How 25 Years Flies by . . . .

On a personal level it is now 25 years ago that I started with Synergy as a recruiter. I was thinking about the changes that have been occurring in the industry over that time and I’ve made some comments about the health industry in the past. But this article is more about what has happened in the world of sales in our industry. When I first started as a sales representative in the early 80’s there were no cell phones, emails, faxes or Facetime, what we had were our Filofax® diaries and personality. I recall phoning into the office at midday and around 4.00 to pick up messages and confirming appointments from phone boxes or trying to put calls through from a motel, but what freedom we had. Back then I worked for a Sydney based Sales Manager and a headoffice in France so it was NCR paper (No Carbon Required) which we wrote our message on and sent by courier overseas and some weeks later a reply came.  This delay in communication meant that the sales representative had to make a decision for the customer to resolve situations on the spot.  Was the customer better served than today’s instant communications, email overload, stress filled business environment? In our much regulated, highly compliant over managed world can we serve the customer any better?  I often hear of, and experience the frustrations of having to go to the ASIA Pacific regional office for a decision, or to have something signed off by a VP in an office in Europe when in the past the local organisation made decisions that related to the local business.

What customers want is to deal with someone they can trust and rely on and that means having a frontline sales person that has the personality and authenticity that builds that rapport. So when it comes down to the line not a lot has changed. We like to do business with others that we relate to and the core requirements for a good sales person haven’t really changed. At Synergy it’s the people we work with that give us the satisfaction of doing our job well. We interview a lot of applicants who aren’t going to make the grade in sales, marketing or management and often because they lack the personality traits required for the role. We can train skills and people can gain experience but who they are is a constant.

What Changes in the NZ Health Industry? You may well ask!

The Healthcare Congress was once again a great success with a number of thought provoking presenters speaking about the changes that technology is bring to the sphere of medicine and diagnosis and treatment,  but then  the future of Health procurement in New Zealand was presented, debated and discussed, and the déjà vu set in. I have always marvelled at the way bureaucracy can take something straight forward and wrap it in process, procedures, compliance until it’s so complicated no one knows how it works anymore. In the past the Medical Superintendent ran the hospital until the State Services Act 1988 introduced the management concept. Of course you can’t have a manager without staff to manage! Now the structures inside the administration of the hospital are so complex and convoluted that the patient seems to be just a nuisance at the end of the chain. PHARMAC are putting in place an additional structure to negotiate contracts with suppliers and healthAlliance has been tasked to purchase medical supplies for the DHB’s hence creating more layers and more structure and complexity.


I don’t mean to come over all philosophical and tackle the meaning of life, but have we forgotten what the reason for existence - I’m referring to why businesses or organisations exist. Is the prime purpose to provide a return to the shareholders? Or, for example was the medical supply company started to provide quality of life and improved healthcare to the community?  Many of us can relate to the current business pressure  - things like cost containment, return on investment, justification of expenditure, headcount restrictions, weekly compliance assessments, but what about doing our job?  When do we get the feeling that we are making a difference with what we do, that it matters in the bigger scheme of things, when do we feel energised at the end of a day? 


I can’t answer all these questions in this little rant-fest (I’d need to write a book!) but I do know that when things get complicated it often means there is something hidden beneath the confusion that is not being dealt with.  So we need to get back to basics with how we work and Keep it Simple. Posing a simple question can help:

Healthcare – what are the needs of the patient?  Drug rep – what difference can this medication make for the patient? Manager – what does my team need to make their work better? Recruiter – what role does this candidate need to do to feel empowered and what people will fit in this company to help fulfil its goals? All of this comes back to people and providing a service to others. 


So when you are feeling the frustration of a day at work or you are lacking motivation then maybe a helpful question could be “Who have I served today?”.


- Gary Beattie - Managing Director, Synergy Consulting Group.

Remove the rose coloured glasses and glib clichés and get real

Say what you really mean and back it up! Whether you are rewriting your CV, preparing for a business meeting or getting ready for an interview the strategy of KISS (keep it simple stupid) holds true. You know yourself when you are hearing a “sales pitch” (think used car sales or insurance telemarketing) and I bet your automatic reaction is to say “no thanks” before they have even finished their spiel.

No one these days has time to listen to a whole story in order to find a potentially disappointing ending so my advice is get straight to the point and present your message clearly and succinctly. What does this mean in a job search situation? Make sure that your “value-add” achievements are the first thing your potential employer sees/hears:

What makes you stand out from the rest is not what is listed in your job description, instead list your:

  • Accomplishments
  • Sales success
  • Market share growth
  • New business won
  • Business initiatives

Be specific, give numbers, percentages or compare with past performance, see sample Resume Outline here.

Make yourself stand out from the others by showing your potential employer what you can bring to their team, check out how to describe yourself in a sales interview here ( Sundheim)

Using the same principal learn how to write convincing emails for internal or external business success here (


MedicinesNZ, PHARMAC and the TPP

A balanced view putting healthcare outcomes first...

Medicines Debate Need Not Threaten PHARMAC, Kevin Sheehy, GM Medicines NZ, NZ Herald Sep 27 2012

Deborah Gleeson raises some interesting points about the potential effects of free trade agreements on access to medicines in New Zealand (US proposal on Pharmac a bitter pill). However, we suggest that real life patient outcomes should be at the heart of any discussion about access to medicines.

As the industry association representing pharmaceutical firms in New Zealand, we agree wholeheartedly with Dr Gleeson that Pharmac has been very successful in ensuring New Zealanders have access to medicines at affordable prices.

In fact, a large proportion of the medicines budget is spent on products that many of us could afford to buy ourselves, such as painkillers and antihistamines. It's an unusual bathroom cabinet in New Zealand which is not fully stocked with free or very cheap prescription drugs.

The result is that many New Zealand patients are unable to get the medicines they need to live productive and fulfilling lives. This is not just a pharmaceutical industry suggestion, research published in the New Zealand Medical Journal illustrates the point well (Wonder & Milne, Nov 2011); patients have been receiving access to new medicines at about half the rate of access provided in Australia.  READ MORE

Social Media – friend or foe

Companies are increasingly using Social Media for marketing, advertising as well as recruiting and as a result the lines between personal and professional are becoming ever more blurred.  What was once your space to build friendships, stay in touch with relatives and share your photos can now be targeted for sales opportunities and also scrutinised for your employment suitability.

There has been debate over the years regarding the appropriateness of employers accessing employees’ facebook or other social media sites and although it is not acceptable for your employer or potential employer to request access to this information it is in a public space and can often be found or find its way to people outside your network.  Check out NZ’s Department of Labour‘s article regarding The Dangers of Social Networking in an Employment Context.

Choose your friends carefully, professional relationships and friendships can become blurred and Facebook puts everyone in the same room so think about the suitability of your posts for all viewers and remember that you cannot control their relationships on or off line.  Whilst it may seem obvious not to badmouth your employer or fellow workmates on your Facebook page there are also confidentiality considerations.

Things to be aware of:

  • Review your privacy settings
  • Be selective when accepting friend requests
  • Google yourself to see what comes up
  • Avoid using expletive or derogatory language
  • Don’t discuss work on line
  • Cyberspace doesn’t forget
  • Be aware of your entire audience

LinkedIn on the other hand is designed as a professional tool and can be used as an online resume, a brand ambassador for your company or for business networking. 

To make the most of your LinkedIn profile:

  • Keep it up to date
  • Be active in posting or sharing
  • Join and be involved in professional groups
  • Create you network selectively
  • Choose a professional profile picture

For additional Social Medial Guidelines, check out these other sites:

Social media guidelines for students and job seekers ,

Clean up your foul social media profiles the simple way,

How to make your social media profiles shine,

Social media etiquette for job hunters,

Why prepare for an interview?

Finding a new job is a significant decision and requires a substantial investment of time and effort. To ensure you don’t waste unnecessary energy it pays to make every interaction effective. After putting together a stellar resume, an impactful cover letter, impressing in your phone screen and maybe also succeeding at an agency interview you don’t want to let yourself down if you are given the opportunity to meet with the client. Each step of the process requires more from you and to be able to deliver on this you will need to take the time to prepare yourself.

Get to know the company:
Not only should you become familiar with the company’s products/services, mission and values as discoverable on their website you will benefit from researching their market performance , reputation and company culture through many avenues such as Google, media and directly from contacts including competitors, customers or employees where possible.

Become familiar with the role:
Once you have read the job description, find out what it really means for you on a daily basis if you were in the role. If you are working through an agency, ask your Consultant or speak with other people doing similar jobs either within the potential company or elsewhere in the industry.

Know how you align with the competencies:
All jobs require key skills and you will undoubtedly be required to provide verbal evidence of how you have demonstrated these in your previous roles. Make sure you are familiar with what is required and look beyond those written in the job description and also focus on what will address their current challenges and add value to their business success.

Practice STAR technique:

STAR Technique

Being able to demonstrate how you have dealt with various scenarios in your past employment is the key to a successful interview. The STAR technique gives you the structure to answer competency questions, succinctly and effectively. But you must prepare so that you are confident that you are using the BEST example showcasing your ability with great results. Write down some examples to help you remember them and explain them out loud to someone to ensure that you don’t inadvertently portray the wrong impression. Remember it is all about YOU, and how YOU impacted the situation to deliver a POSITIVE result.

Know what you want to ask:

It is important that you show an interest in joining the company by asking some well thought out questions. Refer to your Consultant if using an agency to ascertain the “housekeeping” information such as hours, salary range, away travel etc and use your time with the Client to learn more about company performance, culture and expectations. Their answers may well give you further insight as to how you can add value to their team.

10 Questions you should never ask and 5 you should always go back to

By doing the research and preparing well you will not only have given yourself a greater chance of success but also increased your confidence that this is the right opportunity for you – this will certainly come across in your interview and prepare you well for raising the bar for a potential second interview.

Don’t waste an opportunity to put your best foot forward, sell yourself and further determine if the role is right for you.
For more information on interview tips click here

When your customer says “maybe”

…Don’t be afraid to ask why.  Use this as an opportunity to find out why they are not ready to commit at this stage or what it is that you can do to change them to a yes.  As sung by Jack Johnson in Flake:

“It seems to me that maybe
It pretty much always means no”

Because nobody like a straight out rejection, many people would walk away from this situation happy to not have their ego dented but, in reality, they would have lost the chance to find out how they could win this business in the future.  In the service industry it is often said that a complaint is a gift and in the sales market, so too, is an objection, so be proactive and use the maybe as a conversation starter to learn more about your customers’ needs and current challenges to discover how you can make your proposal more viable for your potential customer. 

Interestingly, research has revealed that concerns are actually a sign of customer interest with successful calls containing on average 1.5 times as many misunderstandings and drawbacks than failed calls (Achieve Global Inc).  Your customer may have doubts, misunderstood or be dissatisfied with your offering and unless you probe further you will never know if you could have turned this call around.

Knowledge is power and even if you are unsuccessful this time around you will have a head start for your next sales call and be able to front foot any objections by asking more pertinent qualifying questions at the beginning.

ANZTPA – What’s this!, Gary Beattie, MD of Synergy Consulting Group

The Australia New Zealand Therapeutic Products Agency (ANZTPA)  is an agreement that has been signed by NZ and Australia to form one agency body to regulate all medicines as well as medical devices and biologicals in the two countries.  This may later be extended to include natural health products as well.

This Agency will replace Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority (Medsafe). 

There is some talk among the NZ companies that this may increase cost of registration of products by the tune of $30 million and if this is the case then the effects of this can only been seen as far reaching.  The biggest change of the instigation of this agency is that Medical Device and In Vitro Diagnostics will have to register their products through this agency.  For many of the smaller New Zealand agencies and distributors this process will be so costly that many may choose to stop representing unprofitable products or sadly close down.  The longer term effects of this will mean that there will be changes in the employment opportunities in the industry in New Zealand which seems to run counter to the intention of most Governments.

Another way of looking at this is how similar are the markets.  I was told that, for example, if you look at the top 20 pharmaceutical products in New Zealand and compare this to Australia there are only 8 products that are common to the two lists and their rankings are significantly different.  So how does a “one size fits all” model work.

Unfortunately there is nothing more consistent than change in this industry and while process may change the public are still going to need medical care.

Saying you dont know, Guest Medical Device Rep

Every part of me as a young cocky male and a "know-it-all" hates it when you get asked a question that stumps you.  I have been in this scenario most days to be honest.  Hey, its all a part of learning your craft, but being able to say that you dont know can be very difficult at first.

Don‘t wing it.... I have tried and failed to humiliating results.  One time I was presenting on various clinical papers infront of a room full of doctors; you can imagine the scenario from here.... a tricky question was raised and I tried the ‘winging it‘ approach, lets just say the approach failed and I was faced with a room full of puzzled doctors waiting for their morning tea.  If I had just said those all important words “Good question, I dont know, but I can find out for you“ both myself and the presentation would have come across a million times more effectively.

Lesson learned; talk about what you know confidently and be honest about what you don‘t.

Additional article - using "I don't know" to build customer loyalty, read more.

Read Job Ads Carefully - Carmen Coetzer, Recruitment Coordinator at Synergy Consulting

Consultants put a lot of care and time into crafting a job ad specific to their vacancy that ask for the skills requested by their client.  They will often list skills that are necessary or “must haves”, without these you will not be considered so pay attention to the words chosen and the experience required.

  • Avoid applying for every role that crosses your path.  A common frustration for Recruitment Consultants is when candidates respond to advertisements requesting specific requirements when their skill set does not match what is being asked for.
  • Don’t bulk email to every agency under the sun, different agencies handle different roles so doing this shows that you haven’t done your research regarding who are the best ones to help you in your next career step.  Also, doing this means that you can’t tailor your CV and cover email/letter to showcase how your experience will benefit the specific requirements of a role or industry.
  • Know what you offer as an employee, does your experience and skill set match what the advertiser is looking for?  If there isn’t a match then it is unlikely that you are a suitable candidate for the position.  If, however, you think that have some transferable skills or something special to offer for the advertised role then pick up the phone, speak to the consultant and sell yourself!  This will allow you to find out more about the role and also let the Consultant get to know you better. 
  • Only apply for the role once, whether through Seek, the advertiser’s website, a direct email or through social media, all applications will be directed to the person responsible for the role.
  • Avoid double ups, if you are already registered with the agency there is no need to send a new CV unless you have updated it, a copy will already be stored against your file, just send a friendly email indicating your interest and why you should be considered, or better still, give them a call to clarify requirements.
  • Follow any preferred application instructions, phone, email, post etc. and if a cover letter is requested then don’t send an application without one.
  • Be specific in your application – attention your letter/email to the Consultant listed in the ad (not Dear Sir/Madam or To Whom It May Concern).
  • Ensure your cover letter/email demonstrates that you have the skills that were asked for in the advertisement
  • Sign up for Job Alerts:  It is a great idea to call a recruitment consultant and inform them that you are actively looking for a new role, but it is an even better idea to sign up for Job Alerts with various advertisers, be it Seek or a Recruitment Agency.  Sign up to receive alerts for specific roles you are qualified to apply for or have an interest in.  When the perfect role comes your way you can then apply.


Tips for Summarising Clinical Papers, Heidi Boswell, Consultant at Synergy Consulting

Usually the most compelling evidence you can provide your Doctor or Specialist with to support use of your product (whether that product is a medication, a therapy or a device) is a clinical paper.  However, you need to be able to interpret it correctly and pick out the key points for your Clinician – and be aware of any drawbacks or bias that may complicate the results – to have an impact.  Think about the current evidence, best practice treatment and the indications of the treatment.  Here are my top 10 tips for Successful Clinical Paper Presentations:

  • Read the paper.  The entire paper, not just the abstract!
  • The introduction provides you with a quick summary of the current evidence and lines of thought.  What are the current treatment options/ best practices?  What drawbacks are there with current treatment (why are they looking for alternatives)?
  • What is the aim of the study?  What are the primary and secondary endpoints? 
  • What is the study design?  Was the trial double-blinded or open label?  What are the treatment arms?  What medication, therapy or device is being tested?  What are they comparing the treatment to – another therapy/ medication/ device or a placebo (what are the ethical considerations)?  Are there multiple stages in this trial?
  • Look at the inclusion and exclusion criteria.  How relevant is this to the current treatment options and indications?  For example, if the treatment is indicated for elderly patients but the trial excludes patients over 65 years. 
  • Look at the treatment duration/ dosage/ dosing regime – think of the relevance of this to the Clinician.  Is this similar to how they use these treatments in practice?
  • Look at the method and how they have designed the trial.  Does this all make sense – are they utilizing appropriate tests to determine plasma levels of medications for instance.  Are there any areas of weakness in this trial?  Is there any bias? 
  • Look at the results and the significance (p values).  What does this actually mean to the Patient and the Clinician?  Did they achieve the primary and/ or secondary endpoint?  If not, why not?  What could have been done differently?
  • What is the clinical significance of the paper?  Why does the Clinician need to be aware of this trial?  And bring it back to the Patient “So Doctor, what this means for you and your Patients is……”
  • Create your own summary of the clinical paper to help you remember the key points.  Check out our template here.

Building Rapport, Guest Device Sales Rep

I remember learning about rapport in sales in a 2nd year Marketing Management lecture; the slides were based something around “The importance of building rapport in the development of a relationship“; which we all know...Thats cool, but how and when does this come into play, at what point do you look for triggers and show that you are willing to make that bond with someone? It has slowly dawned on me that its every single interaction with someone from the first eye contact before you greet them for the first time, and tailoring your personality to fit in with theirs. Its everything that that person sees, reads and hears from you, so really simply its a picture in their head of you.

Over the years I’ve practiced this and had significantly more failures than successes. What I have found is that the quicker that you can gauge the other persons mood/ feelings/triggers (what ever you want to call it) the better, assume the role that will best fit that person’s needs and tailor your message appropriately. Not to say that you should change who you are or what the message is that your trying to get across, I’m talking about the more subtle art/science (another time...) of building the picture of you. It can‘t be stated enough that in sales, the person buys the man/woman as much as they buy the product.

An example is when I was reasonably new to sales I was dealing with a very experienced particularly difficult potential customer who was almost famous for being lets say, prickly. She was in her mid 60s and absolutely terrifying. Only the boldest of reps asked to meet with her. So I plucked up my courage and made the appointment. On the way there I had an absolute mare, I couldnt find a park anywhere and almost got bowled over by a courier, not a good start. I met with ‘Mrs Jones‘ and she started by stating “Who are you?“... nice I thought. I introduced myself, thinking she knows very well who I am, and resigned myself that this was going to be a complete failure. I asked how she was and how her day was going. She promptly started the obligatory rant about a lack of staff and the failings of the organisation she was in. At this point I abandoned my strategy and objectives and decided to just have a chat instead, I commented on the lack of decent parking and that the staff must have a nightmare everyday working there. She agreed, and then SMILED and ranted some more. It carried along this path for a while and then it ended with me stating that I’ve taken up enough of her time. She was taken aback and said “you havent even tried to sell me anything yet“. “Thats ok, we can do that another day. Im pretty sure you know what we do any way“.

As I left I tried to comprehend what just happened. It didn‘t really sink in for a week or so. It has since become a turning point in my thinking about forming relationships. She has called me numerous times since asking for help and product support. Don‘t get me wrong, we’re not friends or anything but thinking of the picture in her head of me now is interesting.

What is the future of the NZ medical and pharmaceutical industries?, Gary Beattie, MD, Synergy Consulting Group

Having been involved with recruitment services in this industry sector for the past 20 years, here is my brief perspective of the future.  Over this time we have seen the introduction of price and supply controls by PHARMAC and more recently the beginnings of a structure to develop centralised purchasing for the District Health Boards.

The NZ pharmaceutical industry has had over 15 years of working with the PHARMAC model and in response we have seen that the majority of companies have undergone staff and resource reductions as well as a shift of power to Australian head offices.  Those companies that have continued with a strong local management and were able to build strong relationships at government level seem to have fared better.  In addition we have seen dramatic growth in those organisations working with licensed products and generics.

Another influencing factor for NZ is a reduced pipeline of products, ie not many new drugs being developed, and the “end of patent life” of current medications.  This has manifested in some recent changes where a few companies have further decreased their management support whilst maintaining existing sales teams covering NZ.  The longer term implications of this may be that, with the lack of senior relationships, future product introductions and funding may be hampered further which, in turn, may affect the viability of these organisations in the NZ market.

From an employment opportunity this industry still offers a great career.  The training and development is second to none and many of the companies offer international career prospects.  While it may be difficult to get in as a new graduate, opportunities still exist for those who are fully informed, driven and committed to success.

The medical devices and products industry has been in growth phase for a number of years.  This is partly through innovative approaches and the introduction of high-tech products as well as an aging population creating an increasing demand for health services. 

With the recent analysis of DHB spending practices  we will soon be seeing the introduction of a centralised purchasing model to take effect over the next 2 years.  We may then see some medical companies rationalising their staffing levels and decreasing in size.  This, however, also creates an opportunity with a change in the type of person / skills required in this new sales environment.  Training and support of their products in the marketplace becomes more important and there is a need for more of a commercially savvy person to negotiate higher level agreements. 

At a talent level, this industry is still growing and there is a shortage of well qualified applicants for senior hospital sales/ product specialist roles, check out current opportunities.

If working further afield than NZ appeals to you there is a great demand for people in Australia’s medical / pharmaceutical industry and this may be an avenue that you may wish to look at.  Watch this blog space for further details.

It’s not about the money, money, money…

“Seems like everybody's got a price
I wonder how they sleep at night
When the sale comes first and the truth comes second
Just stop for a minute and smile…
It's not about the money, money, money”
- Jesse J

Well, of course, money does play a part in our career choices but it shouldn’t be our sole deciding factor.  We need it to pay the bills, feed the family and maintain our lifestyle...does more money equate to more quality of life?  I am talking here about successful professionals changing careers where the baseline factors such as food, shelter, tools of trade etc are provided.  According to Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory or hygiene vs motivation model, any satisfaction from salary, company car etc is short lived and rather factors such achievement, recognition, responsibility and growth have longer term effects on job satisfaction.

There is a lot of talk about “engagement” of staff from a management perspective, but what does this mean for you as the employee.  Scarlett Surveys have found that "Employee Engagement is a measurable degree of an employee's positive or negative emotional attachment to their job, colleagues and organization which profoundly influences their willingness to learn and perform at work". Gallup has previously estimated that employee disengagement costs US employers $300 billion every year and engaged or committed employees usually take fewer sick days and generate an average of 43% more revenue. 

With this in mind it makes sense to look for a role and join a company that you can become “engaged” with, be happy in your work and in turn perform at your best, which in a kpi driven environment, could well result in increased monetary rewards for you.

The job search and job interview processes are a two way street and whilst as a job seeker you are primarily the one answering the majority of the questions in an interview, you will benefit from researching the realities of working for your potential employer.  This can be done by internet research regarding company performance and reputation, speaking with past or current staff, observing communication styles and workplace interactions as well as the interview process itself.  Do you align yourself with their company values?  Do they demonstrate these values through their behaviour?  You will have the opportunity to ask questions both at the interview but also of your recruitment consultant – they are invested in your success as well so making the right match is important to them also.  Chose questions that have a real relevance to you and your needs, such as; Why is this role vacant? How would your staff describe your management style? How has the territory been performing? And, what are your expectations for this year?

According to Marcus Buckingham, “Study after study shows that people leave because of their direct supervisors, more so than any other reason” so ensuring that you and your potential manager are compatible, share similar work ethics and have the same performance expectations is important for your future happiness in a role.

Hygiene factors do need to be met which is why a recruiter will ask you for your minimum salary and package expectations.  Then, on top of this, finding out what your key motivators are will help identify the “right fit” company and role that will empower you to achieve results.  Jumping roles purely for perceived increase in salary rarely achieves happiness and rather than demonstrating drive often shows up on resumes as unstable job hopping.  Over time salaries don’t increase exponentially, you can’t expect to add an extra $10K every time you change jobs unless the responsibilities and performance expectations change accordingly.  Rather than show increasing salaries, recent salary surveys in the medical &pharmaceutical sales market indicate changes in the number of companies paying the median or an increase in variable income potential with only slight increases to average base salaries. 

A truly engaged employee in the right role will have the found the balance between level of role, quality working relationships and communication, values match, scope to achieve results/ potential advancement or work/life balance.  Sound like an unachievable utopia?  I don’t think so, knowing what you need out of a work environment and what motivates you is the first step.  Not everything on the “wish list” needs to be ticked, just focus on the MOST important ones, the deal breakers.  With these covered then the other stuff will seem less significant.  To find yours check out the Ideal Job Plan and remember...

“Ain't about the cha-ching, cha-ching
Ain't about the ba-bling, ba-bling
Wanna make the world dance
Forget about the price tag”
- Jessie J


Take a leaf from your customer’s prescription pad

The world of health is all about patient care and providing remedies or solutions to presented problems – not too dissimilar to the role of a sales person.

In order to reach a diagnosis Doctors ask targeted questions. The really good Doctors listen not only to the answers given but also probe deeper to get to the root of the issue. Careful questioning requiring open ended answers will provide a wealth of information from which they can diagnose and offer appropriate treatment plans. So why is it that “…on average, physicians interrupt patients within eighteen seconds of when they begin telling their story.”  , (Jerry Groopman).

There are a lot of resources available for sales people providing lists of questions or sales questioning techniques for tried and true sales calls . However the test of a truly great sales person is firstly how they handle this information and secondly what they do with it…most importantly listen. We often promote ourselves as “solution focussed, using a solution sell approach, matching the needs of our customers” but if we are too quick to jump in and give an “off the shelf” solution are we really delivering on this? “Doctors don’t run into the room, lay down a bunch of brochures on things you “might want or need” and then whip out the prescription pad to write your Rx before quickly exiting the room” , (Greg Holsen).

By listening to the answers to a couple of key questions we can learn not only what our customer’s “symptoms” are but also what led them to this situation, what “remedies” they have tried previously, their expectations of our service/product as well as ascertaining just how committed they really are to this “purchase”.

Skilled use of open ended questions combined with active listening reduces the feeling of interrogation and instead will help develop rapport and in turn allow you to genuinely provide personalised solutions.


PHARMAC extends its management of medicines to include Hospital Medical Devices,

In the 2010/11 financial year, District Health Boards (DHBs) spent approximately $880 million on hospital devices, a cost which has been rising faster than the rate of inflation over the last five years.

On 7 September 2012, the Minister of Health confirmed that PHARMAC will extend its successful management of medicines to include hospital medical devices. PHARMAC is also working towards management of hospital pharmaceuticals.

In August 2012 PHARMAC, Health Benefits Limited (HBL) and the New Zealand health sector commenced work on specific national procurement initiatives. These initiatives will be rolled out between now and June 2015.

To see the timeline, process and consultation click here.

Tips when applying for a job.

Here are a couple of things that can let you down when you send off your job application.

  1. Most of us email things these days so get yourself an email address that is neutral.  By that I mean maybe just your name.  When an email for a professional sales positions comes from it doesn’t really match up with the type of person I might want to hire.  So sort that!
  2. If you follow up with phone call to ensure your application arrived, or to show you are really on to it, then when you get the voicemail leave your name and phone number and then REPEAT it.  Speak clearly and maybe a little slower because the person at the other end has to write it down – THEY are not a machine.
  3. Get to the point in your cover letter or email. Bullet point maybe. Three short statements of why you suit the role can help.  DON’T copy in a whole lot of information from your resume – it probably won’t be read.  Check out our cover letter tips.

These are some of the things that can trip you up and stop you from getting that interview you deserve.

 - Gary Beattie, MD Synergy Consulting Group