VisualSonics (VSI) is a Canada-based, high-frequency ultrasound manufacturer for small animal research. Its primary customers were pharma and biotech companies, universities and research institutes.
VSI initially launched well, based on unique technology. The company’s lack of focused marketing direction and several common emerging growth mistakes caused revenue to stall within a couple of years.
As part of the business turnaround plan, we assessed the overall go-to-market strategy and quickly implemented solutions. We provided a Yar Group Senior Executive to serve as fractional Director of Sales.
VSI had previously determined that their greatest opportunity for rapid growth was in hiring high-end, highly compensated, competitive human clinical imaging sales individuals. These individuals were attempting to sell specialized small animal research imaging equipment and making virtually no sales.
The actual sales process was consultative, which involved finding researchers whose research could be enhanced by using VSI imaging equipment. These researchers had virtually no budgets for new equipment, relying on grant to pursue. Given the opportunity for retraining, almost all sales individuals returned to the competitive human clinical market.
We reprofiled the sales staff for necessary skills and experience, hiring those who fully understood the steps in a consultative scientific research sales process. We began to experience significant results almost immediately.
To accelerate the new momentum and provide sales individuals more direct time with qualified prospects, we:
- Created a new international inside sales group in the Toronto home office. They studied relevant research, provided support, and set appointments for the sales individuals in North America and Europe. This was most cost effective (an inside sales position was one-quarter the compensation) and allowed the outside sales staff to spend 3-4 days per week in pre-qualified meetings.
- Engaged a scientific research marketing company in India. Each individual working on our behalf cost one-half of a Canadian inside sales individual’s income. We established the research criteria, the methodologies, all goals, and a weekly review call. We began receiving between 50 and 60 qualified leads per week for the inside sales group to utilize for pre-qualified appointments. We successfully transitioned oversight and management of the Indian research group to a lead in the inside sales group. This new initiative allowed Canadian inside sales individuals to spend 90% of their time setting appointments for the field sales individuals.
No market prioritization for business targets.
While the sales department efforts were under way, we engaged with marketing to determine which research offered the most rapid opportunities. Ultrasound was already well understood and established for cardio-thoracic and vascular applications. We initially focused all efforts toward cardiothoracic and vascular research.
Next priority was cancer. Although ultrasound was not a common imaging modality for cancer research at that time, we determined a methodology for approach and initially went after key cancer research centers. We also established an agreement with Italian microbubble supplier Bracco, to assist in the efforts for cancer. Microbubbles were being developed for targeted drug delivery. Sales into cancer research centers initiated and began growing. We then created and hired for Microbubble Specialists to very successfully drive microbubble sales. Cancer rapidly became about 40% of the revenue base.
Sales projections were by gut; not data driven.
We implemented a Microsoft CRM solution to track efforts and with which to create and load a now well-established forecasting model. Once successfully established, Marketing took over management of the CRM most effectively, utilizing it for marketing campaigns.
Sales compensation was not aligned with either the required efforts of the sales team nor with the objectives of the executive staff or Board.
We created a new compensation plan for the sales individuals that successfully accomplished all objectives.