Having completed a number of successful years in medical device sales I feel extremely fortunate for having been presented with the opportunity of a Territory Sales Manager role early in my career. It wasn’t an industry I was really aware of until I was contacted by a recruitment consultant informing me of the job opening. As I learned more about it leading up my interview I was completely hooked. I had a strong sales background however I thought I was going to struggle getting into the industry as my degree wasn’t technical or science related. To my joy the sales achievements were enough to get my foot in the door. Fast forward a number of years and I was recently asked by an experienced sales professional what it takes to be successful in medical device sales. There are of course a number of skills that all sales professionals should develop (list here) however looking at specifics for the medical device industry I would say these are my top 5 tips:
1) Always Act in the Interest of the Patient – If I were to give someone just one piece of advice going into medical device sales this would be it. Remembering this will determine your actions and the surgical team will pick up on this. This can at times mean recommending a surgeon use a simpler less expensive product from your range as it would be better for that specific patient. In some instances your surgeon may even have a case where you know a competitor product is going to be much better for the patient, maybe it has a unique feature specific to this indication. Gain credibility by letting the surgeon know. This commitment to the patient will be remembered, appreciated and rewarded in the long run. Putting the patient first will also mean you do everything the surgical team want you to including training of staff, maintaining stock, having back up options, covering cases, and not being a nuisance in theatre. This way of approaching the job will also ensure you’re never afraid of speaking up in theatres when a potential problem hasn’t been spotted.
2) Know Your Products and Procedures – People buy from people however a surgical team want more than just a friendly face in theatres with them. Knowing everything about your product and how it is used is going to make you a valuable part of a surgical team. Being able to pre-empt a surgeon is going to allow you to help the scrub nurse work quicker reducing anaesthesia time. Knowing the product in-depth is also going to help you give solid advice to the surgeon and also provide options when things don’t go smoothly. Be a resource.
3) Be Curious – Having an interest and curiosity about healthcare is going to help you build relationships and learn. You need to always be learning and expanding your knowledge to be more effective. Ask surgeons and theatre staff about things you don’t understand, I’ve never met someone not happy to teach. Sometimes this requirement for learning is actually sprung upon you with a new product launch. Being curious and passionate about healthcare is going to mean you will always enjoy this and never see it as a chore. To check your curiosity level here is an article a contact was kind enough to share on LinkedIn a few days ago. It’s an incredible story and if it doesn’t spark your curiosity, medical device sales probably isn’t for you.
4) Be Flexible – This isn’t a 9 to 5 job, it’s not even a Monday to Friday job. You will have times when you are ready in theatres at 8am for a case due to be first on the list that’s then pushed back to the afternoon. You will also have cases that are due to finish around 5pm that go on till 8pm. It’s a life style which some may struggle with so if you are thinking of getting into medical device sales be mindful of that. I once had to turn up to a family birthday party 6 hours late as was called in to cover a case last minute one Saturday. It can be hard sometimes so just go back to point 1 – there’s a patient on the table and you being there is going to make a difference.
5) Have Integrity and Ethics – Years ago it was acceptable to wine and dine surgeons to get business, it’s not anymore. Compliance in the medical device industry is a big thing that you have to take seriously. You will from time to time see things which you think are bending the rules a bit, don’t be tempted to do it too. The penalties from a legal stand point are huge but also it will damage relationships. Remember that a £3000 bill for entertaining a surgeon not only puts you at risk but the surgeon too. Be squeaky clean protecting yourself and your customers.
Working in medical device sales is a fascinating highly rewarding job. The points above may sound like it’s a lot of hard work and it is, however the rewards are huge. The variety of the role will mean every day is different, you will have the ability to work with and get to know some of the brightest people you will ever meet, and finally you will have days where you leave work knowing your product and support has made a huge difference to someone’s life.
If you are still looking for a move into medical device sales I wish you good luck and I’m sure you will never look back! If on the other hand you already work in medical device sales and know first hand the privilege of such a fulfilling career I would love to know your thoughts – What would be your top 5 tips?