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Resting easier

A leading supplier of sleep apnea machines regains market share after aligning its sales and marketing teams

Good sales leaders don’t need the reality of a bad quarter or a string of bad quarters to know when something is amiss. They sense it before the numbers tell the story for them.

That was the case for Susan McGinnis, Senior Sales Trainer at Philips Respironics, a Pittsburgh-based Fortune Global 500 provider of sleep, ventilation and home respiratory device equipment. Her company enjoyed being the market leader for more than three decades, but sleep apnea has been more commonly diagnosed in the past decade, and the general public has become better educated on the importance of getting a good night’s sleep. That brought more competition into the sleep device industry and Philips lost market share.

Simply running through the latest line of products with home health care equipment suppliers wasn’t good enough anymore, McGinnis says. Differentiation between Philips products and those of the new competitors was lost on these heath care equipment retailers, so it reverted to a price war.

McGinnis and her colleagues reviewed Philips’ to-market strategy from top to bottom and realized the sales reps weren’t using most of the marketing materials that were created for them. “It wasn’t what they needed. They were looking for more material focused on their customers’ world and marketing was producing materials that were product-focused,” she explains.

The company brought in Corporate Visions, a globally recognized provider of marketing and sales training. McGinnis says Corporate Visions cross-trained the sales and marketing teams. It may be overstating things to say there as a kumbaya moment, but the training definitely resulted in a culture shift, McGinnis says. Over the course of several months, Corporate Visions’ system of “power positioning” and “power messaging” helped Philips reps create the differentiation that previously wasn’t resonating with customers.

“Corporate Visions aligned our sales and marketing teams so everyone understood that yes, we have some great products, but at the end of the day the story should be focused around the customer’s world. The marketing team is now creating customer-centric materials and the sales force is talking about our customers’ challenges with our products being the solution to those challenges.”

Corporate Visions’ policy is to send in a third party to measure the impact of its training after it has been implemented. That follow-up showed that within four months of the training, the new approach had positively impacted sales among existing clients by $1.4 million and could be directly linked to $4.6 million in new business. High adopters of the system had average deals of $82,128, while low adopters had average deals of $46,164.

The third-party evaluator wasn’t the only one producing proof of the training’s ROI. Philips asked its 232 sales reps if any of them had a success story from the new synergy that resulted from the training. Sixty happy sales reps replied.

“These are well-educated and tenured salespeople who were hesitant about the training. They’ve told us then that it was the best they’ve been through and that it’s helping them effectively communicate with their customers,” McGinnis says. “When they create presentations for regional sales meetings, they’re still using the ‘power messaging’ lingo, so we can see it’s been adopoted.”  

Susan McGinnis will make an expanded presentation on the Philips success story at Break the Status Quo Barrier, a Corporate Visions conference on aligning marketing and sales that’s scheduled for Sept. 18-20. Sales & Marketing Management readers can attend for only $299 - a 50% discount off of the full price. Visit http://win.corporatevisions.com/SMM2012 for more information.