Winning Team, Winning Reps
Edition: February 2003 - Vol 11 Number 02
Author: Laura Thill
No matter how great the rep, with the right team, he or she can be even better.
“The support and teamwork structure that the people at McKesson provide is what makes us who we are,” says Radney Ramsey, a two-year primary account manager covering McKesson Medical’s Montgomery and East Central Alabama region. “Everyone helps one another,” he adds, expressing appreciation for his team’s willingness to help out the new guy.
“Our manager and vice president make it fun to work,” adds Charlie Watson, a 10-year McKesson account manager in Birmingham, referring to Jay Keene, sales manager, Midsouth team, and Steve Tonneson, vice president, South Region. “They provide an atmosphere where reps can be successful. Rather than focus on constrictions, they allow us to sell and do our job well.”
Bobby Kahn, an 11-year account manager covering McKesson’s southern Alabama and southern Mississippi territories, concurs: “I truly think the majority of my success comes from the support of McKesson as a company, my management team, my co-workers, and my wife and family. Over the years, I’ve learned the true meaning of service and teamwork. Distribution is so much of a team effort. When you think of how many people are involved in ensuring that a customer receives [his or her] order properly, everyone must be on the same page.”
About the Customers
With or without their winning team, these reps share a genuine concern for their customers. Whether it’s an interest in who their customers are or what they need, top selling reps truly care about the people they serve.
“I honestly want to get to know my customers – their hobbies and their family life,” says Ramsey. “I ask about their children, just as they ask about mine. I don’t want to walk in and out without getting to know these people. They’ve become my friends. It’s not just about business.”
Being a rep is a matter of respect, adds Watson. “If you treat people like you want to be treated, they will respect you,” he says. “It’s not always about what you’re selling. You have to be there for your customer in order to establish your credibility with them.”
“I feel that I connect with my customers by being more than just a salesperson to them,” says Kahn. “I take great pride in trying to be a consultant to my accounts. I make every effort to ensure that my customers can depend on McKesson and me.”
Winning Team, Winning Qualities
It may take a winning team to make a winning rep, but at the same time, these reps bring some notable qualities to their customers.
A good rep is a good listener, notes Ramsey. “Pay attention to what the customers are saying,” he says. “But, at the same time, be aggressive. Always stay a couple of steps ahead of what the customers are thinking and anticipate their needs.”
Ramsey further believes in being a provider to his customers, not an order-taker. “I always try to have something new for my customers, whether it’s news or samples,” he says.
Ramsey offers a couple of other tips as well:
· Stay in touch with your customers. (“It’s easy to say, ‘I don’t have to see a customer.’ But this is very important.”)
· Spend time with manufacturer reps. (“This always helps me learn more about products.”)
Watson expresses some similar thoughts. In a sense, selling is about asking the customers questions and meeting their needs, he notes. The key to selling, however, is the ability to meet the customers’ needs. “If you can’t meet their needs, pricing and everything else won’t matter. We must find out what the customers expect, and meet those expectations in order to do the best job,” he says.
“Credibility is everything,” adds Watson. So, when a good rep tells his customers he or she will pay a visit, it’s critical to be there. “You have to be there when you say you will to establish a strong sense of credibility and integrity with the customers.”
Kahn points out one more successful rep trait. “It takes drive and determination to succeed,” he explains. “But, I also feel that reps must have a little bit of fear in this business,” he says. “If [reps] become complacent, there is always competition to take away their business.”
If there is one area where these reps have really had to pull it together to meet their customers’ needs, it probably involves the issue of reimbursement.
“The reimbursement issue is the biggest change in healthcare I’ve seen,” says Ramsey. “All physicians face this issue, and that, in turn, affects us – both positively and negatively.” The negative side to reimbursement for Ramsey – as for may reps – is the difficulty he faces in trying to sell certain products that are no longer reimbursable by the insurance companies.
The positive side, notes Ramsey, is the opportunity to help his customers save money. “If I can offer my customers a new product or supply that saves them bottom line expenditures, I can help them offset lower costs.” In addition, by selling more private labels – which, he stresses, are enticing to his customers these days – he feels he can make more money for his company and himself.
Watson, too, enjoys the challenge of finding his customers new products that are reimbursable as well as meet their needs. “I try to help the doctors continue to practice good healthcare, while increasing their revenue – or at least remaining level,” he says.
Dedication Has its Rewards
Ramsey, Watson and Kahn each made a unique entrance into healthcare sales. Ramsey was more or less discovered by his manager, Keene. “I was in the retail clothing business,” he says. “Jay [Keene] was one of my customers, and he approached me about joining McKesson.” Ramsey attributes Keene’s interest in him to Keene’s “not being afraid to take a chance on someone outside of the business.” Ramsey adds that Keene’s intent is to bring in new blood and maintain a long-term sales team.
Watson had owned a non-healthcare manufacturing business for 20 years when he decided that a career change was in order. “When you own your own business, you do everything,” he says. “I was responsible for the company, the people – I even had to vacuum the floors.”
“I have some friends in healthcare,” Watson continues. “Healthcare is recession-proof. I felt I was choosing a good field – and with McKesson, a good company. I just had to convince McKesson to hire me,” he laughs. Watson doesn’t miss the life of an entrepreneur. “Now I’m doing what I want. I’m helping people, and I’m with a good company that can help me do that,” he says.
Kahn was similarly attracted to the healthcare industry. “I pursued getting into medical sales,” he says. “And, I was very fortunate to receive an interview from what was General Medical at the time.”
Today, after a combined 23 years of top selling effort, all three reps have been rewarded. At McKesson’s recent national sales meeting, both Watson and Kahn were inducted into the Presidents Club, a 16-member club where McKesson’s top national reps can rub elbows for several days and enjoy some much-deserved recognition. “We were rewarded with an outstanding trip to Whistler, Calif.,” says Kahn. “During this time, we had the opportunity to spend several days with our counterparts.”
“Being a member of the Presidents Club is a tremendous effort among your peers,” adds Watson. Members remain in the Club for a year, according to Kahn.
Having joined McKesson as recently as December 2000, Ramsey was eligible for another award: Rookie of the Year for the South. He was nominated by Keene and won the title. “This is great recognition,” says Ramsey. “It shows that I’ve come out of the starting block nicely.”
Honorable titles aside, Ramsey, Watson and Kahn return to one principle: It’s good to be part of a winning team.