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February 18, 2021

How to Adjust Your Sales Strategy to Better Meet Customer Needs

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“I help the business grow. Everything we do is about growth.”

For Pat Berges, vice president of Global Commercial Capabilities at Medtronic and chairman of the Ventilator Training Alliance, “growth” has a lot of different meanings—growing business, revenue, and sales productivity in the traditional sense of the word, but also growing teams, their commercial capabilities, and paving a pathway for further development.

As an expert in world-class training experiences, high-performance teams, and organizational excellence, Berges aims to drive growth in every sense of the word. If his recent and long-standing industry success is any indication, he knows a thing or two about how to achieve that.

In fact, Berges was recently featured on The Adapter’s Advantage podcast to discuss this very thing, where he shared his expertise on:

  • Adapting your sales strategy to meet customer needs in a virtual world
  • Making client-centered decisions for a more successful end product
  • Leaving room for individualized adjustments even on the most standardized materials
  • Redesigning onboarding and training to better suit a largely digital workforce

Below, we break down the main takeaways from their conversation, to provide a clearer path forward for so many industries struggling with these challenges.

#1 A Different Climate Calls for a Different Sales Approach

“And a part of the shift that we’ve been making is to build a more consultative approach where we can really show up as partners for our customers, rather than there to just sell something or to get a purchase order.”

As companies were forced to make the switch to digital spaces, sales teams and presenters have had to forge deeper relationships with their consumer base—to better meet customer needs as partners, collaborators, and problem solvers. However, as host Mark Magnacca points out, this may have been what clients wanted all long.

Now, and moving forward, it’s imperative to equip your sales teams with these concrete skills:

  • The emotional intelligence and keen awareness to read the room even through a computer screen
  • The ability to hone in on minute non-verbal cues more effectively
  • The foresight and in-depth preparation to “ask the right question to extract the right information to be able to support your customer”

#2 Focus On Meeting Client Needs, Not Your Company’s

“What really made the difference was putting aside differences and focusing on the end-user, the end-customer, what they were looking for, what they need to be able to do their jobs successfully and make a difference in patients.”

In this case, Berges is speaking to the massive success experienced by him and his colleagues—previously competitors, or even “archenemies,” as he describes it—with the launch of Ventilator Training Alliance in April of 2020.

Like so many good ideas before it, this revolutionary app was born out of great crisis and necessity, as nurses, doctors, and technicians struggled to operate newly released and reintroduced ventilator models with zero training.

Ventilator Training Alliance sought to address the plethora of new challenges and stumbling blocks—not just for Medtronic specifically, but for all major ventilator manufacturers:

  • Consolidating materials for easy access – Most individual companies had their learning tools posted online, but this created an inconvenient bottleneck as healthcare providers attempted to refresh themselves on several different models they needed to use.
  • Meeting customer needs offline – Between poor-quality internet signals and inadequate bandwidth, operators needed unrestricted access no matter where they were in the hospital.
  • Translating languages – There was very little consistency as to which languages the resources were translated into, and there were demands for translations that didn’t previously exist.

If each company had tried to independently address their issues, they wouldn’t have solved the problem of the end-users—the doctors, technicians, “healthcare heroes”—who are on the front lines dealing with dozens of models with their own unique challenges. That would have been the simpler and more convenient road to take, but it also would have served the companies rather than the clients.

Having a shared goal changed everything. They were able to help the people who needed it, and achieve success they otherwise wouldn’t have had a real shot at.

#3 No Such Thing as a One-Size-Fits-All Model—Even in a Standardized Industry

“We were in a market development play, right, and it was a very different approach to how we needed to grow in that market… While everyone agrees that standardization of learning content makes perfect sense for efficiency purposes, we can’t standardize 100%. We need to leave that local customization.”

For Berges and his team at Medtronic, they target 20% customization on top of their largely standardized and mass-distributed learning materials. This allows them to better meet customer needs, providing for their genuine demand instead of passing off what works in other countries or more developed markets, for example.

This customized approach, largely enhanced through the use of certain technologies, ties into the two most meaningful types of learning, according to Berges:

  • Experiential learningPeople learn by doing; therefore, the best tools provide the framework for hands-on experience. As Berges explains, “We force them into building that experience and practicing in simulated environments, and that develops the muscle, right?”
  • Peer-to-peer learning – Peer engagement is mutually beneficial as both parties exchange ideas and learn from each other. In this case, it involves peer-to-peer feedback; “what they heard and what they saw and where there are opportunities to improve,” Berges says. This model empowers fellow employees to take control of their training, rather than a top-down approach.

#4 Adapt Onboarding Education to the Virtual World

“And so part of the big adjustment for us has been—specifically as it relates to new hires—trying to break it down into bite-sized pieces that are manageable, where the learner can absorb it and then apply it quickly.”

In a largely virtual world, the standard practice of six-week online training sessions simply isn’t feasible. For Berges and his associates, this meant implementing a completely new approach to onboarding that was unlike anything they’d ever done before.

In particular, Berges’ adapted model features two major components that have significantly improved how long it took their teams to achieve peak sales, and their overall performance:

  • Field sales training support – The focus shifts immediately to the practical—this goes back to Berges’ emphasis on experiential learning. With this model, he says, “we can allow for the learner to practice with peers and experiment, and really perfect that pitch or that muscle or that skill development.”
  • Trial and error – Berges explains a hybrid model that involves going out into the field and applying these conceptual skills in real-time. “And then we’ll bring them back in and take the same approach,” he continues, “It’s in and out of the classroom and applied experience setting.”

Is it a suitable replacement for the old model? “That remains to be seen,” Berges admits. “But in any event, these changes that we’re making, some of them are going to stick for sure.”

Learn to Adapt to the Future

“And so those that can adapt most quickly to the change and learn new skills are going to be most successful, and I would hang my hat on that. Learning agility is the competency of the future.”

The changes implemented in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic are just one example—albeit a very telling one—of how adaptability and learning agility (and maybe a little good faith and optimism) are paramount to continued success.

“I think it just goes to show, so often we, all of us, all of us have great ideas that we squash before they even get legs because we’re scared of failure. For me, it’s been a real strong lesson to try to avoid letting self-doubt kind of dictate your path.”

Despite his success, Berges would agree that there’s always more to learn. Dive deeper into his insights, expertise, and incredible journey on The Adapter’s Advantage.

Learn More

The VTA app is provided at no cost to medical professionals. To download the Ventilator Training Alliance knowledge hub application, visit the Apple App Store or Google Play store, or click here to access the hub from any Web browser. You can learn more about Allego’s partnership with the Alliance here.

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