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Costly Assumptions in Medical Transactions

August 3, 2018

Warner Search Group, we specialize in the placement of Medical Device Sales Representatives. Often, Healthcare Recruiters and Candidates will have a number of questions regarding the search process, how to stand out, career development and challenges they face in their career path.  We update our blog frequently to ensure that you have access to the best advice possible.  Make sure to check out our available medical device sales jobs

 Written by: Golden Fingers


Sales representatives of medical appliances are busy individuals. For this reason, they approach things with levity hands which makes majority of them to assume a lot of things that is detrimental to the industry thereby losing a lot of sales in the process. One of those costly mistakes they make is assuming to have the full knowledge of what their customers want or carrying the notion that their clients understands your intents.   

Indefinite communications cost money, time, and sometimes lives of the people involved in healthcare. It is very important for sales experts in the healthcare to scrutinise every single communication for precision whether between them and clients or from their superiors or associates.  

There is nothing worse than for a sales agent to misunderstand what a customer order delivering something different entirely to the customer. When such mistakes are made, the first thing you hear from such a rep is, “I assumed…” Instead for him/her to make some clarification and confirmation before making the delivery.  

For instance, during my training is medical sales, I was opportune to work with a lot of orthopaedics as well as vertebral column firms. When there is call from the office of a surgeon for a scheduled surgery on a patient, it is expected of the medical sales agent to make the delivery of all the necessary tools and implants needed for that operation at the hospital ahead of the time.        

On such occasions, the request of the surgeon is normally a straightforward one, “Dr Silas require a pair of 60g boxes of ABC Bone Graft Matrix on January 26th.” But on other occasions, the request might not be that simple even if it look too simple. Take a look at this; “Dr Silas is performing a revision complete hip replacement and he needs your revision hip system.”     

Revision hip systems typically are very complicated because of the numerous options available. In this kind of situation, there are three possible approaches the rep can employ to this request; 

First, “I understand what the specialist wants.”

 Secondly, “I’ll come with everything I got.” Or “I’ll bring all the kit and caboodle we have.”

Thirdly, “I’ll give the surgeon a call to know exactly what he needs.”

 As reasonable as any of this option is, each of them has possibility of miscommunications which cannot only lead to irritation but can as well be catastrophic. 

For example, you may have known what the surgeon needed all the other times he used your system.  But for whatever reason, this time, there was an unexpected surprise that your set couldn’t address.  It might have been the surgeon’s oversight, but in his mind, you let it happen because you didn’t prepare adequately in advance and communicate any limitations.

Even when reps take the time to review x-rays and discuss the exact plan with a surgeon, there can be misunderstandings and unstated expectations.  One example is when a bone fractures during the revision surgery and the surgeon asks for a cable plate to fix the fracture and the rep didn’t bring it.  The rep’s defense is, “You didn’t request it.”  The surgeon’s defense is, “You should know what I need.”

When it comes to clear communications in any situation selling to healthcare, I suggest you do two things:

Define exactly what the customer’s expectations are and…

Document it!

Today, reps have multiple ways of communicating with customers.  When a customer makes a request, specifically state how you will handle that request.  Confirm whether or not it is acceptable to the customer.  Then put it in writing.

For a situation such as the one I described above, where a customer is requesting something for patient care, list out, in writing, exactly what you will be delivering and when.  Ask for confirmation in a written form via email, fax, or any other method that records and documents it.

Even when a customer just wants an answer to a question that you need to research, let the customer know the information that you’re going to get back to her with, and by what date and time.  Record it in your scheduling device so you don’t forget.

If you’re going to make an assumption, assume what the French military leader, Napoleon Bonaparte assumed: If a message can be misunderstood, it will be.  To mitigate this, Napoleon kept an idiot in his camp.  The idiot’s only job was to read every one of Napoleon’s communications before it was sent.  If the idiot understood the message as Napoleon intended it, the message was sent.  If not, Napoleon rewrote the message to make it simpler.

When you sell in healthcare, you’re not dealing with idiots, but you are dealing with busy professionals who assume you know what they want.  Your job as a professional is to clarify those assumptions and get confirmation.  This way, no one can blame you for any omissions or misunderstandings.  Should they try, you’ll have the documentation to back it up your claim that you did your job professionally and responsibly.