Andy Bufton

Abbott Diagnostics Division, Maidenhead, Berkshire, UK

One of the axioms by which successful sales organizations determine a decision maker among their potential clientele is to ask whether that person is the MAN. Not a politically incorrect measure of managerial position, the term MAN indicates that the individual has the Money, the Authority to spend it and the Need to do so. The diagnostics industry, prior to the spate of mergers and acquisitions of the recent decade, was made up of companies generally dedicated to the supply of products focused primarily on a particular analytical discipline, be it clinical chemistry, haematology, microbiology or histopathology. These serviced an expanding market-place where the sales teams would visit the MAN in the laboratory handling the particular discipline. Here, morale was high - the laboratory order book could be invoked, with authority to purchase, to meet the needs of professionals running a demand-led service.

During the following years, mergers and acquisitions led to a number of companies offering products across all disciplines, and, meanwhile, many laboratories reduced or removed the boundaries between disciplines. Throughout the world, the diagnostics industry continues to utilize the larger part of its sales and marketing resource in supporting and visiting the laboratory professional, and many companies have failed to recognize that decision making has moved away from the professionals working there. The money available has been reduced, and it is managed by others. The authority to make a purchasing decision lies outside of the laboratory and the need is to reduce workload, expenditure and, indeed, quality, from an excellent to an adequate level commensurate with reducing budgets and not insignificant deskilling of the laboratory workforce.

Market segmentation exercises frequently differentiate by descriptors, and the companies in the in vitro diagnostics (IVD) industry continue to describe their market segments in terms of size, according to workload, bed numbers in a hospital or academic status. Alternatively, the distinction is made between the different types of commercial and public institutions, and the scientific disciplines themselves continue to be cited as different market segments.

This article argues that the key differentiating factor between the segments of a market, however, is buyer motivation, not description. If this approach is applied to the laboratory professionals, we discover that the motivation has changed over the past two decades from promoting and developing their service, to cost reduction, consolidation and reduction of demand. The laboratory now acts as distributor of the IVD product to another MAN, the true end-user.

It is with the true end-users of the IVD medical device that this article is concerned, and the sites of use lead to recognizing user motivation.

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