If you are in the medical device industry, you know that finding the right distributors can be challenging.
However, once you find the right distributors, building a strong and lasting relationship with them is crucial for the success of your business.
In this article, we will discuss some best practices for training, supporting, and incentivizing your medical device distributors to help them sell more effectively and become ambassadors of your brand.
By following these tips, you can establish a healthy and fruitful partnership with your distributors and increase your sales and market share.
1. Train well your medical device distributors
Training your distributors is the foundation of everything: it'll give you a healthy relationship and sales. The more prepared they are, the better your sales will be.
To train medical device distributors, you need to send your team members abroad to meet their whole team and spend time with them. You must spend at least half a day, to a complete day, every other year with their entire sales team (and not only the manager). Consider having a translator present because not all distributors have English-speaking sales teams.
During this training, you will make sure to review the following aspects:
- Company history and storytelling to customers
- Medical device portfolio and medical devices' USPs
- Sales techniques and pricing
- New products in the future (to keep them interested in your brand)
- Marketing and sales tools
- Upcoming medical tradeshows your company will be present at
- Brainstorming about their difficulties and roleplaying
Without proper training, don't expect your distributors to sell. Medical devices aren't easy to sell: they have medical and technical components to explain.
Distributors also have other products in their portfolio; you compete with their other principals. Why would they spend time educating themselves when they can sell another product they've been trained on? Make sure they like you, your company, and the training you give them (regularly!).
2. Give them sales and marketing tools
You wouldn't expect a lumberjack to cut trees without a chainsaw, right? It's the same with medical device distributors. What are the tools you are giving them to sell?
There are plenty of tools that can be shared or given to medical device distributors to support their sales activities:
- Medical device samples
- Invite their clients to newsletters
- Marketing content in their language
- Access to a CRM or marketing software
- Support for their customers
- Free medical devices to lend to their clients
- Higher warranty
- Sales promotion
- A leasing program for clients
- Free spare parts
3. Organize a Distributors Day
Medical device distributors generally love these special events. You can gather in one place for a special training or event, the manager of all your distributing companies.
You can organize it in a regional hub at a random time. You can use a large medical device exhibition that most distributors will visit as a location. You can invite them to your headquarters. The choice is yours.
Ensure you delight them with a pleasant experience: a tourist visit, a nice restaurant, or a special gift. If they leave your gathering with a smile, you're sure they will remember to track your sales when they have a sales team meeting in the following months. It tends to ease up the relationship when you need to have difficult conversations or if you tell them they need to increase their orders.
4. Visit together their clients
Bringing an export manager of a medical device manufacturer to a local hospital or a healthcare professional's office isn't expected, but when it happens, your distributor's reputation increases.
By visiting clients with your distributor, you benefit from three factors:
- Increasing the distributor's reputation: he can bring people from the headquarters if he wants to.
- More sales: the location you visit remembers you. It orders more and is becoming a loyal customer.
- Training during an actual situation: after the sales meeting, you can discuss with the salespersons what they need to improve. They also see you sell your medical devices to their customers.
5. Invite their best clients over
Nothing would make a distributor's client more loyal than inviting him to visit your headquarters or a unique location for training. If you're selling to specific institutions or large buyers, you can organize a training or education session for the managers of these institutions. Make the experience unique.
Show them your factory or have an educational event or training they won't forget with famous speakers in a unique location. There are many ways to craft an event that will stick into their mind, bring them new educational content, and let them think of your distributor (and you) when they order new medical devices.
6. Work with their medical device KOLs
Key Opinion Leaders are... Key! They are the ambassadors of your medical devices and ambassadors of your distributors as well. You can either provide distributors with KOLs or work with theirs.
Don't overestimate your Key Opinion Leader's image in foreign countries if you don't have a famous one. Sometimes, working with the country's top 5 doctors would be more fruitful than working with an unknown foreigner.
Choose wisely your Key Opinion Leaders and then plan activities: medical workshops, talks, appearances at medical device tradeshows, social media ads, marketing content, etc.
7. Build together a marketing plan
Building a marketing plan with your medical device distributors will empower them to do more for you. It's about accountability: what will you support them with, and what will they commit to do for your brand? It'll allow you to track their commitment to your brand.
Define the marketing budget, actions, or content you are ready to give them and what you expect in return. Make a plan with specific goals, events, and actions to complete on the distributors' end. It can include the number of promotional content sent, annual medical device exhibitions done, the number of workshops done in a year, minimum attendance per workshop, etc.
You can't succeed in what you haven't planned and aimed for. It's crucial to your success in the medical device distributor's country.
8. Motivate and elevate them
See your medical device distributors as your employees. They will only commit to selling if they are motivated by a goal, a team feeling, or a purpose. They must receive sales training or instructions from you and something that elevates their mind, some personal development, if you will.
Once an employee gets bored, they quit. Once your distributors get bored, they stop selling. They won't necessarily break the distribution agreement; they will stop making sales efforts to increase the volumes or margins generated. Have you heard about quiet quitting? Quiet quitting is when employees continue to put in the minimum effort to keep their jobs but don't go the extra mile for their employer. Does this sound familiar when you think of your distributors? Start reflecting on what you can change in your actions to motivate them.
- One of the ways mentioned above
- Share motivational and personal development content
- Share interesting sales techniques you've learned
- Make time to have deeper conversations on distributors' needs
- Book recommendations
Another way to motivate them is to have a competition in the distributor's sales team to win a trip to your headquarters. The salespersons selling more in a year will win a trip to your factory.
9. Create communication channels
To stick into your medical distributors' minds, they must regularly see your brand or your export manager's name. Ensure that the communication between your company and your distributors is fluid, effortless, and taken into account.
There is nothing worse than having distributors complaining and never listening to them. If you ignore your distributors, they will ignore you too. Let them speak and listen to them.
You can use many ways: an online forum, Slack channels, Whatsapp groups, an internal website, video content, marketing content, newsletters, regular monthly calls, sales meetings, etc.
10. Use Gamification & Competition
Finally, you can use gamification and healthy competition to activate your distributors. There are plenty of gamification apps or software that can help your distributors win badges and rank higher according to their successes.
You can decide to create a ranking between your distributors and let them know who sells the best (according to their market size). It can be another way to motivate them if they win a prize at the end of the year.
In conclusion, building a strong relationship with your medical device distributors is crucial for the success of your business. By investing in their training, giving them the right sales and marketing tools, organizing events, visiting their clients, working with their KOLs, and building a marketing plan together, you can establish a healthy and fruitful partnership. Remember that your distributors have other products in their portfolio, so make sure to stand out by providing them with excellent training, support, and incentives. Keep in mind that a happy and well-trained distributor is more likely to sell your medical devices and become an ambassador of your brand.
Our company, Masson International, specializes in finding and activating distributors in Switzerland, France and Belgium (and elsewhere if need be). We search for the best distributors and activate your network of distributors if you lack the staff to do so.