Provide value to your customers first time, every time

Sales Tips for the Reluctant Salesperson
Don’t mistake activity for production.

Editor’s Note: JHC readers may not work for medical products companies, but they have plenty of customers – administrators, all the people who use the products for which they contract, and the vendors with whom they negotiate and implement contracts. Their credibility is on the line every day. Sales coach Brian Sullivan works with salespeople and sales executives from medical products manufacturers and distributors. But he’s got something to say to contracting professionals as well.

I will never forget a sales call I made early in my career with 30-plus-year sales-veteran-turned-Welch Allyn VP of Sales John Moran. John is one of the most respected leaders in the medical industry and an expert of relationship selling.

He is also what I describe as a Stealth Leader. Stealth Leaders are people who can influence you, your job, your life – all without having to announce their presence. As Welch Allyn’s VP of sales, John was never afraid to jump in the passenger’s seat and share some wisdom with reps of all experience levels. When he traveled with you, it was an honor, and you did not want to screw up.

One day in my early selling career at Welch Allyn, John and I were calling on an important distribution customer with whom I had a very good relationship. We stopped by for about 30 minutes, chewed the fat, and then left after a few good laughs. I thought it went well. After getting in the car and asking for John’s feedback on how the call went, I was just waiting for his praise so I could then start my march around the bases. Well, the batting lesson had just begun. When John asked me, “What was the objective of the call?” I froze. After bumbling for a few seconds, I told him I just wanted to stop by to see how our dealer customer was doing. The conversation continued like this:

“What was your objective in seeing how he was doing?” he asked.

“To make sure he still liked our company and what we were doing,” I replied.

“What does that mean? What was your objective in seeing if he still liked our company and what we were doing?”

“Well … John … by liking us, it is easier for me to get him to commit to running a 60-day promotion on our scopes.”

John said, “So why wasn’t our objective to get him to commit to a 60-day promotion on our scopes?”

Wow! This guy just used questioning techniques masterfully to lead me to a more specific objective.

As I looked back on that sales call with John, I realized I had accomplished little. Without a well-thought-out and specific objective, I was just going through the motions. John taught me a lesson that day that I will never forget. Don’t ever mistake activity with production. And don’t ever pay a visit to a customer – be it a distributor, clinician or department head – unless you plan to provide value. Otherwise, you are just wasting their time.

About the Author

Brian Sullivan
Brian Sullivan, CSP teaches salespeople and leaders how to influence more people in his PRECISE Business Development Programs. Sign up for a FREE Online Training Module on How to Become a Master Questioner by going to Or visit him at