Working With Sales Representatives

By Vanessa Bird / 06 Aug 2021

Sales consultant Vanessa Bird discusses how to have an effective partnership with a sales rep in order to grow your aesthetics business

The working relationship with a company sales representative is often under-valued when planning the future success of an aesthetic practitioner or clinic. In my experience, sales representatives are often branded as pushy, order-takers, or viewed as someone you briefly need to deal with if you want to buy a product or device. However, practitioners who understand the true value of a sales representative when it comes to developing their business are really on the road to success. Sales representatives can help support you, identify often-overlooked areas of expertise you can tap into, and give advice on how to build a lasting, mutually beneficial path to success.

This article will cover the key ways you can benefit from working with sales reps, identifying the areas you should focus on. It will outline the best approach to take and explain how working with the reps can help you manage and grow your business above and beyond making a purchase.

The learning curve

Having a background as a capital equipment sales representative in the aesthetic medicine specialty means I have banked years of experience working with industry experts, clinic owners and practitioners. In my time I’ve noticed that some clinics would never quite get off the ground despite their best efforts, and either stagnate or close their clinic and move on to pastures new. Others would do well, earning a good living and building their reputation successfully. A select few would excel, growing more quickly than other clinics, appearing in the press and becoming key opinion leaders (KOLs) for companies keen to partner up with these rising stars.

However, I soon noticed a pattern. The vast majority of practitioners who worked with sales reps and trusted their expertise, achieved a more rapid return on their investment because they could integrate the new technology far more successfully than those who didn’t. I’ve found that mutual trust and respect between sales reps and practitioners can also spark more sales in clinic and help to develop a working partnership that brings about future opportunities for clients, which can enhance their professional profile.

So, how do you get started?

What to look for

Your initial contact with a sales rep begins with an enquiry about the product or service they offer. In some instances, you may have done business with them before and know how they work, but if you haven’t, what should you look out for?

Experience is important, especially industry experience. Aesthetic medicine is quite a unique field and what works in another sector won’t necessarily work in aesthetics, so you should ask your sales rep about their background. Be cautious if they have moved around a lot over a short period of time. In my view, sales reps who stay for less than two years in a role are usually less committed to a technology/product and won’t share the same passion or knowledge as a rep who has stayed for two plus years, and those who move companies cannot provide the long-term support a successful partnership needs.

You should also check to see if they have knowledge of other technology or products, not just their own. A good sales rep understands the features and benefits of competitors and can help you incorporate multiple technologies into your clinic.

You should ask your peers for recommendations on who to work with. People buy from people and if your peers recommend a sales rep, it’s because they have delivered exceptional service. Red flags include not being able to reach your sales reps because they ignore calls or emails. If they don’t reply now, they certainly won’t after the sale is completed and this is a huge issue if you really need their support. Another red flag to look out for is a sales rep who slates the competition and pulls them down to promote their product, rather than talks about the benefits of the technology or product because it is a classic sign of unprofessionalism. Do you really want to work with someone who focuses more on their competition? Wouldn’t it be preferable to work with a sales rep who is confident in their own technology or product and can talk about the features and benefits, the strengths of what they are offering and how it can work for you?

Lay the foundations

In order to lay the foundations of a successful partnership, be honest and open with your communication at all stages of the sales cycle with your sales representative. Sales reps have to create forecasts every month so their manager can predict what business is coming in, prepare stock levels accordingly and start booking in training. If you’re at the research-only stage and have no intention of buying anything for another six to 12 months, please tell them this. Give them a realistic timeline so they can forecast accurately. Sales representatives work on targets so this also helps them focus on more urgent sales for the quarter and means they won’t be emailing or calling you constantly to find out where you’re up to; something which may feel annoying when you’re busy in clinic. Communicate your timeline honestly and they will be able to book in your training and delivery for when you are ready to move forward, ensuring everything runs smoothly and without delays.

Be open to listening to any ideas, advice, or guidance your sales representative offers

Access their expertise

Be open to listening to any ideas, advice, or guidance your sales representative offers. They know their product or technology better than you do and have worked with similar clinics, so they will know what works and what doesn’t. They are not just limited to advice on techniques or combination therapies to try, although these alone will help you increase revenue. They will also be able to discuss marketing ideas, pricing, will train your staff on how to talk about and sell the treatments, and may even host an open event for you in clinic. By listening to their advice and acting on their guidance you can side-step mistakes others have made. Think of it as a fast-track path to success.

Don’t forget to tell them when you have tried something and reaped the benefits and if you have the time, email their manager with positive feedback. Never underestimate the pride a sales representative will feel knowing you have benefited from their expertise. Everyone wants job satisfaction, and everyone enjoys working with someone who is grateful for their recommendations and respects their professional opinion.

Build the relationship

Don’t block them from visiting you. Be open to their visits, ask them questions and offer your services back where applicable. Your sales representative is a business professional who can share valuable insights on the current economic climate, upcoming developments or trends in aesthetics. They have a more varied circle of contacts than you, regularly visiting other clinics, speaking with finance and insurance brokers and talking to sales reps from other companies. They see the business from a different angle, and it can be insightful. Do you want to develop your speaker profile? Ask them if they are looking for a KOL. The sales representative is more likely to put someone forward if they’ve taken time to develop a partnership. Or perhaps you would like to be a reference clinic they can send others to for feedback? This helps the sales rep close more deals and it also give you an accolade to put on your clinic website.

See the relationship as a two-way street. If you genuinely appreciate the work they put in, recommend them to others or introduce them to colleagues and they will look after you, reacting quickly if you have any issues, offering you discounts and fast-tracking new technology to you. You may even receive a referral fee, consumables bundle or get a lovely lunch out of it.

Provide feedback

Sales representatives are busy people. They don’t have time to waste chasing people who have no intention of buying from them. Yet, a lack of honest feedback from you can result in that sales rep chasing you for a sale that you’ve no intention of placing. Yes, often it’s hard to say no, and you may feel you don’t want to disappoint anyone so avoid calls and emails hoping they’ll eventually ‘get the message’, however they will appreciate it when you do tell them the truth. Please let your sales representatives know if your timeline has changed, if you have decided not to proceed or if you have purchased something else. They will not think any less of you and will focus their time on active sales elsewhere.

When things go wrong

We have all experienced a negative sales experience at some point in our lives and aesthetics is no different. Not all sales reps work to the same professional standards, and some may be economical with the truth about a contract or deal that leaves you out of pocket or feeling aggrieved. When this happens, it is important to discuss it with the sales rep and, if necessary, with their line manager. We all react in anger, but it is important to remember to allow them the opportunity to listen to you and address the issue, as sometimes miscommunication may the root cause rather than deception or fraud.

Always remain professional and polite and do not let anger cloud your judgement. Once resolved, look at either developing the existing sales rep partnership or consider requesting a new point of contact. As tempting as it may be to tell everyone about your negative experience or post on social media about the issues you have, you must remember that this is someone’s professional character or a company you are potentially damaging by doing so, regardless of whether it is justified. If you do feel strongly about warning others, then privately point out the issues you had with anyone who asks for your opinion or feedback rather than shouting it from the rooftops.

Another common problem is having difficulty reaching your sales rep after the sale is completed. You may have questions about pricing or the treatment protocols or perhaps want support planning an open evening, but your sales rep isn’t picking up your calls or replying to emails. The frustration you feel is normal and it must be addressed as soon as possible to avoid it negatively impacting your business. In this instance, go directly to their manager and discuss ways they can provide the support you need. This partnership is what leads to more sales for the company and better results for you.

Start utilising your sales reps

Never forget that sales representatives are professionals with a keen eye for business. They are very-well connected in their chosen field and have a wealth of clinical and business experience you can benefit from. Quite simply, people like to do business with people they enjoy working with and a sales rep who feels respected and valued by you will pass on opportunities and open doors for you. Success is born from long-term business partnerships, so reach out to your sales reps today and forge that connection!.

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