Buying Smart or How to Pick a Good Distributor

Buying EMS Equipment & Supplies smart is getting more and more difficult. With so many versions of the same EMS products available, How do you know which one is the best value? Most good Distributors offer you a choice of products to meet each of your clinical needs. But how do you know how to pick between them?
One way is to cultivate relationships with industry experts familiar with the products you use and the work you do. Many think Distributor Representatives are just there to try to sell things to you. The better Distributor Reps are far less concerned with a deal this month than building a relationship with you. They know they are really there to help you make better-informed product selections. If they do their job well, you are more likely to order from them regularly.
The Territory Managers who work for EMS Product Distributors are trained to understand the products they sell. They often know what you need to know, before you plunk your money down. Like any other sales professionals, there are good and bad ones out there. Finding a good one can save you time, money, and keep you from making some big purchasing mistakes.

If you do not have a relationship with a good EMS Distributor Territory Manager, I suggest you start looking for one you can trust. They can become your best asset when trying to pick the right EMS product at the right price to meet your real needs. How can you tell the good ones from the bad?

Here are a few “test questions”, to ask when meeting a new potential Distributor Representative.

How long have you been doing this work? It takes 9 months to learn almost any kind of job, even a pretty simple one. Imagine trying to learn about thousands of EMS products, from hundreds of different suppliers. It takes years to get very knowledgeable.

Do they have any EMS field experience? Do they have any EMS teaching experience, and can they perform high quality In-Service Training for your Department? Ex-Paramedics, EMT’s and Health Professionals can better appreciate the challenges you face. More importantly they know the difference between an In-Service and a Product Sales Presentation.

Have you ever scheduled an In-Service with a supplier or manufacturer who basically comes out and gives you another Sales Pitch? That is because many really don’t know the difference.

In all US Hospitals today, it is a standard practice to document training on all new devices. You should find someone who can help carry this important ball for you, or you will be faced with increased liability. Since I have been unable to carry out my master plan regarding lawyers (another blog), sooner or later one will slither in you’re door hunting for money.

It is very important that when they do, you have proper  training documented regarding the equipment you use. If you have a problem that involved equipment operation and cannot document training, you will have more difficulty defending your actions.

Ask them a few clinically related EMS Product questions that you already know the answers to. Find one they can’t answer, and then see how they handle it. One great sign of a good person to deal with is the answer “I don’t know” followed by a phone call back with the right answer – in less than 24 hours.

Ask them about buying something you already know is complete junk. Leave your question open ended like, “What do you think of this product?”. You are looking for is someone who will warn you of product problems before you buy. When I was a Territory Manager I would always warn someone who wants to buy something I knew was either unreliable or does not work. If an agency still wants to buy it after my warnings, that’s fine. But if or when they do have problems later, I want them to remember that I tried to talk them out of it.

To sum it up; shop for more than a great price, shop for great vendor support. It will save you money, time, and reduce your liability. The vendor relationships you build will serve you well for many years to come.



About Dan White

I'm a retired Paramedic and EMS Instructor with 35 years EMS and emergency medical product experience. I love canoes, cars and EMS. I have written a lot about EMS Technology on the Paramedic Blog, the Insights on Innovation column for, on and I can be reached directly at 573-240-0002.
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6 Responses to Buying Smart or How to Pick a Good Distributor

  1. andrew says:

    Companies actually try to make a good relationship with customers?

  2. Nae says:

    Cool information. Now … I wonder if any companies actually send reps to tiny Alaskan bush towns.God bless and keep you,Nae :o)

  3. Dan says:

    Dear Alternate,Only the smart ones. Dear Nae,I just knew you would ask. No it\’s pretty tough getting any kind of personal service when you live in a low population density area. But that does not mean you cannot get almost the same level of service. You just have to do your "interview" over the phone. For you folks, one of the best ways to start is find out who the Territory Manager is for Washington State/Seattle Metro. Many companies have their Seattle Reps compensated for covering Alaska, which of course they don\’t really cover by car. If they get paid to support your region, you should expect some support from them. I\’m sure it must be very difficult to get good local In-Service Training where you live.

  4. Nae says:

    It is hard to get good training, but the EMS director is making a deal with the local hospital and doctors to get us into the ER / OR so we can practice our skills in there. Will it happen? I don\’t know, but I think it will help hone skills and build confidence.God bless you and keep you,Nae :o)

  5. Unknown says:

    I agree 100 % on what makes a great rep.
    Many years ago you were my rep when you were with PARR, a great upstanding company.
    You and I may not have agreed on everything but I always could count on you.
    Then you and I worked together for the Parr family and I always looked up to you as a rep and modeled myself as you say a rep should be.
    I hope all is well with  you,
    GUY Retired Maryland State Trooper, Flight Paramedic, and Sales Account Manager

  6. Dan says:

    Guy, Call Me Sometime Soon?

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