Promotions Spice Up the Selling Season

Edition: March 2003 - Vol 11 Number 03
Article#: 1471
Author: Repertoire

If selling puts bread on the table, promotions add some spice. Indeed, manufacturers get pretty creative when it comes to cooking up ways to get reps excited about selling their products.

This time of year, when hopes spring eternal, Repertoire decided to check in with some manufacturers about the promotions they’re sponsoring this year. Some of the recipes are tried-and-true, while others might be categorized as nouveau cuisine.

Partners in Profit

Back for its thirteenth year, Becton Dickinson’s Partners in Profit program is designed to build on success. Just like an airline’s frequent-flyer program, PIP awards points based on how much the rep sells. These points can be accumulated and then cashed in for what BD calls “AwardperQs.” The more points, the better the perQ.

Each month, participating reps (about 3,000 today) receive a monthly statement telling them how many AwardperQs they have accumulated. Each quarter, BD sends out an updated catalog with offerings to choose from, including brand-name merchandise, trips and other items.

According to Lori Wolbach, PIP program administrator, distributor reps like the program and the merchandise they can receive. Most reps use the program to get gifts for their families, she says.

The program – which is limited to non-hospital sales – builds in value as the rep sells more BD products, says Jim Berdela, director of marketing/distribution management. In other words, once the rep reaches a certain level, the rate at which he or she accumulates AwardperQs increases, much like airlines’ gold or platinum programs.

BD also offers “Q-bid,” which allows reps to go on-line and bid for a variety of out-of-the-ordinary types of merchandise, such as sports memorabilia and antiques.

The program cuts across BD’s businesses, including needles and syringes, blood collection products, infusion products and sharps collection products, says Berdela. BD uses it to encourage reps to sell the company’s focus products by assigning them a higher value in the program.

“It’s a heavy investment on our part, in terms of the dollars and human resources needed to manage the program,” says Berdela. “But our research shows that distributor reps are very pleased with it.” In addition, BD has enough data to show that PIP does, indeed, increase sales.

“Our distributors are very important to our success in the non-hospital market,” says Berdela. “We initiated the program to recognize and reward those distributor reps who support BD.

“Success in this market is based on having the best product, the best field support and the best sales tools,” adds Berdela. “And there also has to be something in it for the reps to bring our products to their customers. You need the appropriate motivation, so that they’ll use part of their precious selling time on our products.”

BD believes it has found that motivation.

For Leaders Only

Already in its fifth year, Welch Allyn’s For Leaders Only program encourages distributor reps to generate leads for the company’s equipment-oriented products, such as ECGs, Holter monitors, ambulatory blood pressure monitors, vital signs monitors, colposcopes and others.

“For reps to fully understand all these products and give a complete demo is unrealistic,” says John Haberstock, marketing manager for primary care. “So the aim of Leaders is to get the rep focused on getting us leads.”

Distributor reps are rewarded if the Welch Allyn rep does a demonstration for the end user based on a lead he or she received from the distributor rep. “So the [distributor] reps have to do at least enough legwork to know that the customer is interested in getting a demonstration,” says Haberstock. “The rest is up to us.”

Reps get rewarded the old-fashioned way – with cash. “The bottom line is cash appeals to everyone,” says Haberstock. When the reps sign up to participate in Leaders, they get an American Express card. When Welch Allyn does the demo, the distributor rep’s card gets allocated the appropriate amount of money. For each of the first five demos, the rep gets $25; for leads six through 15, he or she gets $50 a lead; for 16 to 25, $75 a lead; and for 26 and above, $100 per lead.

Distributor reps who perform consistently can add $3,000 or $4,000 to their annual income, notes John Moran, Welch Allyn’s vice president of sales.

Welch Allyn wins, too. The company converts about 50 percent of the demos generated by these leads to sales, says Haberstock.

Even better, more and more dealer reps participate every year, says Haberstock. Today, approximately 3,000 reps are in the program. “At the same time, the number of leads has risen dramatically,” he says. Last year, the company generated 13,500 leads. That’s about 25 leads per Welch Allyn alternate care rep in the field, says Haberstock.

Then there are the additional sales that Welch Allyn reps can generate once they get inside the doctor’s office to give the demo, Haberstock continues. “The best part of the whole program is that it gives our reps an opportunity to close a lot of other business.”

To keep the Leaders program strong, Welch Allyn generates a lot of “noise” about it. “We really do drive this program home to the [distributor] reps,” says Haberstock. Welch Allyn mails out packets every January describing the products included in the campaign and advice on how to succeed in the program. This year, the company included a strategic selling piece that featured probing questions to ask potential customers about Welch Allyn products. And every month, the company mails out a monthly statement to the reps, so they can track how much money they’ve earned through Leaders. Monthly magazine ads keep the program uppermost in reps’ minds.

“This program got off slowly,” recalls Moran. “There are all kinds of manufacturers’ programs out there and they come and go. What we did with this one was to really pound on it at sales meetings and in the literature. We really had a message. And in the last two and a half years, compliance has skyrocketed.”

“Most [distributors], if not all, have come to the conclusion that Leaders is a good way to drive top-line Welch Allyn sales,” says Moran.

Sleep Well

At press time, St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Aaron Medical was getting ready to launch an expanded version of last year’s “Sleep Well … You Bought a Bovie” promotion. Last year’s program highlighted the company’s 900 high frequency desiccator. This year’s promotion, which will extend from Apr. 1 through mid-May, will include the new 950, a high frequency desiccator with cutting capability, as well as the 900.

“We’ve done promotions before with various modicum of success,” says Aaron President Rob Saron. “But last year’s program was unbelievable. We sold three years’ worth of products in little more than six weeks.”

One reason was that the promotion was a “great deal for customers,” says Saron. They received five-year guarantees not only on the 900 itself, but on the hand piece as well. In addition, doctors received a second hand piece for free, so that if the first one had to be sent out for repair, they wouldn’t experience any downtime.

Another reason was that Aaron placed strict limits on the program. The promotion period was brief – just six weeks. In addition, only a limited number of units could be sold according to the terms of the promotion. Put together, these limits created a sense of urgency for reps and doctors that might not otherwise have been present, says Saron. “For the rep, it was a matter of saying to the doctor, ‘here’s the product. You have this much time to make your decision because once they’re gone, they’re gone.’ It made it easy for us to sell it to the distributor, and for the distributor rep to sell it to the doctor.”

This year’s Sleep Well promotion for the 900 and 950 will follow essentially the same pattern as that used last year.

Why “Sleep Well?” Because the reps can earn pillows from the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Chicago – said to be the best place on earth to sleep – based on their sales. (Last year, Aaron spent $10,000 on pillows!) As in last year’s promotion, Aaron will hold a drawing for a weekend trip for two to Chicago, with accommodations at the Ritz. And, as they were last year, customers will be offered Ritz pillows instead of the five-year guarantees. “Knowing that the quality of our products is so high, last year many customers took the pillows instead of the guarantee,” says Saron.

75 Power Procedures Table

If it’s April, it must be time for Midmark’s 75 Power Procedures Table Promotion.

For the past 13 years, the company has launched its three-month promotion for its Ritter 75 evolution and Midmark 75L and 75LP power exam tables at the beginning of April. “It’s a huge promotion in terms of incentives for dealer sales reps and end users,” says Bob Lammers, advertising and public relations manager for Versailles, Ohio-based Midmark.

As in years past, this year’s promotion will be characterized by grand prizes, including a top prize of two tickets to the 2004 Super Bowl, and unusual ones, such as two Segway Human Transporters, with lots more in between.

“Our marketing communications department, managed by Ken DeMange, tries to make it easy for the dealer sales reps to get the incentives,” says Lammers. The prizes get better as the rep sells more power procedures tables. For example, those who sell two tables get their choice of Bushnell binoculars, an NFL jersey or a Plantronics Bluetooth wireless headset. Reps who sell four tables can receive a Sony PlayStation, SYFi satellite radio or other items. Other prizes include a Bose 3-2-1 Home Entertainment System, Horizon fitness equipment, a jukebox and a Sony 36-in. WEGA TV. Dealer reps can earn an extra point by supplying Midmark with 10 qualified leads for power procedures tables by May 31.

“We spend a lot of time selecting incentives,” adds Lammers. Midmark staffers go to a couple of incentives shows every year to scope out what’s new. “For the most part, we try to offer something that the reps won’t go out and buy for themselves,” he says.

In addition to the 75 promotion, Midmark Diagnostics Group (formerly Brentwood-by-Midmark) kicked off in mid-February its two-and-a-half month promotion for its diagnostics line of products, including digital ECGs, spirometers and holter monitors. The program is structured so that reps who sell all three products to a physician reap the greatest rewards, says Lammers. Reps who sell an ECG and a spirometer to the same doctor get a $150 check, and those who sell an ECG and a Holter get a $150 check. But those who sell all three items to the same physician get a $400 check.

Dream Team Xtreme

At press time, a group of primarily capital equipment manufacturers were putting the finishing touches on what amounts to a reconstituted “Dream Team.”

The original Dream Team was created in 1997 by a group of smaller manufacturers who figured that by pooling their resources, they could create a promotional program that would attract the attention and enthusiasm of dealer sales reps, just like the programs of the big guys. Sales reps earned points for sales made on specified pieces of equipment and products, and then converted them to prizes, typically from well-known catalog houses like L.L. Bean or stores like Circuit City and Home Depot. Approximately 1,300 reps participated in the program.

“The program worked relatively well, but we never reached a critical mass,” says David Hausmann, CEO of Hausmann Industries, whose company has been a member of the Dream Team since the beginning. “And there were different iterations. Companies came in and they left.”

The new program – called the Dream Team Xtreme ( – will be more dynamic, he promises.

Like the old one, the Dream Team Xtreme will bring together a group of manufacturers (again, primarily vendors of capital equipment) to pool their resources to offer prizes to reps.

But not just any prizes.

In Dream Team Xtreme, reps themselves will decide what their “dream” really is, then work with the Dream Team to get it. For example, a rep might decide he or she wants a Steinway piano. The Dream Team Xtreme will decide how many points are required to earn such a dream, then keep track of those points as the year goes on. The points are tallied on the Internet, so that the reps can see exactly where they stand.

Scott Fanning, founder of 95% Share Marketing, a sales and marketing consulting firm, dreamed up the idea of reps registering their own dreams. He had been approached by another charter Dream Team member – Judy Thomas, vice president of marketing and sales for Burton Medical, Chatsworth, Calif. – to come up with ideas to rejuvenate the program.

“This is the rep’s dream, not the dream of somebody who puts a catalog together,” says Fanning. Ideally, the manufacturers will be working with the reps, motivating them to help them make their dreams come true, he says.

“The new program will be much more active than the prior one,” says Hausmann. “The dealer rep has to make a commitment and say what he or she wants. They have to make it their mantra to attain that dream and get some really serious prizes.”

The Dream Team Xtreme expects to kick off its program on Apr. 1. At press time, the following companies had committed to participate: Aaron, Healthometer, Hausmann and Burton. Several others were expected to sign on as well.