Intuitive Surgical: Sales Strategy in Latin America

Intuitive Surgical: Sales Strategy in Latin America


Intuitive Surgical uses a distribution model
or distribution partners for their sales throughout Latin America. Using that type of model brings
many benefits and a couple of challenges as well with it. The benefits, in particular,
I see as being threefold. First of all, it provides a geographic specification
and knowledge that we, as a company, don’t have but they do locally. Second, that involves
a couple of employment norms that, again, we may not have the knowledge of but they
locally do and are able to manage that. And then lastly, they carry multiple product
lines, and from a total business perspective or a solution perspective for a hospital many
times that can provide a lot of extra value besides just bringing the da Vinci to the
hospital. On the challenge side there are some business
practices that are very different in some of the local markets versus what we’re used
to here in the United States. Also, having those multiple product lines
means many times it’s hard to get a little bit of mind share with the distributor partners
and then lastly it’s always a challenge to make sure that our goals are actually aligned
with their goals at the same time. da Vinci surgery is a very highly-specialized
surgical technique, and as such, it tends to go into centers within
Latin America that already offer highly-specialized surgical techniques that currently exist. One of the interesting things about that,
though, is that if you truly want to reach all patients, which of course we want to,
you have to then also think about the public healthcare segment. So, unlike the U.S., where that’s kind of
a bit more of a homogeneous mix, within Latin America those are very, very distinct patient
populations, and so the entrance strategy to be able to bring your product into those
two different worlds, we’ll call it, is indeed different, and indeed needs to be looked
at differently with whatever product you’re bringing.
Within Latin America we definitely look at the sale of a da Vinci program in a slightly
different way than maybe in other parts of the world. We really look at it as a full
program and as a bundle, if you will. So we bundle together not only the capital
part of the da Vinci but also instrumentation that could be utilized for several years,
technical service to make sure that it stays up and running with no issues, and then also
the training aspect of the surgeons and the staff that would be involved with it. So why do we do that? We do that because within
Latin America there is a lot of political considerations that are not nearly as
prevalent in other parts of the world, and what we don’t want is that a da Vinci program
is started under one politician. That politician changes and now all of the
sudden the program collapses because they don’t have the ability to go back and ask
for more funds, and ultimately, the patients don’t receive that care.
Despite the fact that we live in a world today that technology has
allowed us to transcend borders in many aspects, within our business and da Vinci surgery there
are, indeed, some cultural norms that impact us in Latin America. I see it in two primary areas, the first of
which is that the patients within Latin America very much take whatever the doctor’s opinion
is as a rote truth, and also whatever their opinion would be for a treatment pathway,
versus other parts of the world where maybe there’s a bit more of a consumer mentality. And so a patient may walk in with a little
bit of an idea on not only their condition already but maybe even what they want to have
done as a treatment. Second, I see it within one of the specific
surgical segments that we serve, and that’s in gynecology. So other parts of the world,
a uterine preserving procedure may be something that is thought about but not necessarily
really hinged upon versus in Latin America, that’s very, very culturally important to
the patients. And so that not only impacts the volume of
procedures that happen but even the techniques that are sought after.

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