The demand for medical supplies and access to critical care has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires have further strained healthcare systems across the country as they struggle to provide clinical care to those in need.
In times like these, the lack of a “simple” IV bag could mean the difference between life and death.
No one understands the importance of vital medical supplies – and adequate training for their sale and usage in the field – more than ICU Medical. The company designs, manufactures, and sells IV (intravenous) systems, devices, components, and software for pain management and patient safety.
ICU Medical has about 50,000 employees, with only a small percentage (about 5%) working as contractors. As of June 2021, the company’s revenue was $321 million with a net income of $28.4 million.
We spoke with Amy Lemire, the U.S Director of Sales Training and Performance for ICU Medical, to learn more about how the company manages sales training across different business units and a changing landscape being driven by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Investment And Self-Development Are Essential For Employee Success
Lemire spent more than two decades working in sales before finding her passion for teaching, training, and mentoring while working as a sales field trainer. At ICU Medical, she is responsible for making sure that all new hires fully understand the product and process to succeed in their sales roles.
President of AIM Training & Consulting, Inc. and author of the book From Zero to Sales Hero: How to Double Your Sales and Income in Less Than 90 Days, Lemire is a firm believer in the importance of self-development.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned in this business is it's really all about what you do day in and day out that makes you successful,” she explained.
Lemire noted that most companies traditionally focus on the tactical side of running a business and don’t necessarily invest in the “inner game” of selling.
“Without the inner game of selling, it’s hard to succeed in this tough environment,” she said.
To that end, Lemire provides new hire training, bi-weekly training sessions, and also does training with her regional sales teams at ICU Medical. Team training includes deal drills and strategies that help to refine and sharpen skills, and she also takes part in weekly calls.
Beyond sales, the company provides regulatory training for those working in HR and corporate communications, and training for the professional services team that is responsible for training customers to use ICU Medical’s devices.
Teams throughout the company utilize different training apps that provide the education they need. Those working in corporate and HR use a platform that tracks participation, which verifies that they are up-to-date on important policies.
ICU Medical recently rolled out the use of Brainshark to track employee training across all of its sales units.
Lemire told us that ICU Medical seeks to establish standardization of the sales model across all of its business units, but that is easier said than done.
There are several business units within the company and each requires a unique approach to sales because they have different audiences and call points, she explained.
Her unit follows a training model designed for the capital division, which handles the sales of IV pumps. Sales representatives working for the capital division call upon executive hospital decision-makers, presenting them with proposals in a price range that’s anywhere from a hundred thousand to several million dollars.
A sales representative for the consumables team, on the other hand, sells IV sets and fluids to customers working in materials management.
Although the capital and consumables units both work in sales for ICU Medical, their approach is vastly different from one another. For this reason, it isn’t feasible for a sales representative to shift between units – at least not without additional training.
strong>COVID and the Great Resignation: A Changing Landscape Across Training – And Sales
Lemire handles turnover and sales building for a sales team that extends throughout the United States and Canada, with new hires being trained every quarter.
She said that although attrition is usually about 10% on average, a trend that’s become known as the “Great Resignation” may result in 20-45% of all sales, marketing operations, and HR personnel changing jobs or leaving their companies altogether.
“It’s been shown that one of the best ways to retain your talent is to invest in their training and development,” Lemire said. “Unfortunately, a lot of companies don’t see that as a necessary part of the investment of the company.”
Instead, they see it as more of an afterthought, she explained.
The Great Resignation is particularly frightening because virtually no company is truly immune.
It can be a challenge for companies to find qualified sales employees and even after onboarding has ended, instilling trust in their ability to make purchase decisions can take time – slowing its progress.
Although companies examine all new hires, prospective employees are self-evaluating and focusing on their growth and development, as well. People have become far more selective about the companies they consider joining – and their training programs.
Amid the Great Resignation, companies are also grappling with a global medical crisis.
To say that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted employee training would be an understatement.
Lemire told us that before the pandemic, ICU Medical’s six regional teams held in-person meetings and training throughout the United States, with at least one onsite new hire training at the corporate office in Lake Forest, Ill.
Beginning in March 2020, however, all in-person regional meetings ceased. The first in-person class was held in Chicago, 18 months later.
Like most companies, ICU Medical relied heavily on virtual training for its quarterly and new hire training through the WebEx platform during the pandemic.
Lemire said that the company and its training adapted as well as it could.
“Unfortunately, as a sales trainer, I can say that when it comes to hands-on devices and product demos, there’s really nothing that can replace in-person training,” she admitted.
She’s been making a case for getting back to in-person training, provided that everyone follows proper guidelines to ensure safety.
“If we want to retain talent and do the right thing, we need to meet in person,” she said.
As the pandemic has raged on, however, fewer customers want to meet in person so the sales landscape is also evolving.
Lemire said that she stays up-to-date on sales research with Gartner and noted that before the pandemic, 43% of customers said they prefer not to meet with sales representatives in person.
That percentage has only grown during the pandemic, so the sales model must adjust in tandem.
“It’s going to force us as an organization to be better at digital dexterity,” Lemire observed. “It’s going to force our marketing department to have a lot more digital-friendly content.”
She added that the sales team will need to sharpen their digital presence and their presentation skills, as well.
Lemire reminds her sales team that “people decide within seconds if they’re going to talk to you or not.”
“What you’re saying in those first five seconds is going to matter more today than it [did] before the pandemic,” she said.
Lemire also noted that executives are now being contacted by twice as many people because sales representatives are using phone calls, email, and professional social media like LinkedIn to reach out to customers and they’re no longer dropping by the office to converse in person.
Today, sales representatives face competition that grows steeper by the day. Their approach – and their training – must adapt to preserve and ensure their continued success.
About ICU Medical:
Headquartered in San Clemente, Calif., ICU Medical designs and manufactures products exclusively for IV therapy to continually improve its safety and efficacy through innovation. The company produces IV therapy systems used in clinical and hospital settings along with software, consumables, and solutions that support and enhance patient care.
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