Q&A: Toby Carrington – Siemens Healthineers

by Mark Taylor

Toby Carrington heads up global sales operations for Siemens Healthineers – a medtech company under the Siemens group. Amid a complex B2B selling environment, they sell a range of medical equipment to hospitals and private practices, with a $15 billion annual revenue turnover. Toby is responsible for global sales operations, spanning sales training, CRM tools and applications, and analytics. We sat down with him to discuss the future of sales teams and the trends he is noticing in this space.

Let’s talk about some of the trends you’re seeing. What are you noticing in your environment in terms of customer trends and expectations?

One of the interesting things that’s been happening in the healthcare market for a while is there’s a very significant consolidation – the larger players in our market are getting even larger by acquiring smaller companies, and healthcare has moved from the totally local market as it might have been a decade ago, to where there’s the emergence of large global healthcare provider chains. So that’s certainly required a shift in the way we manage accounts.

The digital topic is also really interesting; we’ve been doing a lot of research on the way that the customer buying journey has changed over the years, and are seeing a significant amount of upfront desktop research that has been done by customers on our products. We clearly see, even in our environment, where some of our equipment might cost millions of dollars or euros, that customers are very much engaging with content online before they talk to a sales rep.  


In your environment, is there leadership buy-in to getting behind digital?

I would say we’re still at a certain stage of maturity where we are really understanding that this buying journey has changed. Even with things like our social media presence, we’ve got a number of our executives who are now very heavily engaged in social, but honestly this has only been a fairly recent development for our organisation.

We’re at a stage where we do understand both the way that our customers are buying and their demographics, and we understand that there’s a need to change – I mean, we are very good, we sell a lot of digital services and solutions to our customers; our challenge is still digitising ourselves and our marketing processes, to really catch up with the digital services that we offer.


What’s your view of the future of a salesperson – what does that look like from your perspective?

There’s some interesting statistics, and depending on which survey you refer to, about 30-40 percent of a salesperson’s time is actually customer-facing. In an environment where our customers need us to deliver high-value, we need to work together on solutions; and our sales reps have to perform a higher-level role, at their maximum capacity – for example, spending time with customers on developing strategy and longer-term partnerships.

I see the sales rep in the future being augmented by technology. In a three-year time horizon I don’t see a sales rep being replaced by technology, but our sales reps will need to be more efficient and their routine tasks need to be automated simply for them, to free up their time. They need to be intelligent and they need to have insights at their fingertips that enable them to know everything that’s going on in the customer’s environment. They also need to be constantly connected, both to the customer and to each other, to be able to get things done.


If other people are going through this journey at different stages of maturity, what would be your top lessons learnt to date?

One is that you’re probably underestimating the change management that is required to do this. Initially I had thought this would be very straightforward, that people would like the idea of tech automating their daily work – because to me it makes sense.

The way we’re introducing some of this technology is in training programs – and rather than just say “here’s a new tool, use it”, we’re trying to find more clever ways to integrate it into a more holistic approach for our salespeople and our sales managers.

The big thing when you’re embarking on this digital journey is to work out what you’re trying to do – what are the very specific use cases for salespeople or a sales manager that you’re trying to solve for? Here, I mean very specific examples, like “help me prepare for my next customer meeting”, or “tell me everything about the customer's interaction with us in the last six months” –  something very specific like that you can’t just digitise for the sake of digitising. You need to really work out what it is that your salespeople will benefit the most from, and then you can look at how digitising can solve for that particular problem.

– Interview by Mark Taylor


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