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Starting a family is an exciting time. But traditionally, figuring out how to balance work and a new baby has been tough. New parents had limited parental leave, and often, at least one parent had to return to work sooner than they’d like.

Luckily, organizations are turning a new page when it comes to parental leave. They’re providing new parents with more time out of the office so employees don’t have to make tough choices. In fact, a 2017 WorldatWork survey found that the average length of full-pay parental leave is now 4.1 weeks.

While this is great news, it creates a new problem for medical sales reps: maintaining client relationships.

Having a strong connection with doctors and customers is the foundation of medical sales. If you’re out of the office for a long time, there’s a chance those relationships will suffer. But that’s only if you don’t prepare ahead of time.

Here are three tips for keeping your customers loyal while you’re on parental leave:

1. Ease customers into the situation

When you have strong relationships with your clients, they will be happy about your successes. This includes congratulating you on your growing family. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t worried about what will happen to them when you’re on leave. Giving them time to adjust to the idea will help alleviate their concerns.

When you first break the news, be specific about the timeline. Let them know about the time you’ll go on leave and for how long. Also, be clear about the next time you’ll see them. This will give them a chance to write down questions or concerns they have about what to do when you’re gone.

Be careful not to overwhelm them with information. If you tell customers you’re expecting and immediately give them a list of names and phone numbers to call with questions, they’re going to feel like you’re abandoning them. Instead, take things slow and spend a small portion of subsequent meetings discussing the coming changes.

2. Offer a step-by-step plan

Once you’ve heard your customers’ questions and concerns, create a personalized plan for each one. Be sure to take care of as many needs as possible before you go on leave. For example, if they order a predictable amount of your product each month, get those invoices in motion so they aren’t left in a lurch.

Be sure to give them a written copy of the plan so they can reference it as needed. Also, create contingency plans. If the baby is born early or there are other complications, your customers need to know that their needs are covered.

3. Bring in a teammate

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. How would you react if they gave you a name and a number and said this was who would be buying your product for the next four weeks? Would you trust this stranger to come through for you?

This is how your customers will feel if you don’t introduce them to your temporary replacement. Find a time for each of your clients to meet the co-worker who will be handling your accounts. It helps if your co-worker leads the meeting. Your customers are already comfortable with you. They need you to step aside so they can get to know their temporary rep.

Also, be conscious of which of your co-workers cover which accounts. Customers have unique personalities and preferences. If you assume any substitution will do, you’ll end up with unhappy customers.

Think about what defines each of your clients. For example, say you have a customer who is extremely professional and likes to stick to business. It wouldn’t be a good idea to assign them a co-worker who tends to be chatty.

When you go on parental leave, it can be difficult to not worry about work and your customers. But, if you follow these tips and offer your clients the right support, you’ll be able to spend time with your new family without missing a beat in your career.

What are some other important steps for medical sales reps to take before going on parental leave? Share in the comments.

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