By Todd R. Minnigh, former Global CMO, X-ray at GE Healthcare

So, the company said, “you cannot travel.”  The hospital said, “you cannot visit now.” The data gurus said, “the modality procedure volume is down.”  The Chief of the department said, “We just laid people off, we won’t be buying a new system this year” Ugh…Sound familiar?

Take heart.  The next wave is coming – not of infections, of investments!

Is there pent-up demand? Harvard Business Review discussed in an article from August the need to carefully ramp back up the backlog of elective procedures.  Later, the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) reported in October that admissions were down 30% in April, rebounding by October to 90% of pre-pandemic levels.

So, if the numbers of admissions did not fully correct, will the screening procedure volumes recover?  Some will, though an annual screening missed this year will not likely be done twice next year.  Studies done less frequently may rebound as people get done what they have been putting off in 2020.  Additionally, the follow-up studies on many of the 86M people who have had COVID19 globally could also drive volume.

At the very least, the room which was not replaced this year due to pandemic construction delays still needs to be replaced.  Other systems put off due to cash flow are now a year older and closer to end of life.  Overall business will likely recover and could arguably be higher still after the pandemic passes.

So how do we stay in the mix, remain vital, beneficial, and top of mind while we await the rebound? One great way to do that is to serve the needs customers have now.  What is it that your customer needs most?  It may have been another machine if you were selling mobile X-ray in April.  It also was likely cleaning instructions, service support, consumables, and advice on how to do things they have never done before. Things such as taking an X-ray through the window of an isolation room or disinfecting the MRI with UV light systems were new ideas to many.

And there is something more.   Places that have capacity need to bring back elective procedures.  Once COVID19 vaccines are universally available, stimulating elective procedures will be the challenge of every provider.  OEM’s and others in the industry should work to support this effort.

How can vendors help?  We have valuable insight into what others are doing as we talk with customers around the territory, the country, and the world. Sharing those insights and creating platforms for others to share their insights is one way to remain valid and visible.  Webinars make a great forum for local heroes to tell their stories of innovation.

  1. Find out what providers in your area need at this moment. Find a way to get it for them.
  2. If it does not drive cost or dilute your business – make it a value-added service.
  3. Remain visible at the product offering level. You lose 100% of the deals you are not in.  If providers do not know you offer those systems, they will not be buying one from you.
  4. Leverage technology. Webinars. Websites. Social media. Email. Digital advertising. Stay relevant so you will not be forgotten.
  5. Remember front-line providers are the real heroes. Not just skilled professionals, but professionals putting themselves in harm’s way.  Respect their time and their mission.  From the Orderly who keeps infection from spreading, to the Radiographer taking the images, to the Chief of the department, every one of these vital folks has earned a special thanks from all of us. Recognition from the heart is more important than selling stuff.

So you say, how is that going to get me an order? In the end, every sales organization is focused on two things: Customer delight and closing sales.  When customer needs are satisfied, delight is not far away.  When they tell others about us, awareness and visibility go up and the funnel grows.  If we know our stuff, more folks will choose our solutions.  In the end, we all know nobody buys a new system.  They buy the benefits it brings.  If we find a way to make those benefits more than they expected, at a time when they needed us most, they will remember us and tell their friends.  When the sun comes out again, we will be ready to extend an offer as a trusted partner who was there when times were tough.

Todd R. Minnigh is an industry veteran sales and marketing executive.  He most recently was Global CMO of GE’s X-ray business and before that in various roles with Kodak and Carestream.  He is a frequent speaker at conferences around the world, a member of AHRA, and a contributor to HealthTech HotSpot.

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