An Open Letter to Orthopedic Distributors

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I wanted to write a letter to all of the distributors that carry products in the orthopedic and spine implant industry in an effort to help eliminate some of the frustrations that are often cast upon you. Orthopedic manufacturers have expectations when they sign you up and I’m not convinced they are always clearly communicated but be assured they are there. Everyone knows you are in the trenches dealing with unprecedented challenges such as longer hospital approval processes, declining pricing, reduction of surgeon choice by limiting vendors and a multitude of other challenges you deal with on a day-to-day basis. I think these challenges are understood in the macro, but the expectations companies put on you in the micro don’t always convey that they fully grasp these challenges. Based on the vast amount of sales leaders I speak with, I think there are a few things you can do that will have a dramatic impact on your business and the quality of relationship you can experience with the companies you represent.


With the disclaimer that I have not done a well constructed study on this, I would say that the most complained about issue I hear from manufacturers regarding independent distributors is that they don’t really know where they stand with you. Old school distributors want to just let their numbers (or reputation) do the talking, but in our instant gratification world where you are always a keystroke away, you need to communicate better than you do. If you go dark for weeks at a time, or only return a call when you need something, you have to realize that you are not properly focused on building a relationship based on trust.

If you treat the manufacturer in a transactional way then you can’t be surprised when they move you out because another distributor promises more. Always be aware of the fact that you need them as much as they need you. The discipline in always following through will forever separate you. Also remember that you are all in this together even though certain circumstances may not feel that way.

Are you a distributor principal or a rep principal?


Josh Sandberg

Josh Sandberg is the President and CEO of Ortho Spine Partners and sits on several company and industry related Boards. He also is the Creator and Editor of OrthoSpineNews.

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