If there’s anything the past few years taught the medical technologies industry, it’s the importance of being able to connect with customers wherever they are. Telemedicine and digital health are transforming MedTech in the wake of COVID-19, making maintaining clear communication lines in sales vital. Whether your salespeople are dealing with buying groups, GPOs, or individuals, it’s become more important than ever to keep customer relations strong.
Customer relationship management (CRM) systems like Salesforce have become popular across many industries for their ability to help develop and maintain customer relationships. Companies like medical devices and technology manufacturers play an active part in healthcare and stand to gain a lot from a well-functioning CRM implementation, with companies like Dornier MedTech already improving their workflow with systems like Salesforce. According to an article published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, research has demonstrated that implementing CRM systems has improved communication and patient outcomes in hundreds of healthcare environments.
But it’s asking a lot to tell a salesperson to change up the tried-and-true processes that have built them lasting connections in the industry. Implementing CRM systems can be an intense process with its own share of pitfalls. Let’s explore some of the complications to look out for when considering a CRM implementation for a medical technologies or devices company.
Complex customer types make it tricky to streamline data
No one knows how to manage a diverse customer base like someone in MedTech sales. Medical devices companies can sell to everyone from the biggest health organizations, to single individuals, to everything in between. Considering the varied needs of group purchasing organizations, integrated delivery networks, or even individual hospitals, CRM can get complicated quickly—and salespeople have learned to manage those complications with efficiency and grace.
When considering how to implement these hierarchies digitally, you can see why someone might doubt a system’s effectiveness. Salespeople can spend hundreds of hours building connections and relationships with every type of industry connection—how are those complex relationships meant to be represented in an out-of-the-box system?
In a lot of cases, they can’t be. One of the drawbacks of base CRM systems is that they must be general enough to provide service to many different industries. That generality makes them flexible—but also limited. According to MedTech Intelligence, medical devices companies need to be able to visualize customer relationships at an enterprise, sales area, transaction, company code, and relationship level. Having such a complex hierarchy can make it tricky to cross-reference customer data or connect processes across customer types.
If a system can’t organize customer data in an accessible, easy-to-understand way, why would a salesperson trust it to give them the information they need when they need it? A proper CRM implementation works with the user, not against them—but getting to that partnership takes some customization.
Difficulty with system integrations
Upgrading system processes can take a lot of money, a lot of time, and even more care. The MedTech industry is vital to millions of people’s health and well-being, so business must continue while upgrading systems. Most medical devices companies upgrade their systems incrementally, updating individual systems one at a time. They may not start with CRM; they may begin by upgrading their pricing engine or contract lifecycle management software.
These upgrades are just as important as CRM but can be tricky to integrate. You could even have the reverse scenario: trying to integrate a new CRM system on top of legacy pricing or contracting systems. Either way, this incremental implementation can result in gaps or confusion. An out-out-of-the-box implementation of Salesforce won’t necessarily automatically sync with an existing Conga application. Mismatching data between systems can lead to inaccurate quotes or contracts, which damage customer trust and add unnecessary stress to the sales process on both ends.
Integrating systems properly is vital in an age where capturing remote customer interactions is paramount to maintaining relationships. No one wants to frustrate their customer by trying to schedule a video call when another sales team member has already met with that customer the day before. If the system doesn’t log those interactions correctly, salespeople can come across as forgetful, out-of-touch, or even annoying—through no fault of their own.
To automate or not to automate; that is the question
Even companies with relatively simple CRM needs can struggle to figure out what kind of CRM implementation might help them. Automation is a popular buzzword today, but talking about automating customer relationship management can feel to salespeople like reducing real human connections to algorithms and computer processes.
Part of this problem comes from management or a vendor assuming that business processes need automation when they don’t. Automation can serve a very practical purpose in medical devices sales, but jumping the gun and going immediately to automation can get MedTech companies in trouble. For example, suppose your company exclusively sells big-ticket, heavily customizable medical devices like MRI machines or PET scanners. In that case, you’ll need to communicate frequently with the customer, sometimes over months, to learn their specific needs. An automatic process can’t replicate that kind of incredibly detailed communication between individuals—so it’s not a good investment of resources to try.
When you decide automation is necessary, it’s essential to automate the right processes. Salespeople frequently resist adopting CRM systems because they feel those systems add busy work to their plate. They’re not necessarily wrong, either. Brand new CRM systems often don’t include data to which salespeople already have easy access. Why would they want to spend time adding contact or account information to a digital customer record if they already have that data to hand? It’s more important to them to provide healthcare providers and patients with the equipment that they need—and it should be.
It’s estimated that CRM systems and other SaaS applications solve about 70% of problems out of the gate with just about 20% of a company’s cash investment. With the other 80% of your budget going to solving that last 30% of problems, it’s important to know what to target, what to expect, and what pitfalls might be waiting on your way. A CRM system can be an incredibly useful tool to streamline and improve your business process—as long as it’s implemented and customized effectively.