The Road Ahead: Changing Lanes…And Increasing Productivity

Edition: May 2002 - Vol 10 Number 05
Article#: 1237
Author: Wayne Care

The First Lane Change…Where to Begin
We're well into 2002. Have you examined your call schedule? This was covered in my January Repertoire article. Have you taken the first step?


What else can you look at changing in the New Year? Let's look at some of the other actions you might want to take this year. Or the possibilities if you already are on the road.


E-Mail
Most companies now use computer communications, web-sites, etc. They use e-mail for internal distribution of information. They maintain websites for their customers that include products, ordering, and information. Many customers also have e-mail accounts, and some have websites for the practice as well. This can be an effective tool for you to communicate information to your customers, whether it is a regulatory update or to introduce a special or a new product. Many times when people read e-mail they are doing it at their leisure so that they can absorb the information presented without interruption, or print it off to read or share later.


This can also be a great method confirming visits and the purpose for the visit. You might e-mail a customer a couple days before your next visit that you will be following on a specific product or service that you discussed on your previous call. Announce a new regulation, or change in regulations to your customer. Make them aware of a new product that you have researched for them, such as they need a safe sharp device for a procedure and you have located it. You can also use it to remind customers of your vacation time.


You could produce your own short news updates for them that include specials, etc.


Most portals (such as AOL, etc) allow you to edit, copy and paste, etc. so you could write the text and then paste it into individual e-mails. Most portals also allow you to build groups so that you can e-mail to a specific group that you design all at the same time.


One sales manager I know used e-mail effectively to report updates on such things as flu vaccine and the expected delivery dates to key customers.


An example of an effective use of e-mail might have been:
OSHA has amended their bloodborne pathogens regulations to further clarify the requirement to evaluate and use new safer sharps devices. On my next visit I will bring literature on some of the options available. To view the entire regulation you may go to the OSHA website at www.OSHA.gov.


Software Solutions
Software is available for almost any purpose. The two basics you need are word processing and a spreadsheet program. Whether you use the leading brand, such as Microsoft OfficeTM, or any of the multiple vendors that have similar programs, you can do much more than ever on the computer.


When choosing and using software the thing to keep in mind is compatibility. If you will be printing documents to distribute, it doesn't matter, but if you plan to attach documents to an e-mail it becomes very important. Most of the word processors allow you to save a file in RTF (Rich Text Format), which is fairly universal. But, you have to keep it simple and not add a lot of special effects. Adobe Acrobat™ can create a PDF file which can be read by everyone since they can download the Adobe Acrobat Reader™ free.


Organizational software is available from many sources as well. Whether you use Act!™, or another program you can store addresses, develop e-mail or fax lists, keep records on your customers, and get calendar warnings for important dates or times. I use an inexpensive program called Stay Organized™ to keep my address book, produce labels and print out calendars.


Mailing lists and labels can be easily done in many programs. Microsoft Excel™ , and Microsoft Word™ work well together to produce mailing labels. You can also do the same thing with many organizational programs and using data base software as well.


Scanners and digital cameras are also great tools. Scanners have become very inexpensive and allow you to capture and manipulate images. If you are doing a set up for a customer you could scan in most of the equipment and print off an attractive portfolio for the office that will give them a great idea of what their office will look like with a minimum of pages. For those that are opening multiple facilities this can become their source document for additional set-ups. Digital cameras are also beginning to drop in price. You could take photographs of the office opening and create a ''memory'' book for the physician and staff.


One example of great use of a scanned image would be in preparing a presentation or proposal. Scan and then import the customer's logo to personalize the materials.


Doing personal birthday or Christmas cards is a snap with some very inexpensive programs. You can design them, put in your own pictures, and print them relatively inexpensively using a color printer. Many printers that do great color are now under $100.


Spread sheets
With just a few clicks can take the boredom and chance for error out of many simple tasks, such as extending bid prices. Many quotes are now sent out on diskette rather than hard copy.


Presentation software such as Microsoft PowerPoint™ makes presentations easy to create, and visually appealing. No matter which brand of software you select they all offer preset backgrounds, outlines, and point and click customization. You can then print off copies, you can make overheads, or you can do a computer presentation. As before, keep compatibility in mind if you are making a computerized presentation. The computer that you use to show the slides must have the same program, or you must provide (include) a runtime version with your presentation.


Think of yourself as a customer. You are about to see a presentation from two or more vendors that will aid you in the selection process. Which would impress you more?


Vendor A has some beautiful company literature that they hand out, while they speak.


Vendor B has personalized slides and printed note pages for you. (They may have scanned some company literature into the presentation, but it no longer seems like a handout for everyone, but for you).





ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Wayne Care
has over thirty years experience working in medical distribution, including companies such as: McKesson Medical Group, Foster Medical, Intermedco and American Hospital Supply. He has worked in all phases of distribution, including sales, sales management and general management. He has taught sales seminars, as well as customer seminars, written numerous articles on sales and management, and had a novel published in 1989. He can be -reached at wtcmed@aol.com or 757-425-2236