Edition: November 2008 - Vol 16 Number 11
Article#: 3040
Author: Repertoire

Challenging times call for daring responses. Fittingly, the theme of the recent PSS national sales meeting was "Dare." More than 1,000 employees and spouses attended the event in Washington, D.C.

"What got you here won't get you there," said PSS World Medical Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Gary Corless, speaking to Repertoire after the meeting. "When everybody is doing well, a whole lot of people can survive. But when customers get in a pinch, the herd is thinned out. By acknowledging reality and building tools to help physicians, we'll be in a good spot once this all shakes out." It's a message not only for distributor reps, but for their physician customers as well, he added.

The environment for physicians is changing, with continual pressure on reimbursement, pay-for-performance initiatives, new reporting requirements, etc. "Doctors who don't change will get pinched," said Corless. "And those who serve them who don't change will get pinched too. That was the idea underlying everything at the meeting."

Reps were encouraged to be daring in five ways:

Dare to acknowledge realities, even if they scare you. "It's a tough time for primary care physicians, and there's no use pretending it's not so," said Corless. "So let's hit things head-on." The company invited a primary care physician to address the meeting and describe the environment facing doctors today. The challenge for sales reps is to figure out how to help physicians respond to their challenges, then to redefine their role if necessary, said Corless.

Dare to let go. To be human means to hold onto things that hold us back, including fears and grudges, said Corless. We do it on a personal and professional level, he added. At the sales meeting, reps were asked to write down on paper the things they needed to let go of. At the end of the meeting, those pieces of paper were burned.

Dare to declare. "The promises and goals we all make to ourselves are the ones that are rarely achieved," said Corless. "Human nature being what it is, we're good at letting ourselves off the hook." But publicly declaring a goal creates focus and energy. PSS sales reps were asked to declare their goals.

Dare to shake things up. "If someone needs the truth - whether it's your boss or a doctor - give it to them," said Corless. Do it with respect, yes. But do it. "If something needs to be said, say it."

Dare to see possibilities "To use a quote [PSS World Medical Chairman and CEO] Dave [Smith] uses, the winner in all this is he who can see the opportunity in the difficulty, not the difficulty in the opportunity," said Corless.

Tomorrow's rep

The sales meeting reflected Corless' perspective on selling in today's - and tomorrow's - environment. "If you're a distributor rep who has made a living out of order-taking the past how many years, you'll have to adapt to doing more than that," he said. Successful reps have to be true problem-solvers. "You're going to have to know the doctor's whole business better than you ever did, and you'll have to be solution-focused. It sounds cliché, but it's true." Reps who can help their customers control costs, bring in ancillary services, work effectively with insurers and help their customers "with the business of their business" will be successful.

Strong selling skills are essential, of course. But skills alone won't be enough in the future, said Corless. Successful reps need two more things: strong product offerings, and time. "Reps stand in danger of being pummeled with more and more non-revenue-generating tasks," he said. Companies such as PSS have to stay focused on taking those tasks out of their reps' hands, so they can focus on solving customers' business problems.

Eagle Awards

Six employees and one manufacturer representative were awarded the company's highest honor, the Eagle Award.

Brian O'Dwyer and Jim Wisnieski received Eagle Awards in the sales representative category. O'Dwyer works out of PSS Dallas and has been with PSS for 18 years. A cancer survivor, he has shown "unparalleled drive and perseverance to go along with an intensely competitive spirit," according to the company. Wisnieski works out of PSS Northeast (Fairfield, N.J.) and has been with the company for seven years. A former police officer, Wisnieski "still enjoys helping others and has a passion for helping his accounts become successful."

Keith Dell from PSS Southeast (Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga, Tenn.) was presented the Eagle Award for top sales leader, and Tony Norton from PSS Florida (Orlando) received the Eagle Award for top operations leader. Dell has been with PSS since 1984 and is a "passionate leader who treats every day as if it were his first," according to the company. Norton has been in the industry for over 10 years and has shown a "genuine concern about his customers and the development of his team."

Sylvia Nixon, an executive assistant and sales leader assistant to the North Central, Eastern, and Southern regions, was presented the Eagle Award for field support. Nixon has been with the company for just over a year, "but her passion, positive attitude, and enthusiasm has been contagious." The Eagle Award for operations was presented to Jason Baiana, an accounts receivable leader at PSS Northeast. Baiana has been with PSS for seven years and "consistently shows dedication and a can-do attitude, making his team a resource for the sales force."

Brian Davis of Cutera (Brisbane, Calif.) was the recipient of the Eagle Award for top manufacturer representative. Davis has been with Cutera for over two years. "His proactive dedication and willingness to go above and beyond for PSS and its customers is consistently appreciated," according to PSS.