How Should Pharma, Med Tech And Appliance Market Access Teams Deal With Objections To An NHS Sales Pitch?

When Pharma, MedTech and Appliances market access teams get through the door to sell their products to the NHS, a good pitch isn’t the end of the work that will need to be put in.

You can do all the right things – lead with the problem you solve instead of the product, give a slick presentation that succinctly lays out all the advantages, clearly display how it will help the NHS pursue their longed-for outcomes – and still not close the deal.

That’s because there can be a reluctance to directly ask the customer to take action. The problem is, we all have an inherent fear of objection. We don’t want to ask the customer: “Are you going to buy from me?” for fear that they’ll throw a spanner in the works or find a reason to delay.

So how we do get over that fear?

Show the customer the value in what you’re offering

One thing I’ve been clear on during my sales career, which has included pharma NHS strategy development, is that you are always going to get objections from customers. You need to resolve those first in order to get past them. This is especially true in pharma, med tech and device market access in 2023 when NHS customers are way more informed than ever before.

One way to minimise objections from customers is to make sure your pitch directly links to their agenda. You can find out how to do that in a number of my blogs here. Show them clearly what’s in it for them and how you can solve a problem for them. Let them know why they need your product to achieve their aims. That way they’re more likely to buy from you.

It sounds obvious but they’re much less likely to commit if they can’t see the added value your product is bringing. You want them to spark into life and happily close the sale out.  They won’t do that if they can’t see how it makes their life better, so they’ll find objections.

Flex your timetable to close the deal

The most common objection to closing out a sale is time. The NHS is overwhelmed with work so the first thing they will likely say is that they don’t have enough time to consider the advantages of your product or they don’t have the staff to implement what you’re offering.

The most obvious way to get past that one is to ask them this golden question:

Are you 100% happy with your current outcomes?

The likelihood is that they won’t be. So your job is to present a workable solution and extending the time period it might take to get the project implemented is a great way to manage this. Instead of four to six weeks, it could be four to six months or even nine to 12 months.

That’s the easy answer to their objection. It’s much better to flex the timescale and help 10 patients a week rather than no patients at all because they didn’t have the staff in the short term, so offer to phase it over a longer period of time.

Key account managers in the Pharma, MedTech and Appliances industry have got to start thinking in terms of ‘What insight can I bring to my customer that they don’t have already?’. It’s not enough to talk about the number of patients living with diabetes in a certain area – they already know how many patients have diabetes in that area. You have to talk about the specific impact your product could have at practice level or at primary care network level, or maybe at GP federation level.

You have to give them insight that isn’t readily available to them or something that they’re already automatically going to know. So a lack of original insight becomes one less thing for them to raise an objection about.

If you don’t ask them to commit, you’re wasting their time as well as yours

When you try to dodge objections, you can end up confusing your objectives in your efforts to avoid directly asking for the sale.

One way to ensure you don’t fall into this trap is by using a stakeholder map – one side of A4 which spells out:

  • What’s in it for the customer
  • Why you want to see them
  • What their motivations are
  • What’s likely to be on their agenda
  • And how you might land your message on that agenda.

You can work all of that out in advance so you know clearly what you need to achieve. But then you absolutely need a clear call to action. What are you going to say in order to close the sale?

Now, I know that’s not easy. I know there’s a lot of discomfort with closing a sale.

Thankfully, I was well drilled in my early days in sales. I very quickly adopted the view that it was a waste of my time doing all the work and all the preparation if I didn’t ask for the business at the end of the call.

I didn’t always win every piece of business I pitched for – nobody does. But you can learn to become comfortable with that approach. You can develop a technique that lands you right in the middle of the customer’s agenda and then feel confident in asking for their business in a clear, concise way.

Without that, your meeting won’t be productive. I’ve always been of the view that if I could close the majority of my calls with a call to action and secure the business, that was a really good use of my time and a really good use of the customer’s time too.

It’s also good news for the patients stuck on a waiting list and for the NHS in general. And it’s fantastic news for your prospects at the company that employs you!

If you’re not crystal clear, you open the door to objections

So it’s absolutely key you expect objection. That you understand how to handle it and do what you can to mitigate against it pre-pitch. If not, you’re going to do an awful lot of calls and an awful lot of work that goes nowhere.

I’ve seen it myself very recently – on the NHS side of the desk, watching pitches from Pharma, MedTech and Appliance companies. They’ve not been clear on the objective and even I’ve not been able to work out which agenda they’re trying to pitch the product, the service or the value add against.

The customer ends up confused, they’re not directly asked for their business and the whole thing ends in confusion because no-one’s clear on the objective, there’s no call to action and the objections start flying back thick and fast. Follow the simple steps above to avoid this from happening to you too.

Scott McKenzie supports pharmaceutical, medical technology and appliance firms with workshops and coaching to increase revenue by getting products and services in front of the right NHS decision makers. Scott has doubled revenue for his clients and can share these processes with you too. If you want to get your products fully embedded into treatment pathways schedule a call today.