Every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question. Carl Sagan
In this guest post, my colleague Tigran Arzumanov asks questions about questions. Tigran is an experienced and highly talented business developer for life science companies and he’s been around the block a few times.
What to do when a medical device company asks the wrong questions?
I am sure we’ve all been there.
You meet the senior management of an innovative medtech company. They’re looking for a contract manufacturing partner or a regulatory consultant or an embedded software developer or a clinical research platform. You know you can deliver. You’ve done dozens of projects like that.
They’re concerned about quality and on-time delivery. You want to qualify them and make sure they are a good fit for your offering.
You came in on time, you are prepared. You know you can deliver to the client needs. The greeting is welcoming, genuine and heartfelt, the handshakes are firm. Smiles all around. You sit down and start talking. And, little by little, you start finding out what the client wants.
As you hear more and more, your sunny cheerful mood starts dripping away, little by little.
You realize that that the medtech company’s picture of the project and the conclusions that he’s made are drastically different from yours. That the client is likely to reject what you offer, because they want something you do not sell.
Yet, you’ve seen this a dozen times already and you know what the client wants to do won’t work.
What to do
There’s no point in trying to argue your point. Win an argument – lose a client – I learned that this quote by Peter Drucker is as true today as it was in the 80s.
In some cases, you will have to walk away and hope the medical device company realizes soon enough that they are on the wrong track – and once they do, they will remember who gave them a truthful answer.
Whether you close the prospect on that first meeting, or after a year of conversation, the key is to get to no.
Getting to no is a great starting point for you to understand the client needs. Getting to no is also a great way for the client to understand that there are advanced technologies out there that can help him bring his connected medical device to market faster.
A former colleague had a favorite saying – ‘a good vendor answers a client’s question well, a great vendor tells a client what questions they should be asking”.
Carl Sagan was a physicist. Physicists are curious people by nature. This saying is a great way to make the client curious.
In my experience, most people will ask ‘so, what questions do you think I should be asking?’ Then you are not pushing your vision and ideas, but keep on answering the questions. The client is still in control. And if this phrase has not triggered their curiosity, perhaps you are better off walking.
Another way to mildly give a version different from the one the client asks is to give an anecdote from your experience. Acknowledge what the client has said, and then say “actually, I had a client in a similar situation”. If the flow of the conversation allows it, make a pause so that the client asks how it turned out – and then deliver the story. Few people will resist the temptation to listen to a story about someone in a similar situation to them – and if they pass, perhaps you had no business being in a meeting with them in the first place.
Tigran Arzumanov is an experienced business development/sales consultant running BD as a service, a Contract Sales Organization for Healthcare IT and Clinical development.