“We hate our customers! We do, we hate them,” a longtime client confided in me. This client is a smart, honest, and increasingly frustrated senior product manager at a large med device company. The company sells through a “middle man” – in this case durable medical equipment suppliers (DMEs).
The dynamics between this med device manufacturer and the distributors of its life-saving products are beyond bad. Driven by unexpressed fear and resentment, the relationship is filled with dislike, disdain, and disrespect. Who wants to do business in that kind of environment??
What’s the alternative? It’s simple, so simple it may sound naive.
TELL THE TRUTH.
Both sides need to tell the truth about their fears and frustrations. DMEs need to acknowledge the business reality they face. Many are going to become irrelevant as robust, med device-friendly, Amazon-like distribution systems are established that have built-in many of the services DMEs now provide. Can DMEs pivot and stay relevant and viable? A few, yes, if they change fast.
Med device manufacturers need to express their frustration and that they feel manipulated. They also need to recognize that many DMEs are fighting for their lives and will do anything to survive.
DMEs need to stop the high-pressure tactics that desperation breeds. Manufacturers need to show the DMEs compassion – even if they end the business relationship.
With open minds and hearts, both sides can come together and brainstorm new kinds of partnerships and alliances that can help both sides achieve their aims. Or at least reduce unnecessary suffering.
My humble recommendation? End the enmity. It hurts patients, and it’s no good for business. Embrace the alternative. It’s time.