Evolution in Account Management in Medical Devices
Traditional medical device account management jobs were headquarters jobs – people in the office negotiating contracts and price. Often titled “Corporate Accounts,” the account managers sat above the business units and apart from the true [clinical] field sales force (administrators mainly). Sometimes they even reported to finance. In some ways, it made sense to separate account management from the field, especially for GPOs and for large IDNs that might take many years to convert. Let the field drive compliance on existing contracts and maximize current year sales without getting bogged down in contract negotiations, went the conventional wisdom.
More recently, large multi-franchise medical products vendors built separate account management for each of their product categories. A quick visit to the popular medical sales job sites turns up separate account manager jobs in imaging, surgical devices, cardiology, orthopedic implants, trauma and extremities, interventional spine, hospital IT, vascular and nearly every narrowly-defined product category. This proliferation of separate product category-specific account manager jobs in the same company may be the result of account manager “envy”: if the core business leader is permitted to invest in account management, then the other non-core business leaders want their account managers too.
Deploying multiple sets of account managers makes sense if that’s how IDNs want to be converted, with multiple contracts for different product categories. As IDNs move toward fewer contracts, however, vendors may be caught with too many ships sailing into separate narrow inlets of the same account.
What’s the Solution?
Field-based account management. We see this as the next evolutionary stage of hospital account management. See the graphic below.
This field-based account management will work best and must be deployed more urgently to IDNs that have well-defined buying processes, where vendor margins are under siege from hospital administrators, and where the field sales jobs have become less clinical and increasingly business-to-business.
Best bets for initial deployment are those IDNs where a vendor has converted one or few product categories but struggles to sell across the portfolio. The easiest way to get field-based account management up and running is by adding it to the job of the Sales Manager. We’ve seen limited positive results when the Sales Manager takes on this new field role for an IDN and its constituent hospitals, letting the Sales Rep continue hitting her traditional hospital call points. While the Sales Manager is usually a better candidate than the Sales Rep for delivering the business-to-business sales messages, the Manager’s field coaching tends to evaporate when their time shifts to IDN selling. Greater results can be obtained by making a targeted investment in a new field-based account manager for select IDNs. This field-based account manager’s role can be defined by how each large IDN buys – how they organize their contracting, Value Analysis Committee, and how they want to be converted.
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