From the second endoscopy center, we drove down to a hospital where they rep had recently sold a Beamer system, an electrosurgical unit which can be used to stop bleeding in the digestive track. Unlike surgeons, who love blood almost as much as vampires, the rep explained that the tension level in the endoscopy suite usually goes through the roof when there is a “bleeder”. He told me that some of the cautious G.I. doctors in rural areas will send their patients to urban hospitals at the first suspicion of blood.
The rep explained how much more in-depth the sales cycle for this particular product had been. Although the sale of such a product is frequently doctor driven, in this particular instance it had been the nurse manager who had really pushed the purchase. In smaller community hospitals, doctors may be on 8-12 week rotations, lessening their influence in buying decisions. After making the sale, the rep had in-serviced the staff for 8 hours a day over the course of an entire week. During that time, he identified one staff member as someone he could tap as a “specialist” to help others in the account when they had questions, lessening the on-going support demands on him.
Since it was about 12 noon when we arrived at the hospital, and the festivities of GI nurses day far from over, we met a pizza delivery guy in the lobby. Although meals are not a standard operating procedure for device reps, it was a special day after all, and yours truly was working up an appetite.
The rep signed on one of the vendor tracking systems in the lobby. Later, he told me how meticulous he had to be about signing in and out. If he left a facility without signing out, the vendor system could lock him out and he would not be able to login at the next facility he visited.
We went up to the GI floor, where it happened to be a pretty quiet day. In the storage room, the rep retrieved the Beamer system for an in-service. On the side of the unit, the rep had added a couple of plastic hooks for hanging the cords used with the system. He had labeled shelves and created sample “kits” of the disposable products used with the system. I was impressed at the way he had organized his products to make use of them as simple as possible for his customers. Organization was certainly one of this reps strengths.
Later, when he in-serviced a nurse on the system, it occurred to me just how many different products medical staff are expected to know how to use. While a product in isolation might seem simple and intuitive, remembering the codes, set-ups and functions of a product in the context of a complex hospital setting is something very different. This is why medical device reps play such an important role in training or in-servicing hospital staff.
We checked out the scope room where a few dozen flexible endoscopes hung like long black snakes. Knowing that each scope probably cost thousands of dollars, I recognized just how expensive the inventory in that small room was. I wondered why there were so many and I soon found out why.
Next, the rep showed me the room where they scopes were cleaned. There were specialized cleaning units for cleaning and sterilizing the scopes through multiple steps. Each scope took at least 2 hours to cycle through the cleaning process.
On a busy day with multiple procedures, many scopes were needed in rotation due to the lag time of cleaning. I didn’t clean any scopes that day, but the rep asked the nurse manager if he could come back sometime to watch and even help in order to learn- a smart approach to learning more about his customer.
After lunch, we headed back into the city to yet another account. Along the way, I worked through a few more questions, such as:
How much of your time do you dedicate to the different aspects of your job? 15-20% cases, 15-20% travel or preparing for it 30% making calls and the remainder of time in-servicing existing accounts and products or handling paperwork.
What are the top 3 things a rep must do in order to succeed in this business? 1. get organized 2. learn products 3. hustle
Fill in the blank: If you love (hardwork) you will love this job. If you hate (being flexible) you will hate this job.
The rep had long targeted medical sales as the industry he wanted to be in, but paid his dues gaining outside B2B sales experience first. His advise to others hoping to break into the industry is to establish a successful track record in sales and document it in a brag book.
Prior to working in medical sales, this rep worked in the wine business. I asked him how the two industries compared. In the wine industry, he was accustomed to working 70-80 hours a week, including Saturday and Sunday. “At least doctors take vacations,” he said, compared to the non-stop 365 schedule of retail and restaurants. In many ways, he finds the sales processes very similar, because both required selling at multiple levels in order to gain the business. The customers in medical sales are much more professional though. “At least a doctor knows what he’s talking about, compared to a snobby wine merchant who thinks he knows everything,” he said.
At the next account, we met with a nurse who was interested in pricing on several products. He took notes and promised to follow-up with a quote. It was a short call and to the point, but looked like it could lead to a nice sale. The rep offered the nurse a binder filled with various catalogs of product and his business card. As we headed out, the rep mentioned that he preferred to create binder where all the product information could be contained. Brochures tended to end up in the trash. Once again, the rep was thinking of ways to make things easier for his accounts. It was a consistent theme throughout the day.
Back at the car, I asked the rep to show me his trunk. It was neatly packed with various products, brochures and customer information. The rep said he felt that lack of organization was a contributing reason for reps failure. “If you are not organized, you’ll sink in this business,” he said. Not only organizing stuff, but time and travel was key. Planning ahead for travel enabled him to better control costs and coordinate his schedule with his wife.
The ride-along was a terrific way for me to learn more about the day in the life of a Endoscopic technologies rep- and I hope for you too! And although GI nurses and associates day is a new holiday for me, it’s one I plan on celebrating again next year!
Most hospitals have instituted a system to track sales representatives and other vendors who visit their facilities on a regular basis. One of the main reasons is to protect the safety of patients. Requirements to register with the services usually include background checks and certain immunizations. There are several services out there, so it is likely a representative will have to register with more than one, and stay current through periodic renewals, in order to have access to the hospitals in their territory.
When I went on the ride-along with Raquel, you will remember that she signed-in at the first hospital we visited. That was with one of these credentialing services. Even though it was her first time in this particular hospital, she was already registered with the particular service they used.
I have added 2 of these services to my blogroll below. Reptrax and Vendor Credentialing Service (VCS). VCS offers on-line HIPPA, bloodborne pathogen & OR Protocol training for $60-125 each. Most medical device companies will offer this training to new sales reps themselves. However, this training might offer one way for an enterprising candidate to demonstrate their initiative and commitment to breaking into medical sales.
If there are other major rep tracking services you are aware of, please feel free to note in comments below…