Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Minimally Invasive Surgery in the Headlines

Last week, there was an article on the front page of the Denver Post about minimally invasive surgery.

It's not the first article I've read about this interesting progression in endoscopy. The article talks about surgeons accessing surgical sites through natural orifices. It highlights the story of a young man who had a tumor removed through his nostril, avoiding a lot of "collateral damage" that is typically incurred by cutting through other healthy tissue and bone. Linvatec's TrueHD camera is the kind of product that makes such remarkable surgeries like these possible.

Read it here.

Monday, March 17, 2008

How to Get Experience When You Don't Have Any

One the the biggest frustrations of job seekers is to be told time and again that they fall short of the right type of experience.

New grads are told they are not the right fit for a sales position, because they don't have any prior sales experience.

Experienced sales people are told they aren't qualified for medical device sales because they don't have any O.R. experience.

In both cases, it's sort of a conundrum. How do you get experience if no one will give you an opportunity to get it?

From the employer's perspective, they are always taking a chance, even with candidates who have the right experience. Will this person perform? Will their results measure up? So a less experienced person represents an even greater risk.

Here's what I propose: short of having the actual experience in the O.R., for example, do everything you can to lessen the employer's risk in hiring you. There are many ways to do this, and the method that is most effective may depend on the particular employer.

To start with, characterize the risk that the employer thinks they may be facing by hiring someone without the right experience. In the case of O.R. experience, the risk is that it will take someone too long to gain the knowledge and familiarity they need to function adequately in the O.R., in particular talk to surgeons in an intelligent, fluent way about surgical procedures.

My last few posts have pointed to some resources which I think could be very helpful for someone who wants to learn about the O.R., and demonstrate their willingness, eagerness and ability to learn quickly to a potential employer.

If you want to be a device rep, you'll need to know anatomy and medical terminology- why wait until you get the job? Start now.

As I mentioned before there are surgical tech programs around the country which would provide a tremendous amount of useful knowledge. You can locate certified programs through the Association of Surgical Technologists and the National Center for Competency Testing

Obviously these programs would take a lot of time, money and commitment to complete. I think is probably more important to have solid experience in B2B sales. That's why I think the books suggested below are the next best step in the right direction.

Also, on Linvatec's website is an amazing Education section on surgical techniques. It includes videos of surgical procedures by some top surgeons and detailed PDF's with step-by-step surgical techniques.

One candidate told me he went into "lock-down" the week prior to his interview, where he read and studied everything he could find on Linvatec's products. What he realized in the midst of his self-imposed cramming was: "Hey, I actually enjoy this stuff."

And yes, despite his lack of prior surgical experience, he was hired.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Feedback on "Pocket Guide to the OR", other resources

I received some helpful feedback on the Pocket Guide. Although I think could be a valuable resource, the comprehensive nature of surgical procedures is much broader than Linvatec's product focus.

For a more in-depth focus, consider looking into "the 'bible' of Sports Medicine, which is McGinty's Operative Arthroscopy."

Compared to the Pocket Guide to the OR, it is a much more in-depth and pricier option ($50 vs. $225, overstock discount thru publisher). On Amazon, there seem to be a number of used books available. The publisher Lippincott Williams & Wilkins seems to a specialty house focused on clinical and medical markets, with books on many more surgical specialties.

Also recommended, as I've mentioned previously, is the Arthroscopy Journal for keeping up on the latest topics in the Sports Medicine field.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


I got an e-mail a couple of weeks ago with this in the subject line. It took me a minute to figure out what it meant. Looking at the name of the sender made it click.

Rookie Of The Year Nominee.

This rep came through the training class I talked about in my post called "Something Special". I remember sitting next to him when I dropped by one afternoon. I could tell he was just soaking up the information, grasping new ideas and snapping the pieces into place amongst what he'd already learned, as though solving an immense puzzle.

Sometime last year I spoke to him, about the time he hit "the wall". His voice sounded a little strained. He told me that he had written 42 thank you notes to one account after an evaluation. He was struggling, running around, working hard and not yet seeing the fruits of his labor. I don't think it was too long after that things began to turn in his favor.

I think the numbers indicate that he doubled the sales in his territory in 2007.

Please read the comments below to learn more...

Repurposing "Salesforce" for the Greater Good

I heard an interesting story on National Public Radio about a group in New Orleans that is using Salesforce to help rebuild a neighborhood. The database helps them to track needs for materials, repairs and volunteers in a neighborhood called Broadmoor.

Link here to read or listen to this story.

I've heard good things about Salesforce. I am sure they never envisioned their software being utilized in quite this way.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pocket Guide to the Operating Room

This week I interviewed someone who has recently completed a surgical technology program. Much like reps, surgical techs needs to learn procedures inside and out, including the sequence and the instrumentation involved.

Time in the operating room is valuable. Surgeons like things to move along quickly and efficiently, which in the end is better for the patient. Surgical techs are expected to anticipate what the surgeon needs, and reps who can do the same have a great opportunity to build credibility with the surgeons and their OR team.

The rep is there to support the entire OR team. By making sure techs and nurses know exactly what they need and when, the rep can ensure the procedure moves along smoothly, even when new products are being introduced.

Gaining this level of knowledge about a myriad of different surgical procedures is challenging. The average surgical tech program takes 1.5-2 years to complete, including 500 hours of clinicals. Reps need a comparable level of knowledge, which comes through training, experience in the OR and a lot of studying.

Here's a great book this surgical tech suggested to me which sounds like it could be an invaluable resource for reps. It's called:
Pocket Guide to the Operating Room
by Maxine Goldman.

According the the publisher's website, it includes details on more than 500 surgeries, with descriptions, drawings and instrumentation. This tech told me that she would review the guide in preparation for each surgery while she was going through her clinicals and being exposed to new procedures daily.

Noted as a key feature, which is particularly relevant to Linvatec's product line, is the emphasis on: "extensive coverage of minimal access surgery, including endoscopic procedures for multiple specialties, microsurgical techniques, and instrumentation for these procedures."

The guide also indicates what to expect if there are complications and what types of procedure(s) the surgery might evolve into as a result, allowing one to anticipate the instrumentation needed if specific scenarios were to occur.

Much like a good surgical tech, anticipation and preparation are key to a rep's success. A well-prepared rep always has exactly what they need for the case, and more. If a surgeon turns to a rep and asks, "do you have...", the answer had better be "yes".

Monday, March 10, 2008


From what I've heard, this year's Academy was a big success for Linvatec. Lots of excitement, on the part of customers, reps and everyone involved.

Of the new crop of products released, one standout may be the Spectrum MVP Suture Passer
It's part of Linvatec's Spectrum line, which has for many years been recognized as an essential instrument set for arthroscopic repairs.

I once heard the challenge of arthroscopic procedures summed up something like this: imagine trying to tie a knot in a piece of wet spaghetti with a couple of chopsticks (while the noodle is inside a box, no less).

I think the analogy I heard was a little more elegant, but still I think you can understand the challenge and level of skill required for an arthroscopic procedure. The MVP Suture Passer greatly simplifies some of the common challenges surgeons face.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Economic Downturn

The news is rife with reports of lost jobs last month. 63,000 job were eliminated, the most in five years.

On my end, I've definitely seen an increase in the number of applications from certain job markets that were previously "dry". In particular, there has been a flood of resumes from folks in the real estate and mortgage industries seeking higher ground. I think there has been a bit of a shake-out in pharma as well. Talking to folks who are focused more on B2B sales, I sense some concern about the willingness of businesses to expand and invest in services and capital equipment.

I am far from being an economist, but being a recruiter does put you close to job trends in the economy.

Medical device sales is touted by some as "recession proof", the idea being that medical care is a necessity, and not something people can put off as they would buying a new car or refrigerator. Again, while I can't put cold, hard numbers to this entirely plausible theory, I can offer a few interesting anecdotes.

I asked one of our distributors recently if he felt there was truth to this statement. He said that in his 20 years in the industry, there hadn't really ever been a serious slowdow, despite fluctuations in the larger economy.

A couple of months back, someone applied for an opening that had just recently been filled. The person was from the mortgage industry and was pleasantly persistent, such that I was prompted to call and speak to him briefly to explain the situation. In the course of our conversation, I found out that this young man's father had worked for Linvatec back in the '90's.

I ended up talking to his father, who told me that he'd always told his children that he had chosen a career in medical sales precisely because of the stability of the industry. When you have mouths to feed, avoiding industries that are feast or famine, boom or bust becomes all the more important.

"I think my son is finally starting to understand exactly what I was talking about," he told me.

Some salespeople I talk to seem to focus on base salaries and expense packages as the primary measure of stability in a company or opportunity. I think this view is too narrow. The industry itself can have a huge impact, as many have recently seen first hand. I think some other important factors are: stability of the management team, average tenure or turnover in the salesforce, consistency of the compensation plan, the breadth of the offering. On these measures, I think Linvatec is very strong.

I wonder how many people have seen what they thought was a solid career, solid success vanish in front them. Some will ride out the lean times, while many will start from scratch establishing themselves in another industry. It takes a lot of hard work to succeed in any realm, a lot of hard work to develop your product knowledge and base of contacts, master the nuances of the sales cycle particular to your industry. And even more hard work to start all over again.

I think many sales people are self-starters who want to have control over their own destiny, a big part of that being their own income. Although nothing is absolutely certain in this world, I think building a career in medical device sales offers favorable conditions that put salespeople in a position to exert a good measure of control over their future. They aren't likely to see their hard work swept away by a downturn in the economy. Even now, despite the challenges in the larger economy, medical device reps can continue building their careers, onward and upward.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

New Products released at the AAOS

The annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is being held this week in San Francisco. For Linvatec and many other orthopaedic companies, this is the most important trade show of the year. There are 15,000 attendees, primarily orthopaedic surgeons from around the world. Our entire marketing team and much of the sales force is in attendance.

Linvatec has launched eleven new products at this year's show. Link here to learn more.