Communication between a medical equipment specifier and manufacturer’s rep can determine the success or failure of a project, or a client-consultant relationship. Communication can make or break a partnership. It can mean the difference between winning a single job, and winning repeat business. Follow these tips for better communication, and you and everyone on your team will reap the rewards.
Get it in Writing
Document your communication as much as possible. This protects both the sender and the receiver of the information. The printed message allows for objective reference for all parties.
- Embrace E-mail. E-mail can be used for primary communication, as well as secondary follow-up communication to summarize a meeting (agenda, minutes, action steps, etc.) or a phone call. This creates an electronic historical log of discussions and decisions for everyone to reference as needed.
- Create Timelines. Record and distribute project timelines and task deadlines.
- Document Responsibilities. When assigning tasks, or volunteering to take ownership of researching a piece of equipment,
document and share the list of responsibilities, including task owner, expectation of the result, and a deadline.
- Include Your Whole Team. Specifiers and reps typically have multiple people on their team. In some cases, they may just be working together one-on-one. In either case, the goal should be to include everyone who owns some of the responsibility of what you are working on together. This prevents multiple people from working on the same task and other redundant efforts.
- Build a Website for Your Project or Partnership. Manufacturers’ reps often have the capacity to develop a low-cost, low-maintenance website, or online collaboration tool, so that they can communicate with specifiers.
- Password protection/access
- Shared storage for uploading files
- A Frequently Asked Questions section
- A discussion board
- E-mail alerts to members to inform them when a new posting or upload has been made
Use a Project BinderA 3-ring binder may seem like anathema to our desire to move towards a paperless workplace, but sometimes this traditional approach helps keep communication, tasks, timelines, and agreements visible.
- A binder can be carried and labeled.
- It can be stored on your desk or bookshelf.
- Fill it with important e-mails that document product facts, lead times, pricing decisions, etc.
- Insert meeting agendas and minutes, budgets and forecasts, quotes and estimates, inventories and stocking levels, space plan drawings and building access maps for installation routes.
- Include product documentation such as brochures, cut sheets, and catalogs.
Sure, it’s a lot of printing, but the information (the communication) has less chance of being forgotten than when it’s saved out of sight on some electronic network or hard drive on your computer.
Your Message and its Medium
Other ways to enhance the sender-receiver connection include thoughtful consideration of your message’s length and format.
Put yourself in the message sender’s position: you send an e-mail and receive no response for a day, 2 days, or more. The sender’s mind floods with anxiety and questions such as,
- "Did he receive my request?"
- "Is she working on it?"
- "Will I have my answer in time for me to respond to the person that I owe a response to?"
Let the sender know that you have received their message and that you are working on it. You’ll buy yourself more time and more good will.