Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Doctor's Perspective

On Friday afternoon, Dr. Don Johnson of the Carleton Sports Medicine Clinic shared his perspective on what makes a good rep.

Dr. Johnson has worked with ConMed Linvatec (formerly Concept) since the early '80's. His clinic is based in Canada where Linvatec has a 65% marketshare. A former president of the Arthroscopy Association of North America, he has contributed many product ideas over the years as one of our company's key surgeon-consultants.

He started off with a story about his old rep who showed him a zone-specific cannula set. At the time, the concept of stitching menisci was totally new. Excited, he asked his rep, "How do you use it?" His rep looked back at him and said, "I don't f*%^ing know. You're the doctor."

That, ladies and gentleman, is how not to succeed as a medical device rep in this day and age.

In Dr. Johnson's opinion, product knowledge is king. Reps should know the procedures their products are used on backwards, forwards, inside and out, including potential pitfalls, and solutions or "bail outs" if something goes wrong during surgery. Moreover, reps need to know their competitors' products almost as well as their own, so they can present the right products to compete effectively.

Such knowledge is also extremely important when trying to convince a surgeon to give you a shot to work with them for the first time. If a rep understands potential problems the surgeon might encounter, then the rep can get to the bottom of their "pain" and offer a product or way to solve that problem. "Look for a doctor who is having problems, show up to solve his problems and then start fixing them," Dr. Johnson said.

If you don't know your stuff, you risk coming off as a pushy, used-car salesperson, which most doctors find a major turn-off. In Canada, they go so far as to tell reps "not to sell" for the first three years, since docs will snuff them out if they aren't fluent in medical lingo. Even if you can spin the lingo, maintain your modesty. Know-it-alls fall in the same undesirable category as the used-car reps.

Doctors look for reps who can "talk their talk" and judge pretty quickly a rep's knowledge level and sincerity. "They will test you," cautioned Dr. Johnson. He recommended reading the following journals to stay current with research and trends.

The American Journal of Sports Medicine http://ajs.sagepub.com/
Arthroscopy, The Journal of Arthroscopic and Related Surgery www.arthroscopyjournal.org/

Although product superiority is one level to "flip" or convert a doctor, great service is also a big lure. He suggested reps be "johnny on the spot" whenever the doctor or his staff need help, even going so far as to help solving problems with competitive products.

From his perspective, the best time for a rep to find a few moments to speak with a surgeon is on a "light" surgery day, which varies by surgeon. Chit-chat during a routine procedure or at the scrub sink are probably fine (prefaced with "Do you mind talking?"), but he counseled reps to be sensitive to the surgeons' moods and need to concentrate. Office or clinic hours are hectic and bring endless demands from patients- not a good time to peddle your wares, especially at the end of the day when the doctor has been running ragged trying to solve multiple problems all day.

Doctors see a lot of reps. If you've been showing your face a lot, you may be the one they call when they have a problem. Persistence, product knowledge, sincerity, willingness to help out and ability to solve problems... using Dr. Johnson's experience as a guideline, these seem to be the characteristics that doctors notice and appreciate in a good rep.

No comments: