The future of medtech sales is hybrid

Top-performing medtech companies are using hybrid or end-to-end remote sales motions to better meet the needs of healthcare personnel and other stakeholders.

Key takeaways

  • Medtech companies embarking on omnichannel transformations have positioned remote selling as a key element in delivering consistent experiences across the buying journey.
  • Three primary approaches have emerged as winning remote sales motions: remote selling for lead generation, partnered remote selling, and end-to-end remote selling.
  • To enable this shift, leading medtech companies are bringing in the right talent, reshaping go-to-market models, leveraging new sources of analytics, and modernizing tech stacks.

The medtech industry is at an inflection point: leading medtech companies have upended their go-to-market (GTM) approaches to support the changing needs of physicians, hospital procurement, practice administrators, and other stakeholders, with the additional goal of unlocking growth. Once reliant on face-to-face selling models and the idea that a Rolodex is a sales rep’s biggest asset, field sales teams are now augmented by new channels, notably remote sales teams that seek to meet the needs of healthcare personnel (HCP) and other stakeholders more efficiently.

Sidebar

The expectations of healthcare stakeholders have permanently changed since early 2020 (Exhibit 1). Our 2021 survey of 897 physicians globally across seven specialties that use medical devices shows that physician preference for some in-person interaction with representatives from medical-device companies has to some extent recovered (to 58 percent in August 2021, compared to 76 percent pre-COVID-19 in January 2020), the preference for remote and digital engagement is increasing. Physician preference for engagement by phone is still more than twice the level of January 2020 (38 percent vs 18 percent) and the preference for video calls has increased fivefold (22 percent vs 4 percent). While these groups indicate they especially prefer remote interactions for logistical tasks (coordinating demos, deliveries, and/or product repairs), it is also a preferred channel for learning about product updates or requesting support. This suggests the diverse roles that remote or “inside” sales teams can play in supporting additional channels (see sidebar, “Common myths about inside sales in medtech”).

Preference for in-person interaction is returning, but digital and virtual outreach preferences are growing.
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Pivoting from traditional selling approaches brings some specific challenges in this industry. Products and services are complex and need to be extensively evaluated by HCPs and procurement professionals prior to purchase, and procedures are often supported by sales reps or clinical specialists to provide product guidance. This is one reason why companies successful in making this shift to remote selling have done so by positioning it as just one element of a broader omnichannel transformation, one that allows leading players to deliver consistent messaging across all phases of engagement with HCPs, procurement professionals, practice administrators, technicians, and other stakeholders. Notably, these individuals are asking for varied engagement models at different steps of their buying journey, tailored to their specific needs: 81 percent of physicians and 89 percent of procurement professionals prefer to use more than one channel as they engage with medical-device companies. This is in line with trends across a range of industries in B2B and creates a need for both the availability of remote channels and its strong coordination with traditional field sales and digital outreach to provide truly omnichannel engagement with clinical and nonclinical stakeholders.

Choosing a remote-selling model

There is no “one size fits all” approach: medtech companies have implemented a variety of models to launch remote selling organizations. These are tailored to both their product portfolio and needs of HCPs and procurement professionals, as well as the primary objective served by the remote sales organization. Three primary approaches have emerged as winning remote sales motions (Exhibit 2):

Remote sales models can support a range of customer needs.
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  • Remote selling for lead generation solely focuses on generating and qualifying leads for a large number of prospects that are funneled to outside sales reps to close and service; this is especially effective in sectors with a large number of call points, such as physician offices or long-term care facilities, or where a company’s low market share limits its reach today.
  • Partnered remote selling pairs inside sales reps with field sales teams to improve experience and broaden potential support. For example, an inside sales rep can provide more dedicated time with a site procurement leader while also scheduling product demos that a field rep can conduct in person. The two share a joint quota, which is higher than the quota of a solo field sales rep. Successful implementation requires strong collaboration between the field sales and remote sales teams to ensure clear and consistent messaging to HCPs and other stakeholders.
  • End-to-end remote selling provides complete inside sales coverage for select accounts, such as those that are smaller, in a physician’s office setting, or in rural areas, and are underserved by existing field sales teams. These remote sales teams can deliver all steps of the buying journey, from sharing information about new products to quoting prices and placing orders. Additionally, they maintain the account’s business by conducting regular business reviews and identifying new opportunities at the account. In sectors heavily reliant on product demos, there may still be a need for a clinical specialist to visit the account to support the demo process, though as virtual-reality technology improves, fully remote support may become possible. Providing this support at a lower cost to serve allows these accounts to have a dedicated sales team member who can meet the needs of account stakeholders, resulting in improved experience for these individuals. Many companies pilot the end-to-end remote selling model starting with covering open territories, and when this shows success, scaling up to covering more accounts with inside sales end to end.

The choice of model(s) is informed by the medtech company’s vision for the inside sales team, including strategic objectives and how the team fits into the broader go-to-market model. This involves identifying the products and services the team will support—launching new products, for example, or renewing service contracts—and the accounts and individual stakeholders with whom they will interact, such as procurement leaders for specific care settings or HCP specialist types. For example, for a buying journey that requires heavy in-person interaction in a procedure room for demos and support of initial cases using a new device, a leading medical-device company chose a partnered remote selling model, with inside sales teams working with field sales reps to develop and close deals. Conversely, for a product that required frequent physician engagement to ensure it stayed top of mind when doctors were choosing a treatment, an end-to-end support model allowed another medical-device company to deliver this support to physicians at a reduced cost to serve.

These models deliver real impact to a medtech commercial organization. In all the models, the primary goal is to drive top-line growth by supporting outreach to accounts—either by generating new leads, providing additional support to accounts across their buying journey, or supporting smaller accounts that were previously ignored. An additional benefit is that this enhanced account support is less costly than hiring additional field reps to conduct all of this outreach.

In addition to tracking revenue growth and cost to serve, it is important to define both leading and lagging indicators of the remote sales organization’s success. Remote sales teams, like field sales teams, should have sales-funnel health metrics. Technology can automate tracking the highest-impact activity metrics, such as number of calls made or average call length. These metrics should be shared in individual and team dashboards to allow a focus on rigorous performance management and celebration of early successes as the pipeline is built up, which is especially important given the long sales cycle for a number of medtech products.

Implementation essentials

With vision and objectives defined, medtech companies should consider adopting these four key B2B selling principles to bring them to life:

1. Focus on talent

Create a data-driven process to hire and develop world-class commercial talent.

While a remote selling profile requires many of the same skills that make field reps successful, the detailed talent requirements should align to the model chosen. Lead generators require the strongest drive to seek out new business and comfort with making more calls than will yield results. Partnered remote sales reps working with field sales need to be collaborative and work well on teams. End-to-end remote sales reps will require more entrepreneurial drive and the ability to maintain longer-term account relationships. Current field sales team members, including junior or associate reps, should not be overlooked as a source of talent. They may be a good fit for newly created remote sales roles, especially as these roles demand less travel and offer more stability.

When possible, it is valuable to hire inside sales reps in cohorts, as they develop a camaraderie and share tips and tricks. Ideally, the team is colocated in a single office and can have in-person daily huddles and practice role plays at least several times a week. However, when hiring or other requirements require teams to be set up virtually, it is important to bring them together for key events (trainings, national sales meetings) and to use online tools to build community and knowledge sharing, such as channels on chat tools, common file-sharing locations, and regular team huddles on video.

In order to develop these new team members, an end-to-end learning journey for reps and supervisors needs to be customized to the emerging sales organization and embedded into general onboarding efforts. Learning modules within this journey should be aligned to the specific types of interactions that remote reps will encounter on a daily basis. For medtech companies, strong product training is essential: remote sales reps often complete the same product training modules as field sales reps. It is also critical to support virtual selling skills: how to interact remotely with different account stakeholder profiles, and (for hybrid models) how to hand off opportunities to field reps. This training should be supported with regular coaching from a remote sales manager, and include adult-learning best practices like role plays and real-life examples. We have outlined an example week of how this training fits with selling time (Exhibit 3).

An example week in the life of a remote sales rep shows training and coaching continue to play an important role.
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2. Bring in agility

Organize the go-to-market model to bring the best of the organization to every client interaction.

In any model, a remote sales channel must coordinate with other elements of a go-to-market model to provide a clear image of the medtech company to HCPs and other stakeholders. For example, as digital-marketing outreach grows, there will be a steady source of digital interactions that will require follow-up. In any remote selling model, prioritizing HCPs and procurement professionals who engage with digital content, ideally using lead scoring to rank them for follow-up by inside sales, is a critical element of an omnichannel model.

While it is important that inside sales teams coordinate with all existing channels (field sales, key account managers, clinical specialists, customer service, service engineers), these partnerships require active coordination and linkages across channels. These can include:

  • establishing aligned incentives to encourage impact-driven collaboration, in the partnered selling model, for example, by tying incentives to a quota shared by both reps
  • delineating clear roles and responsibilities and aligning on a customer contact strategy, with the field sales team member aware of new inside sales outreach to existing customers and the inside sales team member aware of all existing opportunities and past contacts by the field sales rep before reaching out to an account
  • creating alignment at the management level so that managers of both inside sales and other teams maintain transparent communication to keep their teams within the boundaries of their defined roles and stay ahead of any potential conflicts

3. Leverage insights

Embrace analytics and data to make rapid proactive decisions through the buying journey.

Medtech inside sales reps should use a highly data-driven approach in developing their customer outreach strategy. Given the breadth of available data within the medtech companies (for example, install base information, past purchase history, customer service calls, and so on) and external data sources (claims data, physician publications, account affiliations), a great deal of information can be gathered to guide the inside sales teams in how and where to spend time. It can be used to recommend accounts or contacts to reach for specific product opportunities such as cross-selling based on simple business rules (purchase of complementary products), or more advanced analytics (churn prediction models, next-product-to-buy models for specific accounts).

Insights also come in the form of performance metrics shared with sales reps, managers, and team leaders. These should include dashboards on individual performance, with insights on specific areas of development (opportunities consistently stuck in one funnel stage, for example, may identify a need for coaching on specific selling skills) and should also help reps manage their time and pipeline. It is also important to report on initiative-level success, for example inside sales organization performance against specific commercial objectives aligned to customer segments, product segments, or select marketing campaigns. These dashboards should roll up to a view for each sales manager and for the organization as a whole. Lastly, these lead and revenue metrics should be complemented with customer experience metrics and organizational health scores to ensure the inside sales organization is best supporting customers and the rest of the commercial organization.

4. Enable technology

Have the right tools and tech to make it work seamlessly in an omnichannel model.

The nature of remote selling requires the ability for reps to make and receive phone and video calls. The technology to do this well goes far beyond a simple phone. While the hardware is simple, it is important to get the basics right: every rep needs a good headset with noise-canceling abilities, a large external monitor to look up customer information, a professional virtual background, and a dedicated phone number. To enable calling, there are a number of computer telephony integration (CTI) tools used by contact centers to not only manage dialing and route inbound calls but also to monitor information on calls that can help measure individual and group performance. For example, these dashboards can show the number of inbound and outbound calls, connection rate, length, and other metrics that can yield quantitative “call quality” metrics useful in coaching and performance evaluations. Where local laws allow, they can also support call recordings, which can be reviewed with reps and managers together to provide detailed feedback after specific interactions.

These CTI systems can similarly integrate with CRM tools to streamline the calling workflow: when a call is made, the customer information can automatically be displayed for the rep’s reference, and the interaction history can be automatically logged in the CRM, so reps do not have to manually input call information. Especially in hybrid selling models, this helps maintain the CRM as a single source of truth, and any member of the commercial team, including field sales, key account managers, or even customer service, can see the history of past calls. As they become more sophisticated and integrate new analytics like natural-language processing and sentiment analysis, they may be able to automate real-time call feedback on performance in each individual call, without requiring a manager to listen in and provide coaching.

Getting started

Today, medtech companies are in different stages or levels of sophistication in shifting to a hybrid or end-to-end remote selling model. However, most companies can make meaningful progress quickly to grow or meaningfully scale this channel. To get started, it is important to find a section of the organization with supportive sales leadership and to align on a clear business goal, for example, to improve lead generation for specific products, improve cross-selling in large accounts, or reduce cost to serve long-tail accounts. Then the organization can quickly set up a pilot, limiting risk by starting with a small first cohort of sales reps, typically five to 20, or with accounts that are currently underserved and have untapped potential. Organizations can leverage technology already used in their contact centers to start, and use existing CRMs and lead-generation algorithms. While the time to revenue impact depends on the selling cycle, most of these inside sales pilots can break even in less than two years, quickly generating returns that can be invested in the organization.


The ability for medtech companies to pivot their current selling models to address already changed customer behaviors will impact their top- and bottom-line growth potential in the coming years. As medtech companies become more omnichannel, implementing remote sales models will be a key element to maintain strong customer experience and driving growth.

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