As medical products companies grow more technologically and organisationally complex they are faced with increased challenges to their personal selling strategies. The struggle for product differentiation has intensified and the customers themselves have become product experts. As such, the need for effective selling and customer satisfaction is paramount to corporate success.
This report focuses on the behaviours and the characteristics of the medical sales representative that influence the customer's overall satisfaction with the sales encounter. The expert knowledge and customer orientation of the salesperson have been established in previous research as influencing customer satisfaction. Building on existing literature in the areas of expert social power and customer orientation as they influence customer satisfaction, a relationship between expert social power and customer orientation has been established.
The study was conducted in two phases. Firstly, phase one consisted of a qualitative study, utilising the critical incident technique popularised by Bitner, Booms and Mohr, (1994) to provide descriptive information which outlined the issues critical to the customer's satisfaction with the salesperson's performance. Secondly, phase two involved a questionnaire distributed to a national sample of 600 Baxter Healthcare customers from nursing, medical and scientific areas of the hospital. Results of this study suggested positive relationships between expert social power and customer satisfaction and customer orientation and customer satisfaction. An interesting extension of existing research was the identification of a positive mediating effect of expert social power on customer orientation in this model. Additionally, differences between the three respondent groups (nurses, medical practitioners and hospital scientists) provided additional insight into the customer-salesperson dyad.
A framework was developed for sales management in the medical products industry which has significant implications for managers in that it suggests a strategic approach to personal selling by tailoring the salesperson's skills and attributes to the needs of the customer.