Creating deep partnerships – the key to market launch success

Steve Bell

Steve Bell

Chief Commercial Officer at CMR Surgical

Over the last year, CMR Surgical has announced some major new market milestones at CMR – including our launches into the highly advanced markets of Hong Kong and Brazil. These are of course moments to celebrate as we continue to scale-up globally; however, as any of our colleagues across the territories will tell you – the work to get to this stage cannot be underestimated.

It has required significant planning, a lot of hard work and preparation to get it to this stage. This is because we will only enter a new market when we know we can do it safely, responsibly and with high credibility to ensure success. And the key to getting this right, I believe, is through finding and creating deep partnerships.

At CMR, creating a partnership is about working together with a hospital for a common goal. It’s not a transactional relationship with a buyer and seller, leaving after the Versius deal is done. It’s about being committed to working and risk sharing together to reach that common outcome: this is of course providing better surgery for patients. It’s about both sides bringing equal things to the table, supporting each other to learn and evolve and get to where we want to be. It takes time to select the right partners and then build the teams and country operations around those partners within regions to ensure success. So finding the right hospital partner and surgeon group within that partner is critical to get a solid foundation in any region.

How do we find the ‘right’ partner?

First and foremost, we need to make sure that the hospitals, surgeons and teams have a great experience, but above all a safe experience. To do that we need to find a partner with an aligned mindset. They need to clearly understand our company and product, our unique selling points in what way and how we are different, and the nuances in surgical technique. We need to understand their needs and experience with minimal access surgery (MAS), their challenges and barriers, and what they want out of a partnership.

Then, once we have established the right partners, it’s about keeping them. Making sure we deliver on our side of the partnership and making them confident that they made the right choice by working with us. Making it very clear that we are not here to sell a robot, we are here to collaborate to make MAS available and as widely accessible as possible. The main goal for our customer facing strategy is to give our partner that “wow” experience in everything that we deliver from product to services, and we have set out specific strategies to make that happen. We have strategically designed a product from the ground up to meet the need that existing robots could not. Data-centric, small, portable and simple to go from laparoscopy to robotics and back again. We have also incentivised our commercial team based on getting strong net promotor scores (NPS) from the surgeons they work with, rather than making sales.

Partner & stakeholder considerations

The needs of our partners and stakeholders are diverse as well as complex. In some markets, our work is heavily involved in helping work out the economics of investing in a surgical robotic system. It’s not about getting a cheap robot; it’s about getting a robot that can be used many times a day across multiple operating rooms (ORs) so that the cost per case per day drops significantly. In others, the challenges could be around the logistics of the physical size of the OR, which may have been a limitation for them trying to purchase a robot historically. The ultra compact design of Versius overcomes just that – so we have targeted hospitals that are size constrained, yet want a fully functioning multiport system that is capable of all laparoscopic and thoracoscopic procedures. This has been exceptionally important in both Brazil and Hong Kong.

With these launches, we have learned that just like Europe, India or the Middle East, another critical success factor has been the CMR way that we train, educate, support cases and be a part of the success plan. We do not treat smaller markets or “remote” markets any differently from major ones. We put in our own teams and give the same level of support, care and partnership we give to any ‘big’ market.

I strongly believe that because we never had ‘established markets’ at CMR, we have been able to choose the right places to launch Versius and build a presence to ensure our mission to increase access to MAS for many more people really resonates. Nobody is telling our commercial teams ‘this is our current priority market with high profits we need to go there first’. If you look into where CMR started and which regions, countries and hospitals, it may now make some sense. We are driven by a strategy built upon creating the right kind of partnerships, not chasing contracts in the biggest, most lucrative markets.

If there’s one single thing I’m most proud of professionally, it is the extremely high Net Promoter Scores our teams get from the surgeons and surgical teams they work with, which have been repeated in each and every market. These scores underline the dedication, service and attention to detail our teams give right across the world. We are laser-focussed on giving our customers an amazing experience, creating deep partnerships, launching with excellence and in doing so, transforming surgery, for good.

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