Selling medical devices in Switzerland can be a lucrative opportunity for manufacturers and suppliers. However, navigating the complex regulations and finding a reliable distributor can pose significant challenges.
To help you overcome these obstacles, this document outlines the critical information you need to know before selling medical devices in Switzerland, the steps to take to find a Swiss medical device distributor, and tips and traps to steer clear of during the distributor search.
By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your medical devices comply with Swiss regulations and reach the right customers in Switzerland.
5 reasons to have a Swiss medical device distributor
1. Knowledge of the Swiss medical market
The first benefit of working with a Swiss medical device distributor is that they know the local market a lot. Depending on your industry, they can tell you the number of hospitals, pharmacies, labs, doctors, or patients in your field.
A Swiss medical device distributor can also help you understand the regulatory environment, including the specific rules and requirements for medical devices in Switzerland. It can save you time and frustration in navigating the complex regulatory landscape. Furthermore, they may have relationships with key industry players, such as hospitals or government agencies, which can help you establish your brand and increase sales. Overall, having a Swiss medical device distributor on your team can provide valuable insights and connections to help you succeed in the Swiss market.
2. Better coverage of the market
The Swiss market is small but complex. Switzerland has approximately 8.8 million inhabitants, 276 hospitals, 1.4 million hospitalizations each year, and 1485 nursing homes.
The main complexity is that this small country is divided into 26 different cantons and has four official languages. If you want to set up your subsidiary, you must hire multiple persons or be lucky to find a multilingual employee with experience in your industry.
Finding a Swiss medical device distributor with a team in place is quicker and more effective: it brings you a multilingual team and market experience simultaneously.
3. Local after-sales service
The medical device industry is one of the industries that requires the most after-sales service attention and care for clients. Clients are either patients or caretakers between the manufacturers and the patients. Lives, comfort, and revenues are at stake.
For example, a damaged MRI machine could endanger lives, delay comfort for a patient, or create a loss of critical revenues for a small medical center.
By working with a Swiss distributor instead of selling directly, you may have a solid and local aftersales service for your client. A distributor's technician can solve a problem within a few hours without your team jumping in.
4. Existing network of Swiss customers
Starting to sell in Switzerland through a medical device distributor can open doors for you quickly. A distributor has an existing network of clients to introduce your products to and probably a database of prospects, too.
If you were to build your sales network, it would surely let you have more margin in your pocket, but it would take you more time. It's always an arbitrage between money and time.
Hospitals, nursing homes, and patients aren't buying containers of products. Shipping to Switzerland requires you to fill out documents, split orders, and ensure products arrive on time. What would happen if the client returns the product? Even more paperwork!
By appointing a Swiss medical device distributor, you ship a large quantity to your partner, and it has to split the orders and take care of the rest of the logistics. It should bring you peace of mind.
Information to know before selling a medical device in Switzerland
Make sure your medical devices comply with the Swiss regulations
Swiss regulations aren't EU regulations, even if the Swiss authorities have made it similar to support manufacturers entering the Swiss market (and Swiss manufacturers export). There are differences between the two regulatory systems and requirements you need to comply with. Find helpful information on the Federal Office of Public Health FOPH website.
We have also developed a corpus of articles on the Swiss medical device market and regulations to follow on our blog.
Adapt your medical devices to the Swiss market
Selling a medical device in a market requires you to adapt it. More than just regulations, you need to check how the product will be operated in Switzerland and if it requires an adaptation. For example, Switzerland has different electricity plugs than in the EU. Do you need to provide a cable to connect it or to change your production line to produce a Swiss version of your medical device?
Finding a Swiss medical device distributor: overcoming obstacles
Search the market effectively
As explained earlier, Switzerland has four main languages. As a result, you should search the market in the three most dominant languages (German, French, and Italian - in this priority order).
Some distributors have a website in English or a team that can speak English, but maybe not all team members. Consider having a Swiss person or company to support you. Or having at least a German-speaking (or French-speaking) employee of yours do the search.
If you're interested in our support to medical device manufacturers to find a distributor, feel free to contact us.
Understand where and to whom the distributors sell
Distributors sometimes cover the whole country; sometimes, they don't. Switzerland is a very decentralized country with 4 different languages. For example, some medical device distributors have a strong team in the German-speaking part and maybe only one bilingual salesperson for the French-speaking part (representing nearly 30% of the market).
You want your distributors to be transparent on who they sell to and where. If they can't cover the country actively, you may wish to appoint two to three distributors.
Double-check their reputation
To ensure that you are making an informed decision, we recommend verifying the reputation of the Swiss medical device distributor by checking their clients' feedback and reviews. It will help you determine if they are a reliable and trustworthy partner to work with.
Visit them and check the crucial points
Appointing a new distributor without visiting them is a clear no-no. It's a minimum requirement to select the right medical device distributor. You're looking for a long-term partner, not a temporary one. It's costly to change distributors every other year. Visiting the distributor(s) helps you understand their structure and processes, meet their team, and check if they comply with regulations (storage, labeling, sales tracking, etc.).
4 steps to find a Swiss medical device distributor
1. Identify the medical device distributors
If you are looking to find a Swiss medical device distributor, there are a few steps you can take to ensure success. First, identify potential distributors specializing in the type of medical devices you are selling.
Then, you list all of them to study them: you can look at their team structure, where they have offices and the portfolio they currently sell. This information can help you understand who the best candidates are.
2. Approach distributors in an effective manner
Once you have a list of potential distributors, approach them effectively, highlighting your products' unique features and benefits. You need to seduce them and convince them that your products fit their portfolio and can bring them additional revenues. On the other hand, they must prove they're the country's best partner.
3. Build a relationship with your distributor
Building a solid relationship with your distributor is also crucial to long-term success. It includes regular communication, regular visits, providing training and support, and offering incentives to help them sell your products. Swiss people usually take time before trusting a new partner; you must spend time with them first.
4. Onboard them properly
Finally, it's essential to properly onboard your distributor to ensure they understand your product and are appropriately equipped to sell it to their customers. You must make time for multiple training sessions, send samples, and have them come to your location for extensive sales and after-sales training. By following these steps, you can increase your chances of finding a successful Swiss medical device distributor.
Tips and Traps to steer clear of when searching for a Swiss medical device distributor
Verify that the medical device distributor in Switzerland respects the local laws and follow your rules
First and foremost, verifying that the distributor you choose respects the local laws and regulations is crucial. It will ensure that your business relationship is off to a good start and that you can trust your distributor to adhere to your guidelines.
The Swiss medical device distributor will probably be your local contact with the Swiss regulatory authorities to declare malfunctions and medical cases that require a formal declaration to authorities. They are also the ones in charge of storage and labeling. That is why you must provide a guideline of rules to follow and ensure they respect them.
Where can you find medical device distributors in Switzerland?
Medical tradeshows in Switzerland can be a great way to meet Swiss distributors of medical devices. IFAS, DentalBern, and RescueDay are some examples of tradeshows in Switzerland. These events bring together healthcare professionals, manufacturers, and distributors to showcase their products and services.
Attending these tradeshows can allow you to connect with potential distributors and learn about the latest trends and innovations in the Swiss medical device industry. You may also have the opportunity to attend seminars, workshops, and product demonstrations to better understand the products and services offered in Switzerland.
When searching for medical device distributors in Switzerland, online directories can be a helpful tool. These directories provide a comprehensive list of distributors and their contact information, making it easy to find the right partner for your business needs.
Some popular online directories for medical device distributors in Switzerland include Medtech industry associations' directors and public databases. By using these directories, you can save time and effort in finding the right distributor.
A simple desk research by browsing the web could lead you to Swiss medical device distributors. We recommend running the searches in native languages. It provides a larger number of results and more accurate ones.
Finally, asking clients, industry associations, and regulatory consultants in Switzerland could lead you to meaningful introductions to effective Swiss medical device distributors. These methods are very effective but are only sometimes used by manufacturers.
At Masson International, our best results in finding medical device distributors for our clients always come from a mix of the four abovementioned ways of finding distributors.
In conclusion, working with a Swiss medical device distributor can bring you new revenues (and quickly), with valuable insights and connections to help you succeed in the Swiss market. With their knowledge of the local market, better coverage of the market, local after-sales service, existing network of Swiss customers, and logistics support, they can help you overcome the obstacles and reach the right customers in Switzerland. Additionally, ensuring that your medical devices comply with Swiss regulations and adapt to the Swiss market before selling them is crucial. By taking these steps and following the guidelines outlined in this document, you can increase your chances of success and tap into the opportunities that the Swiss medical device market has to offer.
Masson International is a trusted name in Europe and one of Europe's leading business development service providers. We help foreign medical device companies and EDOs (Economic Development Organizations) with market study and analysis, partner and distributor search, sales distribution, foreign direct investments, and arranging meetings with important actors at trade shows.