Friday, July 17, 2009

2008 Rookie of the Year

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...)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Day in the Life of a ConMed Electrosurgery Rep

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.

Ride-Along Today

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.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine meeting

Yesterday, I went to the AOSSM meeting in Keystone Colorado. Although I have lived in Colorado for a couple of years now, this is the first time I've been farther than the Eisenhower Tunnel. The morning drive into the mountains was gorgeous. Colorado has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world to live.

Perhaps because of the natural beauty outside, the traffic on the exhibition floor inside was quiet. I was told that this is not uncommon for this particular meeting, especially since many surgeons brought their families and headed out to the mountains after seeing what they were most interested in.

This was an exciting show for ConMed Linvatec, since the launch of the new Shoulder Restoration System is official. FDA approval was received a few weeks ago, and product is being rolled out across the country. Accordingly, the booth highlighted the new shoulder system.

I met some of the new people I've been involved with hiring recently, and reconnected with some long-time colleagues. When I arrived, I asked the two new hires from Colorado to walk me through the booth product-by-product to show me what they've learned so far. One of them has been on-board for only two weeks, the other about three months. I asked lots of questions about the products, including strengths and competitive advantages. It was a good learning experience for me, and good practice for the new reps. It think they did a great job.

The shoulder system is a fantastic addition to our product line. The leadership and direction of our new president was a major impetus behind bringing this product through the development process so quickly. R&D and marketing have done a fantastic job. There are superior and patented features that are part of the system which will contribute to its success in the marketplace.

The sales force is thrilled to have this product in their bag, and I believe their customers are going to be too. I watched as a surgeon tried out the product. One of our marketing folks walked him thru step-by-step as he "implanted" the device. From my observation, the surgeon seemed impressed by the product features and ease of use.

The head of R&D for sports medicine was kind enough to give me an overview of the major competitors' products, comparing and contrasting ConMed Linvatec's system to theirs. As a recruiter, I am often asked about our competitive advantages, and it was great for me to learn more about this new system. The launch of the SRS goes to the heart of ConMed Linvatec's future as a company.

I also learned from him about "booth etiquette": do not step onto the carpeted areas of competitor's booths, don't gawk, and never handle your competitors' products or instruments at the show. Violation of these rules mean that your company could be sanctioned, and your booth demoted to a less favorable location at the next year's show.

Still, I walked the floor of the convention hall several times, observing the people as much as the displays. Almost all of ConMed Linvatec's direct competitors were present, plus a range of other companies, perhaps 50 or more vendors in total.

It was a terrific day. I can't wait to see the impact the new SRS will have in the coming months.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

AOSSM in Keystone

This Friday, I will be attending the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine meeting in Keystone, CO. I will have updates from the meeting. If you will be in attendance, please feel free to reach out to me to let me know.

For more information on this meeting and association, visit the AOSSM website.