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A failure of telemetry companies selling wildlife GPS

I spent 13 years with extreme back pain.  It never went away.  It affected every aspect of my life.  It got so bad that I found myself in crosswalks, having started crossing the street when the sign indicated “walk” and only being halfway across when the light turned red.  Yikes!   By the end of the 13 years there were days when I couldn’t walk at all.  I used a cane in the house.  This lasted from the ages of 33 to 46.  I had long since given up the idea of a remedy, seems I had tried everything and had been kicked out of several doctors’ offices with the refrain, “Get used to it, there isn’t anything we can do for you.”

Ok, so I gave up trying to solve it.  But I had this friend who was experiencing serious neck problems that also affected his arms and it got serious.  He found a doctor who turned him on to a surgical solution.  After he was whistling Dixie he said to me, “You have to go to my doctor, she’s the best.”  That reminded me of a Seinfeld episode in which Jerry said something like, “Yeah, everybody has the best guy.”  My wife chimed in and between the two of them and their prodding I found my way to this doctor.  She looked at my MRI and said she had good news and bad news.  “Bad news first please,” I said.  The bad news was that it was severe (I already knew this).  The good news was she thought it could be fixed!  Boy that made me happy.  Hope at last!

She sent me to the next doctor, a surgeon in Walnut Creek, California.  Doctor number 2 met me, looked at my MRI, asked me some questions and suggested to me, “I think we can help you.”  I thought I was dreaming.  This was November 2009.  By February 2010 all that pain was gone and it has stayed gone.  I was given an artificial disk made of titanium and UHMW plastic.  I’m 4 years in now and there is still no pain.  It is as if it never happened.  Sitting down used to be death for me, last October I drove for 12 hours per day for 3 days straight, no problem.  I sat the entire time then turned around and drove back for 3 more days.

After the surgery I was told that I would have to take time off work, no driving for 2 weeks and that I would need physical therapy.   I walked slowly and deliberately for a few days and I still used the cane and I took 1 week off work.  After 1 week I went to see the doctor for a follow-up.  He told me that I could start driving, could go back to work and that I would not have to go to physical therapy after all because I had so many plans to start undertaking physical activity again.  He said my motivation was enough to preclude me needing that P.T.

Ok, that is my back story.  Probably only mildly interesting and what the heck does it have to do with GPS for wildlife telemetry?  Bear with me, it’s coming.  Every time I went back for a follow up my doctor was very happy and finally I asked him how successful these surgeries usually are.  He told me that his success rate is in the high 90s.  Then he told me why.  It’s all about patient selection.  He only chooses patients that fit the profile which he determined makes them good candidates for the surgery.

Wildlife telemetry companies do not practice good patient selection.  The sales process goes like this.  A potential customer makes an inquiry.  We get excited because we are sure we can do this.  How hard could it be?  We’ve done it many times before.  But we fail to get to know that potential customer and their needs as well as we should prior to taking that order.  Many times that customer doesn’t know enough about the product to know where the weaknesses are in their plan with the product in question.  It has to be up to us, the telemetry companies, to determine if this project has a chance for success with our product.

Just the other day I had an inquiry from someone in California for a species for which we have sold a lot of equipment.  We have customers placing repeat orders for this product on this particular species so that would imply that everything will be fine for the new customer right?  Not necessarily. Luckily the person making this inquiry was open to my request for a phone meeting.  Emails are great but the level of communication in email is not conducive to the back and forth one can achieve in a phone call.  Things can be hammered out on the phone.  BANG!  We found it!  The sticking point.  I stopped him in his tracks and red flagged the product for his project.  Same species as some others but one big difference……unlike others using this equipment on this animal, he would be unable to get within the range of the data download feature on the collars.  We continue to talk and look for ways around this hurdle.  My point is that it had to be up to me to stop the forward progress.  The burden to get that information out of him was on me.  This time it worked.  Often times my request for a phone conversation is turned down.  Whether that be out of fear of being subjected to sales tactics (which I do not employ) to not really needing equipment but only being interested in the cost for funding reasons, folks usually do not want to get on the phone with me about our equipment (Australians excepted, they love to call on the phone).

So what’s the moral of the story?  It is this,  the next time you are asked to “give me a good time/day for a phone conversation” put aside your fears of being sold something and realize that this request is being made with your best interest in mind, it’s all about patient selection after all.

-Quintin Kermeen


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