
Single-Source GPOs are generally happy to let start-ups or early-stagers go elsewhere to cut their teeth and prove themselves. And maybe, after they amass some market share, consider putting them on agreement. If you have a new technology, it’s important to be aware of this.
But I say this with one caveat: Do not bypass this type of GPO altogether! Your National Accounts team will want to send regular updates and stay in communication with them so when the time is right, you’re both ready to pull the trigger. Like a hunter in the woods, patience with a Single-Source GPO is indeed a virtue.
Exactly like it sounds, Dual-Source GPOs often put two companies in the same product category, creating a choice for their members and, at the same time, fostering a bit of healthy, saw-sharpening competition among the two contracted suppliers.
With Dual-Source GPOs, there are some important considerations for the med tech entrepreneur. If you’ve done your value-analysis homework, you may have a realistic shot with this type of GPO.
First, there should be a solid discussion about how best to position your innovative, disruptive technology and compete with the market leader in this type of contracting strategy. Your value discussion will need to be sharp and focused as the GPO will naturally want to have the top-two market-share companies. If you have the right type of outcome data and ROI documentation, your technology can win the day here.
The challenge is in developing the right value-analysis documentation. To do this, I highly recommend your organization consider utilizing a coach. There are some very qualified, experienced and insightful coaches out there that can be invaluable to your organization. Allow me to introduce two of them that have been featured on the Med Tech Gurus podcast …
In my book, either one of these professionals would be an excellent choice as coach. They have tremendous experience, rock-solid credentials, and are worth your time and consideration.
Multi-Source GPOs are probably the easiest type of GPO to work with because they prefer to put smaller and regional suppliers on contract. The thought is to offer maximum choice to their members. Having said that, don’t think for a moment they skip over doing their due diligence, they don’t.
Similar to the Dual-Source GPO, you will want to have performed your value-analysis review and have your support documentation at the ready. Teams at Multi-Source GPOs need to be confident that you have a strong customer-service operation, and that quality metrics are in place. They will want the supplier to be able to demonstrate they can perform, and that their patient outcomes are superior.
Do. Your. Homework!
Key Takeaways …
The bottom-line with each of these GPOs is this: Like the hunter, you must understand the animal and the hunting grounds before you enter the woods.
All of these factors are critically important and, dare I say, the “make-or-break” when it comes to achieving success and profitability.
One last thing …
Like the wise hunter entering a new territory, you should seriously consider working with a guide; someone who knows the terrain like the back of their hand. A guide can keep you focused and help you avoid trouble areas. For that, I highly recommend any of my colleagues at Excelerant Consulting [www.excelerantconsulting.com]. Trust me, there is no higher sense of confidence than having a highly experienced professional at your side to help skillfully navigate your way to success.
#Medicaldevice #tMedicalproductlaunch #entrepreneur
Bringing a new technology to the medical device marketplace has certainly become extremely complex over the last 15 years. The barriers to entry have become so significant that it can take years to develop a market presence.
This situation has caused potential investors to shy away from the MedTech space. There are companies with amazing ideas that can demonstrate amazing outcomes that never see the light of day.
Entrepreneurs that are working in the current environment are driven by a mission. They want to help patients, clinicians, and society by bring new advances to healthcare. To be honest about it they are also looking for a healthy return on investment for the stakeholders as well. However, the clinical improvement is a huge reason why we are all in this game.
The question persists, how does an entrepreneur get their product noticed?
Things Have Changed
Many sales executives and consultants like me remember the old days where one could find a few surgeons, show them your product, and then get them to demand that the hospital start to use this product. Get 8 or 10 of these clinicians to use your product and voila’ your company was born and on a profitable track.
Those of us in the industry today know that this formula no longer works. There are GPOs, IDNs, regional contracts and value analysis committees standing in your way. It is not unusual to find that if you do not have a system agreement there might be 20, 30 or more hospitals in a network that you can’t even get in the door.
The old school way of going to the surgeons/physicians no longer works, as many of these clinicians are now employees of the system that you are trying to get into. Their influence has been much reduced.
So How Do You Get Your Technology Recognized?
Bryan Eckard of Verner International addresses these issues on Med Tech Gurus episode # 10
M ed Tech Gurus top-down-bottom-up-approach-to-launching-new-med-tech Mr. Bryan Eckard
In this episode Bryan discusses the benefits of using a fixed cost to marketing approach for new product launches. This includes a best practice of contracting with independent sales representatives (ISRs) or Regional Specialty Distributors RSDs). The clear benefit to this as a startup is that these organizations earn their living by selling. Thus, if they don’t produce you pay them zero.
This strategy will help a startup as by definition startups are always cash strapped. For the CEO, taking this fixed cost of marketing route can help preserve several hundreds of thousands of dollars in salaries, benefits and travel expenses.
There is a downside to this strategy, however. ISRs & RSDs by nature always carry multiple product lines or have relationships with several manufactures. The issue here is they may need some significant support. Meaning education and support in training and implementing into accounts.
The typical solution for the small manufacture is to hire 3 or 4 regional managers to support this field force. Bryan suggests a different strategy.
Instead of hiring the regional sales manager, hire a regional clinical support manager. This individual typically with an R.N. RT, or CST credential can be a significant addition to the equation. They will bring with them the credibility of their education and experience. The clinical decision maker will respect them as they will have ‘walk the walk” by having the clinical background.
This dual arrangement of engaging the ISR/RDS plus a clinical specialist can be amazingly effective. The local salesperson will have the relationship and the clinical specialist the clinical support. This will create a great deal of confidence with the decision maker.
A Unique Approach to The Clinical Specialist
Skender Daerti, CEO of the Clinician Exchange, has a novel solution to this challenge. Here is the issue. If a start up is struggling to hire regional salespeople, how can they afford to hire clinical specialists? The Clinician Exchange may be able to provide a solution. Much like an ISR?RSD provides a fixed cost to marketing. The Clinician Exchange can provide a fixed cost to education.
As Skender explains in Med Tech Gurus Episode # 7
Med Tech Gurus to-be-successful-you-must-learn-adapt Mr. Skender-Daerti
The Clinician Exchange will assist in putting together that educational campaign. Skender explains they have a data base of several thousand clinicians that can be brought in on a contracted basis. The Clinician Exchange will tailor this to every company’s needs. Thus, maximizing the result while minimizing the budgetary impact for the start up.
In this current medical device environment, a CEO must manage their investors dollars wisely. There is a significant need to bring unique value to gain attention and acceptance to a new product offering.
Sales cycles are longer, and a company must get the most out of their funding. By employing a bit of creativity, seeking out companies like Verner Medical and Bryan Eckard or the Clinician Exchange and Skender Daerti can pay huge dividends in getting a company launched.
Alyssa Huffman, Regional Sales Director of Scendia Biologics, proves that she is a Med Tech Guru when she discusses the need for reading that noncompete agreement in Episode #8
Alyssa describes her background growing up, she lived all over the world and experienced many different cultures. Alyssa is a self-described “air force brat” as her Father was a flight surgeon and F-111 pilot.
Prior to the episode #8 that was published Alyssa and I had recorded an episode, then something dramatic happened. One of the companies she was working with had presented her a non-compete agreement that was so restrictive she had to leave the company.
Alyssa explains that the way the agreement was structured that if she signed this agreement and left the company, she would not be allowed to sell anything for another company. This might have included even selling products outside the med tech industry.
This all started when she was asked to lead a started ups sales effort as Vice President of Sales & Marketing. The company was exciting, and the people were great. The direction of the company was terrific, and Alyssa felt the strategic direction was solid.
Alyssa was presented with a non-compete and she brought it to her attorney’s attention. Upon review her attorney found some significant issues. According to her attorney is was restrictive to the point that she couldn’t even sell a car.
Alyssa explains that selling is our livelihood. If something happens within the company, then a salesperson must be able to go out and find a way to pay their bills the only way they know how. If the company is not willing to modify their non-compete and non-solicitation agreements to something that is reasonable, then they company has to understand it will be time to part ways. No matter how great the opportunity is you have to be protective of your own ability to perform your duties and pay your own bills.
Alyssa explains it was an unfortunate circumstance and she learned a lot and wishes them well. Alyssa had to take a step back and focus on another opportunity she had.
What advice would you have for our GURUs out there regarding a situation like a non-compete?
Number 1, get your attorney involved right from the get-go. Alyssa and her attorney went back and forth several times with the company and their lawyer. Every few weeks they would say that they would modify the agreement to meet reasonable expectations. The company would then take the draft agreement back to their attorneys. After review they would come back with “Everyone else in the company has signed this agreement”, “We can’t modify it for this one individual!”
Alyssa stated that one can understand that philosophy but everyone else in the company is not in sales. They had people in IT, they had physicians, people that didn’t have to deal with these issues on a daily basis. So, they could not understand the legitimacy and the reasoning to a true extent of how important these non-solicitation agreements are. They can be upheld, and she has seen them upheld.
Before anyone gets themselves in a “sticky situation” please review them, because you never know how these arrangements are going to work out. You have to expect the worst and hope for the best. So, based on that anytime such an agreement is put in front of you, you HAVE to go to your attorney.
It is worth $250-$500 to have a professional review this document to potentially save yourself hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills protecting yourself.
Expecting the worst and hoping for the best is worth underscoring.
Host Tom Hickey explained it is often not the original contracting person or company officer you deal with when you get into these situations. It is the S.O.B. that replaced them perhaps after a retirement, or an acquisition. It is worth the $250- $500 to have these agreements reviewed!
This all turned out to be a difficult choice for Alyssa as the company was good and the product was fun to work with. She put a great deal of time and resources into the company and they made some significant strides. Ultimately it just came down to the non-compete and the non-solicitation
Alyssa wants companies to understand, as well as the representative, that this is an agreement, this is a partnership. Let’s make this relationship beneficial for both parties, and should the ties sever ask “what’s reasonable, What TRULY reasonable”. Having non-competes and non-solicitations through out the country are not reasonable, however they still go to court.”
Many times when these disputes go to court, they are not up held because they are so broad. However, they still go to court, and how pays for those attorney fees? Each side does! The big companies have their own attorney’s, it’s the little guy in this that ends up paying.
So focusing on the positives can you tell us about a company that did some things right in launching the medical technology?
Alyssa stated that she was really fortunate early in her career to be associated with a team the REALLy did it right. You take it for granted when you are new to the industry, you think everyone including the billion dollar companies will do it right every time! But that isn’t necessarily true.
In Alyssa’s example this company secured strong patents, then new their space. They knew the competition inside and out. When you know the competition like this and you have talked to the users you can derive from that what you need to really over-come and make a big bang in the market place.
Then in addition to that you LISTEN and LISTEN intently on solving all of the problems and all of the foreseeable problems and issues. This company did this and to this day, 12 years later this is still a top technology and doing it better than anyone else.
It is exciting to be on the forefront of such a company and technology. This company received many awards and accolades No only this but, they made it fun and challenging for the salesforce. To have something that 12 years later that is still the gold standard with no one having a similar product. This is pretty revolutionary
Know your competition inside and out!
Tom added know not only your competition, but more importantly how they are going to sell against you. That’s almost more important than knowing your own features and benefits. This will help you be able to compare and contrast the different technologies for your customer.
Alyssa went on to point out that she was a relatively new rep with only a couple of years of seniority and they actually listened to her! Even though she had a small territory in the Midwest, they cared. She had immediate access to the product manager. The product managers listened to her they ahd her be part of the clinical trial process. It was exciting to be part of the clinical trial process while she was such a minuet portion of the country.
Alyssa stated by not only listening to the big urban center hospitals and their clinicians but to the smaller market hospitals and their clinicians can really provide a key benefit to the company. Meaning that if you understand the models of the big hospitals, the small hospitals and the in-between, then you are really setting yourself up for great success with new product launches. 15:14
Skender Daerti of the Clinician Exchange brings incredible value to our Gurus on Med Tech Gurus in Episode #7
Skender describes his background from the days at Georgetown as a quarterback then captain of the Georgetown football team. From there he went to Wall Street as an equity trader. Then eventually into the Med Tech Space, where he became founder and CEO of The Clinician Exchange.
Describe a company that was full of potential but just missed the mark?
Skender explains that he has seen numerous examples of this and there is no bias between large, small know or unknow companies. It can happen to any type of med tech company.
Specifically, Skender notes a company in the oncology space. This company had some of the best technology for their product category. This was validated by several physicians who indicated that they were getting better results by using this company’s technologies.
However, for some reason the company never got the traction they should have. Skender notes it wasn’t about the technology, rather it seemed to be about the company. It was unfortunate however the dynamics around this company that held them back.
When asked by host Tom Hickey if it was a question of leadership or an inability to explain their value proposition to the market, Skender explained that it was mainly adaptation to the market. Skender went on to explain that the leadership was still in a mindset of a practice that was rooted in an attitude from 15 years ago, very linear, very binary, very transaction oriented.
As we have seen over the last 15 years healthcare and the decision making and consumer driven influences driving the purchasing process has changed the process dynamically. If a company is so rooted in a transaction way, “I have a product, I try to sell it to Clinician A and if Clinician A likes it, hopefully they will buy it and a PO will be generated from this. This is a sign that they have not adapted to the times.
Companies like these are able to see the complexities of healthcare and they are unable to adapt to the times if they are unable to create the experiences and understand the complexities of healthcare and how to navigate those channels challenges of healthcare, then they must be able to seek help.
When companies have a mindset of “This is how we do it, this is how we are going to do it!” Rather than seek outside help and input that would help them along they chose to be “Penny wise and pound foolish.” This ultimately held them back from going to a whole new level. If the company dynamics had been a little different, if the leadership had been a little different it would have been one of those success stories that we would talk about.
If your product is not getting traction be willing to seek the outside help, develop focus groups bring in consultants that can assist your team in looking at new ways to do things. As Skender said, “Be willing to adapt!”, “Not everything is so binary. You might have had a vision and launched your company under certain thoughts and biases, and you find out that once you enter the market it is completely different.” Skender then adds,” Adaptation in our industry is so important to success!”
Skender discusses a company that hit a homerun and what differentiates them.
Skender suggests that, we must look at these success stories as it helps us learn. Skender then discusses a company that started out and eventually was acquired at a very nice multiple.
Skender has had an opportunity to speak to the founders of this company a couple of times and he was struck by the fact that they were so humble. They have now since taken a few companies to successful exits. Their philosophy is to START SMALL, learn the market, get an understanding of what it is going to take to be successful in a small area expend a few resources in this one region, but just continue to learn. Then, let’s move beyond that.
Once you have accomplished the success in that one area then move in adjacent steps. Seek support where you need it, don’t try to do everything yourself. When the time comes to bring in that support, bring it in and rely on it. That’s how you can grow successfully.
Doing this you will grow efficiently and profitably. Don’t try to bite off more than you can chew. They always sought to approach small geographic or specialty markets first. They knew they had an end goal in mind, but it wasn’t to become a billion-dollar company on day one.
They wanted one successful conversion of one hospital, adapt their technologies and learn from that process. Then learn what the benefits were to that hospital. Then they took it to the next hospital in that region, then the next, continuously learning. Eventually this company was sold for several hundred of millions of dollars after only being in business for about 3 years.
This was accomplished because their growth trajectory was so sound. Their profitability was so sound that this happened quickly. This approach developed such a strong road map of the acquiring company was so sizeable it didn’t make sense NOT to acquire them. So, it was one of the greatest success stories that Skender could think of.
To learn more about Skender Daerti and his company The Clinician Exchange go to https://www.theclinx.com/. Or email Skender at firstname.lastname@example.org
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On this episode of Med Tech Gurus, we sat down with Nancy Trick, Clinical Manager of Worldwide Evidence & Education at Beckton Dickinson. Nancy was kind enough to spend some time talking about the Med Tech market, education & support, and lessons learned from a career in the Medical Technology sector.
A Company that Missed the Mark
There are a lot of companies that have wonderful intentions, but just miss the mark. One in particular was a large medical device company who was the market leader in their core technology, not just in the United States, but globally.
They acquired a small start up with great technology, and a disruptive, innovative presence in the market, and brought on the sales and marketing leadership of the start up.
However, the leadership took their eye off the core technology of the company in the process of integrating, and shifted their sales team over to the new technology. While the technology was great, it wasn’t ready to be launched.
The leadership forgot about their core technology.
Luckily, the company rallied, worked together to better understand the customer’s needs, and that company is not one of the industry leaders in catheter tip positioning, but this story is an all-too-common one.
As your company grows and acquires new technology, don’t forget about what’s at your core, and keep moving forward. Clinical selling is developed through relationship building and being available.
A Company that Hit a Homerun
The vascular access market has grown tremendously in the last thirty years. Technology has had a great deal of influence in the moving of clinicians and clinics to adopt new products.
One particular company saw the opportunity for midterm use of vascular access, and developed a product that was backed by evidence, was incredibly reliable, and had solid technology.
The company acquired complementary technologies to enhance and support their core technology, offering additional products as needed.
The catheter itself is important, but the complementary technologies, such as ultrasound and positioning are crucial. The company started with the core technology, but realized they needed to build on that technology in order to better help customers utilize the safest and most effective possible methods.
This company is actually now the leader in vascular access globally.
You have to have top-down leadership that understands the realities of producing product and driving them to bedside. Without the “feet on the street,” your product is forever stuck in the “this is a good idea” phase.
Your top-down leadership has to be as strong, if not stronger than your feet on the street.
It used to be that you could bring in a new product, and if that product provided a service that was needed, at a price point that everybody could live with, that was good enough.
Now it’s not only gaining that relationship, but bringing documented, real-time experience using a product, along with a solid plan for education and support for the product.
How has it been tested? What are its challenges? How could it be made better?
Bring evidence and education to the table, and teach people how to truly understand and use your product.
Unfortunately, the medical device market can be one that is rife with timidity and caution. One of the trends that seems to be catching on is avoidance of new technology as a solution for reducing risk.
When there is a risk, what is it that cause that particular risk? How could it be made better? Bring that evidence and support to the table early, and often.
When their is a risk, what is it that caused it? Look at it from the industry side, and the applied practice side.
There is so much good to be done in the medical technology sector. People are looking for technologies and the support to make a real and lasting difference in patient care. This is a great market for entrepreneurs looking to drive the field forward and do so with empathy, support, and reliability.
This post is based on an interview with Nancy Trick from Beckton Dickinson. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to MedTech Gurus.
If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.
What do you do when you want to launch a new concept or technology in today’s medical device space? You know, the long sales cycles and complex hospital systems.
Obviously, you need a guru. This episode’s med tech guru is Michelle O’Connor, CEO of the CMR Institute, which has provided training and development for medical device, diagnostic and other life science companies for the last 50 years.
If anyone knows about the newest med device industry trends, it would be someone as passionate about creating collaborative relationships between commercial sales organizations and healthcare systems as O’Connor. Oh, also she is a frequent speaker and trainer, and she serves on the Board of Life Science Trainers and Educators Network.
Does this describe you? Quick quiz.
You’ve got an innovative technology with the potential to improve patient outcomes and reduce hospital readmissions. You even have supporting data and research—the favorable outcomes data that hospitals love. But you’re frustrated by your inability to get any traction in the market.
O’Connor has seen hundreds of companies in her 24-year tenure with CMR. And this is what she has to say to a company with a product that is full of potential, but misses the mark in sales.
“They failed to train and prepare their sales reps to call on a different decision maker—in this case, the economic buyer,” O’Connor said. Without naming names, “This company continued to call on traditional influencers with more of a features and benefits message rather than a value proposition that spoke to the new decision maker.”
It’s just that traditional call points don’t have the ability to influence broad adoption of a product across health systems anymore.
Two problems with this nameless company—they couldn’t the economic buyer and they were staying in their comfort zone.
“They had not been trained or prepared to call on the newer decision maker for that product,” O’Connor explained. And the company wasn’t adequately preparing sales on the new call points, either.
What the Economic Buyer Wants
First, you have to understand the market in terms of data. “What types of data are health systems looking for when they make these kinds of decisions?” O’Connor said.
What the Economic Buyer WantsFirst, you have to understand the market in terms of data. “What types of data are health systems looking for when they make these kinds of decisions?” O’Connor said.
Labs? Clinical providers? C-suite? You have to find the right data for the right decision makers.
It’s not just about an innovative product and solid outcomes data. Go-to-market sales strategy can be the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful company.
O’Connor talks about a specific successful company she encountered. “Prior to launching the product, they totally revamped their go-to-market sales strategy. They brought the sales leadership in to contribute to the development of a new value proposition.”
Basically, sales was involved in the whole process to determine the value that the company brings to the market in terms of cost, quality, and outcomes.
“These sales leaders were also trained to call on the C suite,” O’Connor said. “And finally, they ensured that their sales reps were trained to use a value-centered approach.”
So as a company, they took a step back before they launched the product to develop that value proposition. “The training piece, I think, was integral to that,” O’Connor added.
It boils down to two components, really.
How to Reach Buyers Effectively
Hint: It’s not to email a bunch of times.
If you think it’s hard to get an email answered from somebody in the C suite, just think about being the somebody with 50 or 60 sales emails a day.
“To get the interest of something in the C suite, it has to be a very unique value proposition,” O’Connor said.
“Instead of going in with a sales pitch or a request to meet with someone, offer a value proposition. Here’s how we can benefit your health system, and if I can have 30 minutes of your time, this is what I will do. Boom, boom, boom.”
Say your product will impact hospital readmissions. But say that’s not what the health system’s focusing on right now.
“If they’re trying to solve a problem that your message doesn’t necessarily appeal to, they’re not going to pay attention to that email,” O’Connor said.
What to do about it? “Take a step even further back and identify a unique approach to each health system,” O’Connor recommends.
A lot of helpful information—their strategic plan, their annual report—is out in the public domain. “This looks like determining what metrics they are falling short on or that are impacting their bottom line and then positioning your product in terms of the problem that it will solve for that particular health system.”
Do your research and craft a solution to a problem that the institution may be interested in.
“It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach,” O’Connor said.
“That’s a mistake that med tech companies make. Their approach is more of a traditional call approach, and that’s just not going to work in this value-driven market.”
The truth is, over the last few years, there’s been a reluctance to shift the go-to-market and selling model. But lately there’s been an uptake in an interest in doing things differently. “Med tech companies and GPOs are realizing that, to impact market share and revenue, a different go-to-market approach is required.”
This whole attempt to solve a problem? It’s way more likely to succeed than misaligned incentives.
If the med tech company’s goals and the health system goals are not aligned, that’s a lose/lose.
Good news: “There’s a sweet spot for med tech companies and for health systems to come together and to create a win/win proposition,” O’Connor said.
Cost, Quality, and Outcome
Maybe a decade ago you could just call on a surgeon, get that clinical buy-in, and be done. Today you need to think more strategically.
“It’s all about value, and that value to most health systems means cost, quality, and outcome,” O’Connor said. “Being able to position your product within that triangle is critical.”
So, CMR Institute helps prepare companies to tackle just that strategic problem. O’Connor prepares company go-to-market strategies differently to present their product or solution within the context of a value proposition.
“One of the things we do is help organizations create a value proposition if they don’t have one, because you can’t create an effective go-to-market strategy without it,” O’Connor said.
In CMR Institute workshops, you’d answer some questions like these:
These questions help companies define their product or service in a manner that allows the provider organization to analyze its value to the health system without just focusing on cost.
“Other workshops help customers understand who the new decision makers are and the measurements and goals on which they’re focused,” O’Connor added.
“This greater ability to present solutions for real provider issues allows our customers to create a more successful go-to-market strategy. And I think that that’s what it’s all about today.”
CMR Institute also offers free resources and podcasts on the changing market for med tech companies on its website. And for a deeper understanding of what CMR Institute can do for entrepreneurs, just contact Michelle O’Connor directly by email at email@example.com.
This post is based on a podcast interview with Michelle O’Connor from the CMR Institute. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to Med Tech Gurus.
If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.
Tom is a 35 year veteran in the Med Tech space. Having personally worked with dozens of new technologies. It is Tom's passion to enhance patient outcome by bringing new concepts and technologies that will help clinical performance.