For those interested in breaking into medical device sales, the reality is that trying to land a position in this highly competitive field can be quite difficult. The competition doesn’t stop there, however. Once you have a job, you have to perform well, or else there are literally hundreds of candidates who would be happy to take your place. How can you stay on top of your game? What it does it take to be a successful medical device sales rep?
Based on a survey of over 400 sales professionals, Paul Cherry, Founder and President of Performance Based Results was able to identify a list of important qualities that recruiters and companies look for in potential candidates. Narrowing down the list of traits and characteristics of successful sales reps was, no doubt, not an easy task. However, some were the most common qualities that were mentioned included:
Being Creatively Persistent
There’s a fine line between persistence and pushiness, and a smart sales professional knows how to toe that line. When good salespeople hit a wall (unreturned phone calls, no response to emails, etc.) they don’t give up easily, but they don’t make pests of themselves, either. Such a person will find ways to reconnect before an opportunity withers away.
If a great salesperson reaches a sales stall, they will always approach the situation from a new angle. For example, one salesman was trying to reach an organization’s VP of Sales for months, with no response. So he bought notepads made to look just like a $100 bill and wrote a note to the VP reading, “Let’s turn this into real money for you and your sales team!” He crumpled it up, threw it into an oversized envelope, and mailed it to him. The client got a laugh, called him back and got his business after a great meeting that really got a good dialogue going.
Prospecting for New Business
The key is for salespeople to actively seek out new business relationships rather than limiting their sales efforts to a dwindling customer base. Leveraging and strengthening an existing customer base is important, to be sure, but it’s all too easy to become complacent and keep calling on the same customers. Sometimes the relationship has run its course.
In an economic climate like the one we’ve been in recently, a once promising customer may now be in dire straits, possibly due to mergers and downsizing, so the salesperson’s timing is off. He’s better off investing his time and efforts on fresh new opportunities. Good salespeople are always looking to develop new business relationships, not waiting until their current well runs dry.
Planning Before the Call
Great salespeople always bring value on every call. They plan and strategize their key accounts. A lot of sales reps like to “show up and throw up.” Depending on the complexity of the account, up to 50% of the outcome of a major sales call is determined before even one word is exchanged.
Good salespeople are thinking about multiple plans. In fact, they’ve already figured out Plans A, B and C before they even walk in the door. Checking the customer’s website is a good start, but great salespeople go further. They’ve done their homework, having read trade publications, talked to insiders about industry trends, researched industry blogs, read news of competitive threats, and are aware of political and internal issues. Basically, they keep up with issues and obstacles that can negate or catapult an opportunity.
Amber Collins of Demand Media claims that “Although being successful in the field can depend on a variety of factors, developing skills in certain areas can pave the way to a successful career in medical device sales.” Her three main skills are broken down into three major categories: medical and product knowledge, communication skills, and sales skills.
Medical and Product Knowledge
Because medical device sales representatives are usually selling directly to surgeons and other specialists, it’s critical that you can not only “talk the talk” but also have advanced knowledge of medical procedures, anatomy, and other medical knowledge. Once you have a device to sell, you must know everything about that product. It’s even common for medical device sales representatives to be present when surgeons or other physicians are actually using the product on patients, so be prepared to give good instructions and answer difficult medical-related questions.
Good interpersonal communication skills can be the difference between an average and a great medical device salesperson. Listening to the needs of the client is the key to truly establishing a relationship and gaining their trust. Establishing positive relationships with clients can also lead to referrals, which can also help you to be successful in this field.
This should be an obvious one. Most companies prefer to hire experienced medical device sales representatives, so the training can focus on the complex products the sales representative will be selling. Different types of sales may require you to have different skill sets. For example, if you are selling high-priced devices, you should have more aggressive sales techniques. On the other hand, if you are selling to the same groups regularly, you may need stronger relationship-building skills. Knowledge of a variety of approaches to sales is best, as you may have to use a variety of techniques throughout your career.
Obviously, it’s not about simply hitting your numbers and making sales; there’s more to it than that. At the end of the day, it’s about drive, passion, knowledge, and people. When you realize that you are able to combine multiple elements and incorporate them into your selling philosophy, you will find that you have become truly successful in your medical device sales job.
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