Confronted by the growing influence of hospital procurement functions over clinical purchasing decisions, a Fortune 500 medical device supplier undertook a major initiative to equip its sales force with critical negotiation skills and strategies to drive improved results in selling to economically-minded buyers. No longer could the enterprise rely on traditionally friendly physicians to make purchasing decisions based primarily on clinical quality.
To increase average selling price and grow market share in this environment, top sales people would need to change their approach. They would need to get much better prepared for negotiations, take the lead in shaping each negotiation to focus on total value, and develop deep skill in uncovering underlying motivations and getting creative in negotiations. When faced with tough tactics, they’d have to be able to “change the game.” And they’d have to start defining and implementing strategies for building and managing relationships with both clinicians and procurement professionals.
Vantage Partners worked with the client – its sales leaders, sales people, analytics function, and pricing function – to transform its sales force’s approach to negotiation. The work began with gathering top customers’ perspectives on opportunities to improve negotiations and relationships with them, carefully examining internal practices and processes across the organization, and developing a set of pinpointed recommendations on the structural and behavioral changes required for improvement. Interviews with sales leaders revealed the toughest—and potentially most costly—dynamics they faced in their negotiations with Procurement.
Phase I of Implementation focused on equipping sales people with a negotiation preparation toolkit and a “changing the game” playbook for managing challenging dynamics and dealing effectively with difficult customer tactics. Applied skills training via 23 two-day negotiation skills and strategies workshops worldwide was reinforced with follow-up coaching on live strategic negotiations.
The client achieved measurable results almost immediately. Within six months of the U.S. segment of the program’s rollout, the average revenue impact reported by survey participants exceeded $1 million per person, and the overall impact estimated by sales people was more than $60 million. In addition, sales people reported the following successes:
- Substantially improved skill in preparing for and conducting negotiations;
- More effective strategies for managing both Procurement and clinical relationships;
- Heightened creativity in developing solutions to meet customers’ needs;
- Greater ability to deal with difficult customer tactics; and
- Enhanced discipline in reviewing negotiations and sharing lessons learned across the sales force.