While I was on my ride-along a few weeks ago, there were quite a few new terms I learned about electrosurgery. Here is an explanation of electrosurgery on Wikipedia. As noted here, “electrosurgery is usually used to refer to a quite different method than electrocautery”.
I myself have made the mistake of describing electrosurgery as “cauterizing”, but no more! Raquel said it is common for hospital staff to refer to electrosurgical units as the “cautery” or “bovie” unit. Since she was properly trained in the correct terms, when she refers to the “electrosurgical unit”, it sometimes results in looks of confusion from the staff.
Essentially, electrosurgery is the use of energy to cut (like a scalpel) and coagulate. Electrosurgery helps limit blood loss while making precise cuts, as described on the Wikipedia page. For this reason, electrosurgery has a very wide range of applications in many different specialties. On Conmed units, a higher “blend” means more coagulation.
Another new term I learned was thermal necrosis. Some tissue may become necrotic (dead) at the electrosurgical site, evidenced by black spots. Although the goal should be to minimize this as much as possible, Raquel said that she has spoken to some doctors that think the black spots are good because it tells them that “it’s done”. Woo.
Before Raquel espouses her product’s ability to reduce thermal necrosis compared to competitive products, she is sure to find out what matters to the doctor and what the doctor interprets as a good result. She also noted the importance of finding the right surgeon who cares about electrosurgery and will champion her product.
This morning, I met the Conmed Electrosurgery sales representative at a local hospital. Raquel* (not her real name, but you knew that already) has been representing Conmed Electrosurgery for about a year. She had prior medical sales experience, including some O.R. sales experience. In her first quarter with the company, she catapulted her underperforming territory into the top echelon of the company.
When we originally began talking about this day, she said, “Everyone wants to be in the O.R.. That’s the glamorous part of this job. But there is a lot of work that goes into getting to that point. That’s what I really want to show you.” So today, she showed me just that- the cold calling and prospecting that goes into uncovering opportunities.
Before we went into the first hospital, she explained some of the things she does as part of her pre-call planning. She reviews the rolling history report, which shows what the facility has been purchasing over the last 18 months. In this case, even though it was not a major ConMed Electrosurgery customer, the facility was buying pencils used in the electrosurgical generators. She also checks which GPO the facility is under. In this case, it was a contract that Electrosurgery is not on; however, the particular GPO does not generally require a high level of compliance. She also established a few goals for the call: finding out the types of equipment in the facility and seeking out a key contact who might be able to facilitate a CE course.
Before today, I did not realize that the ConMed Electrosurgery reps offered CE (or continuing education) courses to their customers. They have a number of topics they teach to hospital, such as a course on the importance of smoke evacuation. The hospital personal benefit by gaining CE points, necessary as health professionals. The rep gains a suitable audience.
When we entered the facility, we headed to sign in on RepTrax. Once Raquel had signed in to the RepTrax computer, it printed off a sticker for her to wear while in the facility. Most hospitals now have a similar vendor management system, which requires that all reps register and sign-in when visiting the facility. Those who don’t may find themselves escorted to the exit. When you are done in the facility, you must sign out. If you overstay the time period you’ve specified, then you get a black mark on your record.
From there, we headed to biomed. This was a mid-sized hospital, but the windowless halls were labyrinthine. At every intersection, there were signs indicating different directions for different departments. The thought occurred to me that as a new rep, one might have to allow almost as much time for navigating an unfamiliar hospital’s hallways as the roads to get there.
The first thing we saw when walking into the biomed office was a dismantled System 5000, the workhorse of the Conmed Electrosurgery product line. After introducing ourselves to the two friendly biomedical engineers, Raquel began examining the unit and asked the head biomed engineer what was wrong with it. She knew her product well and identified a possible need for an in-service to prevent a recurrence of the issue that had sidelined that particular unit. She also asked what I thought was a pretty good question, “Who yells when these are broken?”
The biomeds were quite willing to share information about ConMed Electrosurgery’s history and equipment in the account, as well as competitive equipment and status. They also gave her an overview of how many operating rooms there were in the facility. One of the biomeds mentioned that he was on the committee for new product evaluations. She also found out the names of several key contacts in the account.
Raquel had noted that biomedical engineering was a great place to gather information when first calling on a new account, and I could see why. When we left biomed, we had a pretty good initial overview of the status of the account.
From there, we called on several other departments in the hospital, including the O.R., GI Suite and Labor and Delivery. At each point, she gathered more information, and more contact names and numbers. Later, she shared her point of view on approaching gatekeepers with me. She said that when she begins talking to people, she shares information with everyone she speaks to about who and what she represents. She is careful to wait until she has a conversation underway before asking, “Who’s in charge (of making the particular decision)?” Asking this question upfront can sometime offend people, because they might think she’s implying the are not important enough. She also said because she makes sure everyone knows who she is and what she has to offer, that sometimes these gatekeepers will spread the word on her behalf if a need arises.
Before the end of the day, we made similar calls on a couple of other facilities. In these other facilities, she had more established relationships, so she followed up on specific opportunities. We did not go into the O.R., but she said on average she is in surgery a couple of times per week.
Between calls, I had a chance to ask her my 26 questions, and was able to get answers to pretty much all of them. That is more that I can write about in one post, but I promise to write more in the coming days. I learned so much today and can’t wait to share.
Today is a day I have been looking forward to for quite some time. I am going out on a ride-along with one of the sales representatives for ConMed Electrosurgery.
It is common for potential candidates to go on a ride-along during the interview process for many medical device sales positions. Today my goal is to get a flavor of what such an experience might be like, and to better understand what it takes to be successful as sales rep for Conmed Electrosurgery. To that end, I have 25 questions I’ve prepared for the sales rep. I don’t know if we’ll cover them all, but I’m sure I will gain a lot of valuable insight today of what the day-to-day of the job is like. (And I just thought of one more!)
If you are going on a ride-along, you will not only be learning about the job, but you will also be assessed by the rep, who will give input to their manager on whether or not they think you can “do the job”. It’s an opportunity for the company to take an in-depth look at you in a daily setting: how you handle new situations, how you relate to potential customers.