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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
On this episode of Med Tech Gurus, we sat down with Jay Michael Brown with Number Three Investments and CEO of Rock West Medical Devices about some of the market realities and strategies that can affect the success of medical device develop.
Mr. Brown has a degree in Marketing and Business Administration from Western Kentucky with further study at Columbia University and training in Human Resources at Princeton University. With over 40 years of experience in the medical device space, including time spent in the OR, Critical Care, Emergency, Pulmonary, and Vascular Access Markets with various products, he has been a part of or driven eight successful exits to some of the largest Fortune 500 companies in healthcare.
How Companies with Great Potential Miss the Mark
A lot of companies with great potential fall short. This is exceptionally true of technology based companies who must not only develop great products that function with exceptional efficacy, but also meet needs dictated by the market.
Mike told us he’d been a part of many projects, both in their infant stage and into clinicals, that had great potential because of the quality of their product, but ultimately fell short due to market conditions or non-engineering problems.
Once such product was a Pulmonary Monitoring device meant to measure airwave breathing through chest measurements. Despite being “one of the best” products he’d be associated with, they were unable to sufficiently drive the market and came up short. This particular shortcoming was a function of money more than anything else - as it’s extremely expensive to inform the market.
The product far exceeded the expectations. However, the key was physician education - not only on how to use a product, but in the understanding of the need for the product through the niche it fills. Mike admits that he and others didn’t do as much diligence as they could have. Understanding the market is key.
Although they did eventually sell the business for the amount of cash invested, a testament to the business acumen of those involved with the project, the product had great potential to improve patient healthcare, which would have set it up to be an exceptionally lucrative venture. The tech had the makings of a smart ventilator that other companies are adapting to their technologies. Good tech comes back around.
How Companies Can Hit Home Runs
Missteps in the market won’t always be as palatable. Pleasing the venture capitalist by recapturing investments is always better than landing in the red, but it falls far short of the goals for start up investments.
You can get engineers that are extremely bright and know what they want to do, but it takes more than just being able to create a good device. The early diligence of understanding the market is key and can be the downfall for some really great products. The marketplace doesn’t accept every invention out there.
If you have a product that fills a need, you better make sure you’re not only able to teach people how to use it, but also help them understand more profoundly the need for it if you want to sell them the product. They have a wonderful product, but the market need isn’t understood by the market. Educating the market on its needs is what is expensive.
One of the biggest successes Mike had seen was around an IV catheter. The industry had been using needles to administer IV’s. It was easy to see the patient discomfort and cost associated with such necessary equipment, so different companies were trying out plastic catheters. It was a product whose market needed a massive amount of selling. The need was obvious, so the product was greatly successful.
In this case a fantastic product met an exceptional need in the market. Even after many, many iterations the original company is still going strong today. By being able to be sensitive to the market needs - both obvious and what can be informed - your great tech can begin to slid into gaps that can, in turn, profoundly affect the medical field and prove very beneficial for investment.
Advice for Medical Entrepreneurs
“They need to understand the market need,” Mike reiterates. “You can’t say this often enough to someone who has an idea.” There is an uncommon link between good technology and the need it’s meant to meet. Moreover, relationships and communication with physicians and other professionals in the field who make use of this tech, are necessary to inform the market. The sooner your group is aware of this, the more quickly they can research and make plans to adapt to current and projected market patterns.
The second part that’s become is the regulatory pathway. It’s a real problem; you need to understand and know it because it can be a major portion of your cost, especially with all the clinicals.
A startup most likely should never try to take a product all the way to market. This sounds crazy at first, but if you have something that has a real market need, the big three or five companies in the industry don’t do development extremely well and are willing to acquire technology to grow their businesses.
Know your exit candidates. Know who’s playing in the space you’re playing in. Are you the kind of player that can play in this size of a game? Is there a niche you can fill? You can start this conversation post-regulatory. As soon as you’ve finished your clinic work and prove that the product is viable in the marketplace, you can start the exit process. Having a million in sales goes a long way towards proving marketplace need.
This post is based on an interview with Michael Brown from Rockwest Medical Devices. 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.
On this episode of MedTech Gurus, Dr. Alejandro Badia, CEO & Chief Medical Officer of OrthoNow LLC, was kind enough to sit down with us and talk about why being an early adopter is a good thing, how surgeons can teach other surgeons, the biggest challenges facing OrthoNow, and a host of other topics.
Dr. Badia and the team at OrthoNow are revolutionizing the orthopedic urgent care market through the implementation of boutique clinics, available at the patient's convenience, drastically reducing the amount of time needed to get an appointment with a specialist.
Be an Early Adopter
One of the most common mistakes in the medical world is a hesitancy to be an early adopter of new technology and devices. Countless companies have had what it takes, but just miss the mark because they are unwilling to break free of routine and complacency and embrace new ideas.
Take for example, a company that was developing a new suture welding technology. If we’re honest with one another, knot tying is a bit primitive. It treats patients like a shoelace, and often ends in bulk, adhesions, and quite a bit of scarring. This particular company had developed a technology that was less invasive, left less scarring, and healed faster. They were bought by a bigger company, and the entire project fell by the wayside. The company bought the technology, made some fundamental changes, and in the end, the product stalled and was abandoned. This is a shame because neither surgeons nor their patients got the benefits of this breakthrough technology, all because the new company weren't’ interested in being early adopters.
Let Surgeons teach Other Surgeons
Obviously with medical devices, much like most other items, the salesperson is important. They are specially trained and skilled at presenting a product in such a way as to best convince someone of their need for that product.
That being said, the best teacher for a surgeon is probably another surgeon. Take the roller plate that was sold to Johnson & Johnson, revolutionizing the way implants can be marketed. One of the reasons it was done so successfully was that they realized that surgeons can teach other surgeons. They held small workshops where surgeons taught on cadavers how best to use the plates, and in the end, it was an incredible success. In this ever changing world, it’s important to teach people how to do something, rather than merely selling them a product.
Fail Fast, and Fail Forward
In the founding of OrthoCare, Dr. Badia used failure as a catalyst. Before OrthoCare came into existence, there was Doctors Now, a general Urgent Care practice that never quite picked up traction or got the results they were hoping for. It would have been easy for Dr. Badia and his colleagues to move on to the next thing, but he understood that entrepreneurs need to see failure as a revision of the business model. Failure is the catalyst that drives success.
Thomas Edison famously said, after failing over and over again to perfect the light bulb “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
So 5 months later, the DoctorsNow model became OrthoNow, and has been a runaway success, and is now being franchised. Fail quickly, fail forward, and learn from your failures.
What is Needed is a Change in Behavior
A year or two ago, if you asked what the biggest challenge for OrthoNow was, the answer probably would've been awareness. People need to know that the company exists, which seems like a pretty fundamental challenge to most companies.
Now, however, the answer is quite simple. What is needed is a change in behavior. The tendency with significant injuries, be they sprains, cuts, or even fractures, is to go straight to the emergency room. Or for more minor injuries, the closest urgent care clinic will do. What happens when you get there? You spend hours waiting to be seen, likely get a slough of tests that are unnecessary to your particular ailment, and are sent out with a splint, some pain meds, and a referral to an orthopedic specialist. They can also often end up misdiagnosed, which can have long lasting repercussions for the patient. They’ll say things like “I went to the ER and they told me I had a jammed finger.” This can mean a plethora of different things, and only someone with specific orthopedic knowledge is going to be able to accurately diagnose the issue.
At OrthoCare, the average patient is in and out in 70 minutes with a cast on, ready to begin healing. What if, instead of heading straight for the ER, folks said to themselves “let me drive 15 more minutes to not only save hours of my day, but to get somebody who specializes in orthopedics. Almost everybody who comes through the doors at OrthoNow has been to another doctor first, but they’re out to change that. In this country, we can make healthcare more efficient by seeing the right specialist at the right time.
Know What Surgeons are Looking For
Last but not least, some solid advice for those medical entrepreneurs. Know what surgeons are looking for. They are hit up all the time with new technologies and treatment options. If you have a solid value proposition that’s good for the patient, and cost effective, you’ll get their attention. If it’s not cost effective, the surgeon as well as the patient are spending loads of money on something with little to no return for them.
If you’d like to learn more about franchising an OrthoNow clinic, you can head to OrthoNow and find all the relevant information. You can find Dr. Badia on LinkedIn, or at DrBadia.com
This post is based on an interview with Dr. Alejandro Badia from OrthoNow LLC. 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.
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.