A shrinking product cycle isn't the only force driving the hurried delivery of product knowledge. In November 2000, the U.S. Congress enacted the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act, which required hospitals to convert from traditional needle products to those with safety features by last April. Only 15 percent of U.S. hospitals used the safety devices at the time the act came into force. The new law created a wonderful "problem" for Becton Dickinson, a medical technology manufacturer that two years earlier had invested $300 million in manufacturing lines to produce the kind of safety needle products the new law required.
"The difference between having 5 to 10 percent of the market interested in our safety devices and having a law that requires all hospitals to use these products is massive, and it puts enormous stress on a workforce," says Kevin Seifert, vice president of Becton Dickinson's advanced protection technologies (apt) unit. "Our sales and support people had to transform into consultants to help customers clarify how the regulations affected them."
To make that transformation and to help customers convert inventories and related practices in a mere five months, Becton Dickinson revamped its in-service support program at hospitals to focus on the new regulation, explains Douglas Carrara, senior marketing manager for apt. The sales force increased field visits, and, in response to the flurry of emergency committee meetings most hospitals held to address the conversion process, the sales representatives assembled support kits with educational videos that hospitals could use as a resource during their meetings.
"Taking that consultative role is a fine line to walk," Seifert adds. "It could be interpreted as self-serving. But we trained our sales force to focus on equipping hospitals with the knowledge they needed to comply with the new regulation and to let the products fall into place."