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.


basil said...

Your posting is great. I am currently selling copiers. I have been contemplating a move to medical device sales. Your day in the life is very helpful because it helps to envision a person suceeding in a medical device position.
Also it provides a good description of the skills necessary to do well in medical device sales. I'll be keeping an eye out for your other postings. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

That's funny, I sell electrosurgery and was contemplating a move to copier sales

Anonymous said...

Curious... why are you wanting to leave electrosurgery sales and move into copier sales?

Anonymous said...

Lisa did an excellent job of taking us through the day in the life of a med sales rep. I've been in device sales for 6 years, previously from FedEx as a DM. One of the posters asked why would someone in device want to go back to copiers? That's a complicated question... for one, medical device sales is very very competitive. Yes B to B is also tough, fair arguement, but selling disposables or capital equipment is a very stratigic sell, every call, every day. You never ever stop improving or dare slow down the advancement of your skill. Your competition will bury you. Secondly, compaines have a "hired gun" attitude toward reps. Post numbers. Sell. That's it. You're never going to build equity with a medical company. Just keep bringing in the sales. When you stop, you can have all the awards, presidents club trips, etc in the world, but when the numbers soften up, you're done. Is this the same everywhere in sales? Yes. However it is more in your face in med device. You also have more riding on your success; you give sooo much to learning and growing at the skills necessary to win, when you loose, it sucks.
Having said all that bad stuff, med device sales is the most fun, most challenging, most amazing job you can have. I love it. All the good and bad. I can't imagine doing anything else ever again. There is nothing like having a physician in surgery look to you for answers on a tough case, or call you on the weekend to discuss a case coming up Monday morning. It's impowering being a true resource of information that helps patients and the doctors that serve them. It's a great ride. Having said that you better be ready. If you can sustain the pressure, education, competition, and pace, don't do it. It's not for everyone. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Bottom line is all outside sales jobs ultimately are horrible. Love you when you are doing well hate u when you have a bad year. You also get treated like half a man. If I could do it over again I would never find a career in any type of outside sales.

My advice is to move into some type of consultant selling and no trauma/recon/sports med is really not consulting.

-7 yr veteran of consumer product sales
-14 yr veteran of med sales.

Shannon said...

I loved this Blog!
It described the Med device sales down to a T..and im sure alot more could have been written in a follow up blog on the next day!

I actually sell the Conmed diathermy equipment myself. Massive opposition, but the greater your knoweledge is of this wonderful product, you will find very little of your opposition can offer the same specs at our price. Ofcoarse it is also about the after sale training and follow ups that will keep your clients happy and wanting to continue buying your product! Thank you for sharing your experience!

Megadyne said...

Not sure why you would want to sell copiers over electrosurgery equipment. There is some serious money to be made in that industry and you know you are helping save peoples lives that way too.

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