Reps from certain industries and companies have a strong track record of transitioning successfully into medical device sales. If you gain experience in these prime “feeder” industries and employers, it can make it much easier to transition into device sales.
Point in case: I was once told that a nationwide reseller of copiers warned the management of a large medical device manufacturer to back off on blatantly aggressive recruitment of the company’s sales reps.
If you want to build a successful career in medical device sales, there are certain building blocks like getting the right kind of sales experience that will make it much easier to break into the industry.
Over the next several weeks, I am going to write a series of posts that outline how to lay a strong foundation for a career in medical device sales, step-by-step, from college, up through gaining initial sales experience. I’ll identify common obstacles and pitfalls along the way, and tie these posts in with others I’ve written in the past. Posts will appear each Monday.
Step 1 – College
Step 2 - College work experience & internships
Step 3 – Identifying a mentor
Step 4 – Keeping your driving record clean
Step 5 – Your first sales job
Step 6 – Maximizing your sales experience
Step 7 – Results
Step 8 – When to take the next step
Maybe you are a college student, or perhaps you are already in your first sales job and want to figure out how to take your career to the next level. Maybe you are stuck at some point along the way and can’t figure out how to make it to the next step. I hope this series will help you make wise choices that will help you achieve your goals and avoid the missteps that can sidetrack your career.
Are there any books or resources you’ve found that provide helpful insights into medical device sales?
If so, you are not alone. Medreps.com recently polled job seekers to find out what their biggest frustrations about finding a job in medical device sales are. You can see the results of the poll here. The #1 challenge, cited by 38% of survey respondents, was that they had the right experience “but no one calls me back.”
From my perspective as a recruiter, it is not usual for more than half the applicants who apply for job postings to be either inadequately qualified, or to have a glaring shortcoming that is holding them back. So where is the mismatch between my perspective as a recruiter, and the perspectives’ of candidates? Here are a few ideas that might also help job seekers understand why they aren’t getting calls back and also to better target which jobs to apply to.
1. You are either under- or over-qualified. When a job posting says 3-8 years of experience, or 10-15 years of experience, it actually means it. If you have less than half the minimum or more than twice the maximum years of experience specified, you will not be considered a good match. When listing years of experience, companies are intentionally targeting an experience level that fits the levels of training and compensation they offer.
2. Your industry experience is less than ideal. If a job description specified B2B sales experience, and your experience is primarily B2C, you will be seen as a greater risk for transitioning successfully into the new role. Yes, you may have sales experience, but is it from a company or background that the company has experience hiring from with success? Read the job description carefully for clues about what the company is really looking for in terms of industry background.
Sometimes there is greater nuance about industry preference that isn’t entirely clear from the job posting. Look for clues by searching for other people who now work for the company through LinkedIn. See if your background is similar to theirs.
3. You don’t meet the minimum requirements. Yes, minimum requirements do mean something. If the job description says “bachelor’s degree required” (as many medical sales positions do), then it is a true minimum requirement, meaning the company can’t make an exception. If the company makes an exception for one person, and not others, then they could land in hot water with regulatory bodies such as the EEOC.
4. Your resume does not represent your accomplishments well. I used to think having a professional write your resume was extravagant. After having seen many, many bad resumes, I now think that it is often a very good idea for some people. If wordsmithing is not one of your talents, consider enlisting a professional’s help.
Also, your resume should focus on accomplishments, not job duties. If your resume reads like a job description, you have missed the mark. Achievements – evidence of getting the job done – are what get you noticed and hired. For sales people, this often means numbers: percentage to quota and rankings.
5. The single biggest shortcoming I see with candidates who are otherwise qualified is: work history. In other words, job hopping. If you have moved from job to job every 18 months throughout your career, or you have multiple job gaps, this is a concern. A stable work history and a track record of accomplishments to match is what will make your resume rise to the top of the stack. Unfortunately, your work history is what it is. The best remedy for too many job changes is to dig in and be a success where you are now before trying to move on.
If you have all of these things working in your favor, you may just need to apply to more jobs for which you are well qualified. Timing can also play an important role. While applying when a job posting is new can improve your odds, if you see a job that has been posted for a while and your background is a good fit, apply to those jobs as well. They might be waiting to find someone just like you! Every company has certain preferences that comprise their ideal candidate. This may not be evident on the surface, but in time, you are likely to find the right match if you persevere.
“I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.” ~John D. Rockefeller
So you went to the interview, you hit it off with the hiring manager (or so you thought), but then you find out the decided to move forward with another candidate. What happened?
Here are some common interview errors that will knock you out of contention in a heartbeat.
#1 You did not close at the end of the interview. Or you thought you did, but the manager didn’t think so.
You are a sales person, so you need to close like one. Too many people ask for the next step. Period. That’s all. The Manager tells them (second interview, field ride, whatever), and the candidate nods their head.
That is NOT closing. Closing includes uncovering and handling objections, and gaining commitment for the next step.
#2 You did not send a thank you note.
Send it the same day if possible, within hours, via email. The moment interviews wrap up, the hiring manager is making decisions about whom to move onto that next step. A timely thank you note may make the difference between the hiring manager choosing you and another candidate who has similar qualifications and also interviewed well.
If you don’t send a thank you note at all, consider it fatal.
#3 You weren’t prepared (enough).
You get one shot at impressing the hiring manager. Do not approach the first interview as get-to-know-you session. You must demonstrate on the spot that you are willing to put in the preparation required to be successful.
#4 You didn’t have any good questions to ask.
Your questions must engage the hiring manager and be more than basic. In-depth questions show you care, you want to learn and that you are intelligent. Asking good probing questions is also a fundamental sales skill.
#5 You didn’t fit what they were looking for.
This may be the hardest to predict, because every manager’s expectations can vary. Think of yourself like a house on the market for sale: the cleaner and more well kept you are, the easier it is for the manager to imagine that his or her customers will “buy” you and want to work with you.
In popular culture, Frankenstein is the creation of the mad scientist. If you’ve ever read Mary Shelley’s classic, the novel is very different. Dr. Frankenstein is the scientist who creates the “fiend” who hunts and haunts him for the rest of his days.
If I were Dr. Frankenstein, I would create the perfect candidate, who could look and act something like this:
1. My perfect candidate-creature would research the company and understand the products s/he would potentially be selling, even before the first phone interview.
2. This creature would greet me with evident but not over the top enthusiasm and stay engaged throughout the phone interview.
3. I would receive a concise but thoughtful thank you note the same day, in which the creature reiterated their qualifications and interest in the position I am recruiting for.
4. The creature would promptly complete and supply all requested materials within a business day.
5. I would receive pleasant and periodic updates throughout the interview process from the candidate about his/her progress.
6. The candidate would ask smart questions, and for help and guidance when needed.
7. The candidate would show up for interviews well-prepared and well-groomed (very much unlike Shelly’s fiend.)
8. Like Shelly’s fiend, the candidate would be focused, almost single-minded, in their pursuit of the position. They would not give up, not stop closing, until s/he had an offer in hand.
I have had the pleasure of working with some candidates like this, who are not of my own making, but nearly perfect in their own right. It is always an absolute pleasure.
Many people don’t realize that the questions a candidate asks during an interview are just as important as those they answer. It is not uncommon for a manager to tell me the reason for ruling out a candidate is that the candidate did not ask any questions. The rest of the interview might have been fine, but if a candidate doesn’t have a single question, it is taken as a sign of 1) lack of preparation or 2) lack of interest. Hiring managers don’t have time for either one.
I always suggest candidates come up with some insightful questions. Frankly, those of us who interview a lot get bored of answering the same old questions over and over again: “What is training like?” or “What’s the interview process?” Yes these are necessary questions, I’ll admit. (This is why I’ve created FAQs for some of the positions I recruit for routinely.) However, as every sales person should know, a sharp, probing question is like a double espresso. It wakes you up, sends blood to your brain and makes you sit forward in your seat. It makes you think. Hiring managers are grateful for a jolt like this every once in a while when they are conducting back-to-back interviews. It keeps things interesting.
The best way to uncover powerful questions is to research, research, research. Learn as much as you can. The things you can’t figure out on your own are probably really good questions. By asking an insightful question, you’ll reveal how much you’ve already learned, and how willing you are to learn. Since hiring managers are often concerned about how long your learning curve will be before you are knowledgeable about the products and fully effective in the territory, demonstrating that you are a fast, self-motivated learner is one the keys to any successful interview.
Most of the best questions will come out of your interview preparation. There is one other very important question however you should be certain to include in your repertoire. If it is not the very best question to ask, it’s pretty darn close.
The question is: Did that answer your question?
It’s a great question to ask periodically throughout your interview, but especially when if you sense the hiring manager disengage. They may well be thinking, “Well that wasn’t what I was looking for…” but they may not articulate it. You need to make sure you are providing the hiring manager with the information they need to consider you seriously for the position. This question is another way to demonstrate that you are interested and that you care. If you tend to babble a bit, asking this question can also be a good way to stop yourself from over-talking.
When you prepare for your next interview, make a list of all the questions you have. Then try to see if you can find answers to any of them yourself. The ones that remain may be the ones you need to ask, and always keep this one essential question handy.
Many companies today use some sort of personality or skills assessment for prospective employees. For employers, they can be a useful source of information that provides additional on a candidate’s fit for the organization.
Few prospective employees enjoy such assessments however. Sometimes candidates feel as though their entire career is being reduced to a pop quiz. There are a few who detest such assessments so much that they would prefer to refuse to complete such surveys. That would be a mistake, since it would likely rule them out of contention entirely.
Organizations use such survey assessments differently. In some organizations, the results of assessments are open to broader interpretation.
In other cases, there is a minimum passing “grade”. Candidates may be ruled out based solely on the results. In the medical device industry, Stryker’s “Gallup” is widely known as such a make-or-break assessment. If you want to sell for Stryker, you have to pass the Gallup. Even people who have passed the Gallup, but never ended up working for the company, still feel they have bragging rights for having completed the tough assessment successfully.
I have worked with assessments that fall under both categories. There are times when I have received angry emails from prospective candidates about being ruled out because they did not pass a survey. I can understand the frustration. It is important to understand however that if an employer decides to use a survey assessment this way, then they have to abide by the results equally for all candidates. They can’t rule someone out for not passing the assessment in one instance, and then make an exception for someone else. When used properly this way, an objective assessment may actually level the playing field.
The best way to complete an assessment if asked to do so is to complete it honestly and quickly. You should choose the first answer that seems right to you, without any second guessing. If you over-analyze and try to figure out what the “right” answer is, you may do more harm than good. Since most assessments have ways to measure whether someone has tried to present themselves in a more favorable light, your survey results could actually be flagged as distorted.
The use of assessments is on the rise. They are not likely to go away anytime soon. They are part of employers efforts to find the best match for their organization.
If you pass an assessment, consider it a positive sign that you may be a good fit for the job. As a candidate, you should nonetheless always do your due diligence to make sure the organization and position are the right match for your career. Candidates and employers ultimately share the responsibility of ensuring a good match for all concerned. The best way to achieve this is open and honest communication in all phases of the interview process.
No matter what, never ever ever curse in an interview.
As a recruiter, I work really hard to find the best qualified, smartest, most enthusiastic candidates I can. When one of them goes to an interview and drops the “bomb”, it is enough to make me want to jump off a bridge. Or worse yet, curse- but I don’t. Because it’s simply not professional.
(Please note: I even omitted the sixth letter of the alphabet above. That is how serious I am about absolutely no cursing.)
Most often, cursing seems to occur when a candidate is relating a story about a certain situation. They may actually be quoting someone who cursed at them. Not a good idea, however colorful or dramatic it may seem. It does not convey how tough, intense, determined or assertive you are.
The only thing it communicates is that you have poor judgment.
Not only should you avoid the “bomb”, you should avoid any version of a curse word that a fourth-grader would be reprimanded for saying. I don’t even like to hear my fourth grader call anyone stupid or say “shut up”. Your safest bet is to keep it totally G-rated.
We all come across people in this world who are “difficult”. Situations that are “challenging”. You could also say they are jerks, and that the situation sucks- but I would think twice about saying even that in an interview.
I guarantee, the hiring manager will understand you, even if you do not use foul language.