Selling medical supplies during a pandemic is no easy task, but at least Zebra Medical had Skynamo to ease some of the burden.
Paradoxically, while a health crisis ran rampant through the world this past year, pockets of the broader medical ecosystem took a hit, particularly during hard lockdown. Doctors in private practice saw their patient numbers dwindle, hospital theatres were prevented from operating at full capacity for safety reasons and even medical suppliers felt the trickle-down effect of all of this as national medical supply chains were directed squarely at addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.
Zebra Medical, a medical distributor based in South Africa, has felt the impact of this disruption, but has managed to avert the worst of the pandemic, with support from Skynamo’s sales app.
“We import a range of medical devices, and supply about 200 hospitals and specialist units around the country,” says Marc Davel, head of sales and at business development at Zebra Medical. “We target a wide variety of doctors and nurses at hospitals, in theatres, oncology and dialysis units, that sort of thing. So we have a fairly large national footprint.”
That large footprint is serviced by just seven sales reps, overseen by a sales manager who reports to Marc. “We’re a very small team, so everyone wears a different hat every day,” says Marc.
The biggest impact of the pandemic has been on new product launches, Marc explains. “We’ve got a few nice products waiting in the pipeline that we want to get going, niche devices for specialists. But you can’t get into the hospitals to actually promote products and teach doctors how to use them at the moment – doctors and nursing staff have just been too busy – understandably. “
“They’re being pulled away from theatres into the Covid-19 wards. It’s just the state of the industry – it’s not specific to us. It’s everybody.”
However, Zebra Medical has been using Skynamo for about five years now, which means their other products, the ones already in use, have been able to continue on the sales front. And Marc is very happy with the oversight and insight the app gives both to him and to his team.
“Skynamo gives me a really good overview of how my reps are performing, where they’re going, what they’re doing: making sure they’re doing the right thing, making sure they’re not missing anything,” he says. “It’s really helped us to make sure that we’re getting really good value from our salespeople.
“It also helps our reps in terms of planning, reducing their workload and getting information to us. One of the big challenges they faced was just trying to report to a manager. With Skynamo it’s all automated, and we can get that information in real time, as we need it.”
In terms of reporting and admin, he estimates that it saves reps a good hour at least every day. “We’ve implemented certain forms that get information through to us a lot quicker than had previously happened,” he says. “Whereas before there was a delay in getting information through to the head office, and then reconciling and getting that information back to the reps, now this all happens on the fly, which really shortens the lead time for many of our processes.”
Marc says he heard about Skynamo via a friend who worked at a wine farm, and did some investigation into what it could offer them. “I thought it was amazing, and so did our management team after I presented it to them,” he says. “Before that, most of our systems ran on paper and video calls, with Excel reporting.
“It just removed many of the frustrations,” he adds, “like not getting reports and market information in time, making us more pro-active as opposed to reactionary …..”
Zebra Medical’s reps aren’t just visiting healthcare workers to sell them products – they also do product training. “Even if the customer has been using a product for two years, staff members, like nursing staff, change during that time,” says Marc. “So our reps have to do regular training with the units and ensure that they’re up to speed with how to use the product correctly. They also have to do stock counts once a month and interact with consignment stock controllers.”
"“It also helps our reps in terms of planning, reducing their workload and getting information to us. One of the big challenges they faced was just trying to report to a manager. With Skynamo it’s all automated, and we can get that information in real time, as we need it.”"
Much of this interaction has been cut off completely during the pandemic, he points out, which has been a major challenge. “Our reps had no access to doctors or nurses unless it was deemed essential. And for a rep to be present, and be essential, is really rare. So we’ve had to really be in maintenance mode, because that’s all you can do.”
“But to grow your business, you want to be able to sell new products, gain new customers, and so not seeing them or not having access to them has been really difficult. We’ve tried many ways to go virtual, such as video calls and LinkedIn – any way possible – and it really doesn’t work as well as face-to-face visits.”
People buy from people, Marc points out, so developing a relationship virtually is a lot more difficult than doing it in person when you have a product they can see and feel and touch. To develop a relationship “virtually” is going to take a lot longer.
However, Skynamo has helped to minimize that impact, he says, and keep things ticking over. “Having our accounting system integrated with Skynamo allows our reps to get their sales figures daily, instead of getting a sales report weekly or at the end of the month, thereby enabling them to track customer usage and to follow up with their customers if orders don’t come through timeously,” he says.
At the end of the pandemic, Marc does foresee some kind of hybrid model, but there will always be a large element of face-to-face sales required. “I think doctors, nurses, our sales reps, everyone prefers it,” he says. “I believe it helps you to outperform and outsell competitors, if you’re meeting face to face.”