It is often said that people don’t quit their job, they quit their boss. What people tell me most often is that they want to leave because they are not making as much money as they’d hoped. I’ve been trying to reconcile these two things in my mind lately. I think both may be true.
There comes a time in every interview process when potential first-year income must be discussed. It is always tricky to predict in year one what someone will make in a new sales position. There are so many variables: the condition of the territory and existing pipeline, the learning curve, work ethic, and sometimes just dumb luck.
One rep I hired stepped into his manager’s former territory. The way the rep described it, wherever they went in the first few months, there seemed to be a purchase order waiting for them. Even the manager was amazed. In the few years he’d worked the territory himself, the business had never come so fast or so easy.
When the rep got to training, someone asked him how he was doing. He shrugged and laughed, “Oh, I dunno, pretty good, I guess. I think I’m number one in the country.”
Fortunately, he’s a solid rep and did not let let it go to his head.
I also think it can swing the other way. Maybe things don’t completely tank, but timing isn’t perfect, maybe the learning curve is a little steeper, the competition is a little fiercer, and in most cases the territory needs a little TLC. With dedication and commitment, such challenges will be overcome in time.
Some people stick around to see it through and some people don’t. One successful orthopedic rep I spoke to this past week said, “It really takes two years to really hit your stride in this business.” I pretty much agree with him. It’s unfortunate when people give up or make a change before they can really see they payoff of their hard work.
Coming full circle, I think a good manager can make a difference in whether someone sticks it out beyond the first tough year. When a new rep “hits the wall” (and they all do), a good manager is there to peel them off it and get them going again through encouragement and support. Without management input, it may be hard for a rep to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Lacking support and adequate monetary rewards, the rep may start looking for something better.
Sometimes they might find it. Many times, they will soon find themselves back in a similar predicament. Herein lies the danger of making career decisions solely based on money.
In sales, it is often said that if you win a customer on price, you will loose them on price. Likewise, good career decisions are based on more than just money. Management, company culture, support, training and development, quality products, daily satisfaction- these are the things that are critically important because they will sustain you through the inevitable ups and downs that come with every career in sales.
“Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit.” ~ Napolean Hill
If just for fun, you read the Bureau of Labor Statics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, you will notice there is a bell curve of earnings for most jobs. Sales is no different. The top 5-10% in a given field often earn almost twice as much as the median income. Within each company, a similar distribution is often evident among the earnings of sales people, especially when compensation structures are heavily commission based.
Here are a few observations from my years of sales recruiting of what to do if you want to be in the upper echelon of earnings…
1. Refuse to Lose Top sales reps compete hard for every deal, no matter how small. One sales manager told me that the top rep in the country one year was “picking up nickles and dimes”. This rep ended up breaking the record for the most revenue ever sold in a single year.
2. Maximize Resources They are in regular contact with various people at all levels of their own company- marketing, customer service, technical support, sales support, finance, other sales representatives, their manager, and senior management. They ask for help and input, discuss deals, and are always learning more. They never assume they know it all, even after years of experience. They constantly seek to improve their product knowledge and willingly offer assistance to others.
3. Discipline They are consistent in their efforts, 5 days a week, 50+ weeks a year. Friday afternoon at 4:30 pm, when others are coasting and winding up for the week, they are still working as intensely as any Tuesday morning. They spend their days in front of customers, and use evening hours to complete paperwork and prepare for the next day.
4. Written goals They set goals of what they want to achieve financially, and why. They know exactly what it is going to take on a day-by-day and week-by-week basis to achieve their goals: how many calls and appointments it will take depending on their closing ratio. They analyze there territory to know where it makes sense to spend their time. They know their numbers backwards and forwards. They plan their work, and work their plan.
5. Longevity Success is a marathon, not a sprint, especially when it comes to complex, technical, consultative sales. Although driven, top reps do not expect too much too soon, but know that doing the right things consistently will pay off in the long-run. They know that making it in medical sales is not like winning the lottery. They are in it for the long-haul and outlast their competition. They demonstrate emotional control, not getting too discouraged by any disappointment, and likewise not so excited about any triumph that they ease up for even a minute.
Most likely, you will first have to have a job selling something a lot less gratifying than medical devices. You will probably have to prove yourself selling mops or fax machines or payroll.
Some people (usually the ones who produce mediocre results) think, “Mops, fax machines, payroll- not very exciting. When I start selling implants or surgical drills, then I’ll be exited, then I’ll really be motivated, because I will be selling something meaningful that improves peoples’ lives.” So until then, they do only enough to get by.
Other people (usually the top performers) think, “Mops, fax machines, payroll- these are basic items, but my customers must have them in order to do business! And I am going to be the one to sell it to them.” Because they see the value in what they are offering, their customers do too. The performers also know that there is value too in the skills they are developing and the revenue they are driving for their company.
So whatever you sell on your way to becoming a medical device sales representative, sell it well. Knock the cover off the ball if you possibly can. It will pay big dividends later in your career. Ultimately, the person who benefits most from your success is you.
A friendly blogger at FutureMedica contacted me with some free on-line courses that may be useful for readers of the Upside.
I briefly looked at some of these courses. Some were more course outlines, but I think there could be useful information to be had here for the enterprising sales person looking for to increase their knowledge of anatomy and medical terminology.
Today, I’ll have an opportunity to interview the latest Rookie of the Year. He is someone who from his first interview showed that he was “hungry”. It’s a quality that people talk a lot about, but what exactly does it mean? I hope that our conversation today will shed some light on it.
From my perspective, true hunger for success includes the willingness to take responsibility for preparing yourself for the next step in your career, not just asking someone to “give you a shot.”
(Read comments below for the interview… read from the bottom up)