What football can teach Pharma, MedTech and Devices Sales Teams

What do you do in the face of rejection or objection to your ideas?

If you’re a Pharma, MedTech or Devices company and your pitch is thrown out before you’re even through the door, that rejection can sting. So, do you wilt? Give up?

If you’re working in the NHS and you can see a way to save money or improve patient outcomes but no one’s taking you seriously, what’s your next move? Throw your idea in the bin?

No. You persevere – because, eventually, you will get what you want.

Read my blog here on how Pharma, MedTech and Devices companies can overcome pitch objections.

‘No one will ever describe me as a glory hunter’

Let me give you an analogy from a different field altogether. I love watching football, and I’m a season ticket holder at my beloved Hibernian FC in Edinburgh.

I go with my dad and the boys, my lads are grown up now, so it’s really a good chance to see them all and catch up, I love that aspect of it. One thing no Hibs fan can be accused of is glory-hunting. Years and years go by with no big wins or trophies, but we stick with it, like all football fans.

When you walk up to Easter Road, our home ground, there’s a picture from 2016 on the side of the stadium commemorating the day Hibs finally won the Scottish Cup after 114 years. Whenever I see that picture, it reminds me of the people who weren’t there on that special day.

My grandfather, who I was really close to and used to go to the football with when I was a small boy. He lived to 83 and never saw Hibs win the Scottish Cup – and he went to seven finals! And my friend Neil who died really young at 31, he was a massive Hibbie, and he never got to see them lift the coveted trophy.

When you go into Easter Road, there’s a quote that runs the entire length of one of the stands. It’s the Leith Fisherman’s Prayer and reads:

“So with the Darkest Days behind

Our ship of Hope will steer

And when in doubt just keep in mind

Our motto – Persevere.”

When you’re challenged, you have to find a way around it

So why am I telling you all this? Well, 114 years went by, and the club kept on persevering in its attempt to win the Scottish Cup. Eventually, it did. And I’ll never forget that day or the day after watching the trophy parade through Edinburgh down into Leith Links.

The club persevered, and it had its day in the sun. But within my work with Pharma, MedTech and Devices companies and the NHS I see people give up every day. The minute the answer is no or there’s a challenge, they just stop. But in life – and particularly at work – we have to expect objections, particularly if we’re proposing change.

Even when your idea makes perfect sense, someone will disagree with it

I’ve got a great example from my recent work. A GP federation working with the three Primary Care Networks in a place footprint went to the Integrated Care Board with a perfectly logical proposal. They were spending £8 million in that place footprint per year on non-elective admissions to hospital.

They said for an investment of £150,000, they would be prepared to review all the patients and implement NICE guidance. The answer was: “We are £120 million in the red, we won’t be changing anything this year, and we won’t be investing in anything new.”

For a lot of people, that would have been the end of the story. But this group went back and pointed out the impressive return on investment their proposal offered – a 10 per cent reduction in non-elective admissions frees up £800,000, a 20 per cent reduction frees up £1.6million – and they were asking for just £150,000. The answer was still no.

Read my blog on saying no to ‘No’ here.

Bring in the support of others to get your project over the line

So then they went to the hospital, who immediately recognised they would be the biggest winner from this arrangement. The patients would get better outcomes, which reduces GP workload, unnecessary appointments, referrals and admissions to hospital.

There would be no negative impact on GP or hospital income. The non-elective admissions cost a lot because they’re obviously unplanned by their very nature, and they end up resulting in cancellations of planned hospital care and longer waiting lists. So the hospital really liked this as a proposal.

With that backing, the GPs asked again if they could put a team of people together to deliver this. That conversation is now happening, a pot of money has been found, and the business case has been put together and submitted.

I’m pretty confident they’ll get the outcome they want now by persevering, sticking to their guns and handling the objections sensibly.

It’s never over until the final whistle blows

So when I walk into Easter Road, and I see the Leith Fisherman’s Prayer, it takes me back to 2016 and how all that perseverance eventually paid off. But it’s in my work all the time – you have to see things through, you have to work around objections to get things done.

Don’t accept the initial rejection, just keep going, and you’ll find a way. It’s what I always try to bring to the table in my work, we’ve used hospital subcontractors many, many times in the 18 years I’ve been doing this, and I’ve got numerous examples of where we’ve been able to persuade commissioners that an investment is worthwhile.

It’s never over until full-time – and a lot can happen between kick-off and the ref blowing the final whistle.

Scott McKenzie helps pharmaceutical, medical technology and appliance firms increase revenue by getting their products and services in front of the right NHS decision makers. If you want to get your products fully embedded into treatment pathways we can help you. We’ve doubled revenue for our clients and can share these processes with you too. If you want to improve the way you sell to the NHS, schedule a call today.