The other day, I conducted a phone interview with a strong candidate. She was really pretty good, but I wasn’t quite convinced. She had some stiff competition for this position. When we were finishing up, I asked if there was anything else I needed to know about her. She said, “No.” Then I asked if there were any questions she had for me, and she said, “No.” That’s where she bit the dust.
She needed to separate herself from the competition, and it should have been easy for her to have had a couple of questions prepared, like: “What are my chances with this organization?” Or, “When you looked at my resume, did you see anything I could change to make it better?” Or, “If I was to read one sales book, Peggy, what would you recommend?” Or, “What specific words could I Google that would give me some insight to this company?” Or, “What advice would you give me, based on the interview we just had, to improve myself in the future?” That last one is a no-brainer question that should be asked every time, especially by entry-level candidates, or by someone new to any area of medical sales, laboratory sales, medical device sales, biotechnology sales, hospital equipment sales, imaging sales, DNA products sales, clinical diagnostics sales, or pharmaceutical sales. That last question alone would have set her apart, because I would have known that 1) she’s looking to improve, 2) she had the guts to ask a question like that, and 3) she wouldn’t have just said “no.”
Because “no” is almost never a good answer in a job interview.
Everybody knows that you’ve got to send a thank you note after your interview, and yet I continue to be surprised by how many people don’t. They really do make you stand out from the crowd, and they give you another opportunity to point out a key item or two in your favor…it should always be substantial. But do them quickly.
E-mail thank you notes are entirely appropriate. Handwritten thank yous are of the past. They work only if you can get them out on the exact same day, because speed is a strength here. Still, you should send an e-mail one because there are hiring decisions that happen while the post office still has your letter.
When you do more than you are paid to do, you’ll eventually be paid more for what you do. –Zig Ziglar
Ever heard that? That’s a great piece of advice…once you get past the “how can I find time to do MORE??” panic—it’s not nearly as hard as it sounds, although it does require some work. What happens when you do more than you’re paid to do?
· Managers notice you. Once you step outside of your job description (in a helpful, team-player way, not in a take-over-other-peoples’- jobs way), you single yourself out as a “go-to” person. Someone who’s interested in helping others. An employee who wants the company to do well. (…which ties in to another Zig quote: “You can have anything you want in life just as long as you help enough people to get what they want in life.” Zig has a ton of quotes, which are all good.)
· You learn. If you branch out and do more than what’s listed in your job description, eventually you’ll know how to do other jobs. You’ll gain experience, knowledge, and a bigger network that includes all the people you’re meeting as you venture outside of your original circle.
· Those who work hard and become experts in their field find success. They get noticed, promoted, and become recognized and sought-after by other companies and recruiters. That’s an excellent place to be.
Want to get ahead in medical sales, laboratory sales, clinical diagnostics sales, biotechnology sales, medical device sales, hospital equipment sales, imaging sales, pathology sales, or any healthcare sales? This is how to do it.
20 years experience
Seasoned, mature rep ready for a new challenge.
Do these resume summary lines sound familiar?
You can’t turn on the television or radio without hearing how many people are unemployed or how difficult the job market is today. What you don’t hear too often is that some of the most vocal unsuccessful job seekers shouldn’t be very surprised that they aren’t being successful.
What? How could I possibly say that?
Don’t I have any empathy?
Let’s not even talk about the many interview horror stories you hear (flip flops at interviews, tardiness, texting while interviewing, general unpreparedness, etc.). Even if a job seeker manages to avoid major interview mistakes like that, the job search can still be a minefield. I say that based on actual empirical data–facts. I know facts aren’t too popular these days when debating points of view…it’s easier to talk about the emotional side of the equation and ignore the facts, or “givens.”
What are the givens in this equation?
- The job market is very competitive.
- The employers have more candidates to look at, so the process takes longer as they look for their ideal candidate.
- Experience isn’t always seen as a plus–with experience comes higher salaries and expectations. And, there can be the perception among employers that you can’t teach “experienced dogs new tricks.”
- Thousands of Pharma jobs have evaporated. Many are looking to move into other areas of medical sales.
- You have hundreds (maybe thousands) of highly educated financial people with no clinical/research industry experience who are pursuing new careers because of the meltdown in their world.
Does that mean your career is over if you have more than 10 years experience?
If you haven’t dealt with “The White Stuff”, maybe so. If you deal with it, you will be in a better position than your peers.
So you say, “What’s the White Stuff?”
The white stuff is the white light and the white elephant.
First the white light:
As a manager, I was often in the position of deciding who would stay and who would go (or be “decoupled” as I heard for the first time last week) as we right-sized, refocused or adjusted to new management. I took the responsibility very seriously because I knew the actions I was taking as part of the management team would affect people’s lives. The way I was able to justify what I was doing was to tell myself that everyone has to be responsible for their actions and most likely; this person’s poor performance made them expendable. That theory worked great for me until I was “decoupled” (fired) with no notice, no performance plan, no clue. I can’t say I wasn’t cognizant of my circumstances. I knew about the Japanese model– executives down-sizing, taking less to make room for the “up and comers” that represent the future of the organization. So, I tried not to get performance review increases, took on more responsibility, anything that I thought would help me provide more value to organization.
The point being, I knew about the White Light.
A neighbor of mine recently lost his job after working for his firm for more than 10 years. As I was trying to console him he made a statement that made the “White Light” topic strike home. He said, “I really shouldn’t be surprised, they have been trying to get rid of me for a few years”.
(It took every bit of self control I could muster to not scream, “Are you kidding me?? You knew your job was at risk and you haven’t even looked for another?”)
This guy obviously hadn’t really seen the White Light. He thought he knew all about it, but, not so much. If he had seen the White Light while he was employed, it might have made him think about things differently, as in:
- I am 56 years experienced.
- I am in an executive position and lived ex-US for years.
- My total comp is over $200,000.
- I only have a 2 year degree.
- I am in the cyclical construction industry.
- If I lose this job, I might have a hard time replacing it. If I don’t replace my current job, my lifestyle will be really negatively affected.
- I should always be looking to add more value to the organization, because I can be replaced cheaper with someone who can still contribute 10 or 20 years to the organization. Be cognizant of the Japanese model.
The White Light is job mortality.
If you have seen the White Light, you know that no one is safe. Any job can be eliminated at any time. Not just “the little people” get affected. You serve at the whim of your master. Do what you can to make your master like and need you. Any new challenge, bad assignment or bummer deal at your current job will be less of a bummer than being unemployed. Not even in the same league….trust me.
So what about the White Elephant?
The white elephant is that thing in the room or on the phone, which is there, present. You can try to pretend it isn’t, but it is. The White Elephant could be:
- A 2-year gap in your employment.
- Much more experience than the job requires.
- Unrelated experience.
- Getting fired.
- Job instability as a result of mergers, buyouts, etc.
- A poor reference.
- Having a DUI on your driving record.
- Missing last year’s sales goal.
The list goes on an on….
Have an answer. Address the “White Stuff” up front or you will not make it to the next step.
More issues and specific strategies in my next rambling post.
Do you have any thoughts or questions? Put them in the comments or e-mail me at email@example.com.
It’s common for me to get questions from folks in higher-level sales positions or semi-supervisory positions (maybe National Accounts Managers, etc.), maybe interviewing for Regional Accounts Manager positions, who want to know how to differentiate themselves so that they will be the ones who get tapped for promotions. There’s a lot of advice out there about these kinds of things, and certainly your sales performance has to be solid to even put you in the running. I provide custom consulting at this level, too, but to get you started, here are 9 ways to raise your visibility within your organization and build your personal brand:
1) Always be over-prepared (for everything). Always be on time. Always send thank-you notes. So, if a VP of Marketing travels with you, send him a thank you note immediately – within 24 hours. The thank-you note shows your appreciation, and separates you from the pack. It’s all really just basics– good manners and good work ethics. Simple, but you’d be surprised how many sales reps get caught up in their own “stuff” and forget these simple things.
3) Offer to do projects or tasks that no one else volunteers to do. Be the “go to” person.
4) If the president or CEO wonders about something in a discussion, go find the answer and respond to him. It will show that you are paying attention to him, it will show your initiative, and it will set you apart in personalization.
5) A lot of people work very hard for certain events like Regional Sales Meetings. Decisions like: Where will we have it? What are the topics? Who will speak? What will we eat? Who’s going to eat where? What projects will we do? These issues take a lot of time and energy, and the ones who set it up often don’t have much administrative support. They’re doing it all. Remember to thank them when it’s over. Thank the Regional Sales Managers, the sales team, the trainers, and the people from the home office who fly out to speak with you. That’s huge.
6) Gather information on competitors. Any time you see something that might be of interest to anyone in your organization, whether it’s marketing, technical support, or anyone, send them a quick e-mail with a link to the pertinent information when you can. You can set up Google Alerts to let you know about any developments in your company or within your industry, any key people you have a rapport with or need to develop a rapport with, any information on your competitors, product areas (genomic testing, FDA-approved tests, point-of-care, microarrays, etc.—you get the drift). Set up those alerts that let you know every day about what’s going on, send relevant information on to whomever it’s relevant to, and if they ask how you saw it, tell them about the Google Alerts. It sets you up as a SME (Subject Matter Expert). You’re not necessarily an expert, but it does show your fluency with the computer/internet, your creativity, and your initiative in forwarding information that will help your company.
7) Ask if you can be a mentor within your organization. Lots of people want and need one and are afraid to ask. But, if there’s someone (like you) who’s volunteering…it becomes more likely that they’ll take it. Spending 20-30 minutes on the phone once a week with them will really benefit them, and it will show in their growth. And if you have taken the initiative to set it up rather than participating after you’ve been asked (if the company even has a program), it shows you as the leader that you are.
8) Be willing to do a presentation on a product, a competitor, or sales training. Meeting organizers often have trouble finding content. If you are willing to provide some of that content, it increases your profile, positions you as a subject matter expert, and helps you build your personal brand.
9) Sharpen the saw. Keep up with your reading in sales or motivation, talk to people about them, and send the books you read along to others in your organization. That’s a very cool thing. It makes people feel that it’s a personalized gift, you’re trying to help them learn something, and you’ve already read it so you know it’s good. There are a lot of great books out there. I love the Malcolm Gladwell books, and here’s a link to a few more.
These are some pretty significant ways to impress those higher-ups in your medical sales organization, so that when the next opportunity for promotion comes available, it’s all yours.
“I just got laid off by a large Pharma company and would like to interview for the analytical capital equipment sales position you have advertised”.
It seems that every week someone in our office has a lengthy discussion with a high-performing Pharma rep, and the end of the discussion usually goes like this: “You have done extremely well in your career and have distinguished yourself among your peers. Unfortunately, our client doesn’t consider Pharma experience applicable to their job.”
The response is usually something like: “How can that be? I was 14th out of 125 reps for 2 years.”
While we’ve all had to deal with a changing business environment, I bet it’s fair to say that few industries/professions have been rocked as much as the pharmaceutical industry. For years, Pharma reps have been relatively well-paid and lived a corporate existence filled with more perks than most. Much of their time was spent delivering food in hopes of getting a few minutes with the Doctor to inform him/her about their product. A book titled “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell points to Direct to Consumer (DTC) advertising as the “Tipping Point”, or the point of inflection at which that world changed.
Quick…. What drug does Sally Fields promote and what is it for?
I bet at least half you said Boniva for Osteoporosis. Do you get the point?
The point is that Pharma companies are using the various forms of media (internet, television and radio) to educate you about their offerings and encourage you to “ask your doctor if XXXX is right for you”. Sounds kind of like the educational role that Pharma reps have always played. I know of one large (maybe the largest) Pharma company that wouldn’t allow their reps to ask doctors if they were prescribing their product. They felt it was too much pressure to put on the doctors.
So how is all of this relevant to why most Pharma reps won’t be considered for Capital Sales positions?
It’s relevant because companies selling analytical capital equipment in the hospital and reference lab market are looking for people who are experienced in selling a complex technical product(s) in a complex sales environment. By placing their equipment in that laboratory, they have been successful in overcoming technical, user, financial, location, and workflow issues, just to name a few. They have also probably gotten a commitment from that organization to use their product for 3-5 years and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars running and supporting that technology. (You might be able to argue that the selling process to get drugs on hospital formularies is a complex sales cycle; but it doesn’t require the rep to go “eyeball to eyeball” with the end decision maker and ask for the order. “Press hard, the third copy is yours” comes to mind.) That rep is also responsible for ensuring that the customer is happy and doesn’t send the instrument back and cancel the contract. So, there is skill needed to execute a strategic sales plan and skill needed to execute a customer satisfaction plan, i.e. keeping them happy and using your product.
The point of this article isn’t to denigrate or minimize the skills of a good Pharma rep. I totally understand their point of view and that of our clients. That doesn’t mean that PHC Consulting will never present an exceptional Pharma rep… it means that unless that rep understands the world they’re in and understands the perception that clients often have about the Pharma world, they won’t be successful.
You might be surprised how many Pharma reps bring serious attitude to the career discussion. That attitude might be better directed by the saying “That was then, this is now.”
Your thoughts? (Put them in the comments or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Many sales reps who spend time with upper-level people in their organization (they go on a few sales calls with you, they sit down with you to talk, etc.) feel intimidated and as if they are wasting that person’s time. Don’t feel that way. They don’t. If you are a rising star in your organization, they look at spending time with you as an investment. It’s part of their job to help groom the next generation.
So, here’s one of the things I want to encourage: if someone from management comes to work with you, send him or her an e-mail thank you note within 24 hours of the visit. (Thank you letters aren’t just for job interviews and customers.) Say something like:
“I really appreciate your taking the time to come and work with me. I enjoyed getting to introduce you to some of my key customers, and they enjoyed the opportunity to interface with someone in our company in a larger capacity. I learned a lot from you, I enjoyed the time, and it just reminded me that I should send you a note and say how much I appreciate the opportunity to work here at XYZ Company. If there’s ever anything that I can do for you, either in sales, customer service or anything else, please don’t hesitate to tap me on the shoulder. I’ll do whatever I can to assist.”
A letter like this can be a career-defining moment for you. So, I’m just encouraging you that if your VP of Sales and Marketing comes to visit, or your Director who’s over the Regional Sales Manager comes to visit, write that thank you note and copy it to your manager. It’s a complete positive for you. It is one of the things that significantly raises your visibility within your organization and will pay off for you down the not-too-distant road in every area of medical sales: laboratory sales, medical device sales, biotechnology sales, clinical diagnostics sales, hospital equipment sales, imaging sales, surgical supplies sales, pathology sales, or pharmaceutical sales.
(Besides…it’s just nice. Wouldn’t you like to get a thank you from someone you’ve helped?)
Job Seeker to Peggy:
The phone interview was a bust. The manager told me he had already filled the position a couple of weeks ago but still wanted to talk to me and sort of treat it like a “info interview” in case something else opens up. He suggested that I do some shadowing and maybe take a class on sales in order to stand out against the other candidates that have the same clinical background as mine. Do you know of any classes I can take? I’m definitely interested in using your consulting services and submitting my resume to you to review. I want to get into medical sales now!
Peggy to Jobseeker:
I am sorry to hear that. I can’t help you in an interview where there really isn’t a job, but if there is a job, I can improve your odds by 100%.
I can tell you what books to read and then coach you to understand them. No need for a class. I can, also, help you get a shadowing opportunity.
You will need at least an hour of my time. And you can buy the books used from Amazon – probably need to budget about $30 for 5 or 6 books. Only buy the ones I recommend.
We would split our time into 3 sections (on 3 different days).
1. Review resume, goals and identify areas to improve. I give you the book list. – 20 minutes
2. (once you read a couple of the books and make changes to your resume) We would go over those books and the concepts. And review the resume. – 20 minutes.
3. We would put together a plan on how to shadow and what you would achieve during the shadow. – 20 minutes.
We can start whenever you have time.
You will be amazed at how this time with me combined with your work will transform the way you think and how you are able to communicate in your next interview.
I just finished up searching for candidates to fill 4 specific jobs where the company wanted to find someone with an undergrad science degree (biology, chemistry, etc.).But really, they could live without the science degree if they found the right person with the kind of personality, drive, desire and presence they needed. The upshot is that for some areas of medical sales, a science background is a plus, but not always required. Go to www.phcconsulting.com/ to see if there are any that interest you.
But, even with flexibility from employers on background, there’s still a lot of different ways people can shoot themselves in the foot in the interview process—and I ran into a few this week.(These are not unusual, either…I get responses like this with disappointing frequency.)For example, after one person had described her background and experience, she summed up her desire to be in medical sales as “medical terminology makes me happy.”As a recruiter, that kind of statement makes me want to run in the other direction (laughing, but still running).You could say that that’s not such a big deal, but it sounds a little goofy, it doesn’t show a lot of maturity, it doesn’t show a lot of thought, and it’s an additional thing she just said to fill space.So, if you’re trying to get a medical sales job, DON’T FILL SPACE.Usually, you’re going to fill it with something that’s going to hurt you. (It’s not just resumes that are a problem–candidates make big mistakes on their LinkedIn profiles, too.)
Another guy with a very strong lab background wanted to get into pharmaceutical sales but complained that “they just want so much sales experience.”If you’ve read my blog for very long, you know that I don’t think that pharmaceutical sales requires reps to be all that skilled in sales: they don’t ask for a close, they don’t place orders, they have no power over pricing, and they have no power in the relationship…so, when he said that to me, it made me think he hadn’t done his research about the different types of sales jobs, or really put that much thought into it at all.When I told him that with his background, he should think about laboratory sales, or field applications, he said to me, “All I want to do is get off the bench.”Well, a lot of scientists will say that, and I can appreciate that… but as a recruiter, I don’t want to hear it.When you’re interviewing for a medical sales position, I want to know that you’re running to something, not running from something.I’ve had managers comment to me about that to me, too:“I’m not sure they wanted THIS job…I think they just didn’t want the job they have.”So, when you’re in the interview process, be running TO something.It may not sound like a big deal, but it is to hiring managers.(Really, all hiring managers want to know that you’ll be enthusiastic about the job they need you to do.)They’re going to spend somewhere between $25,000-$50,000 training you in the first 6 months, and they don’t want any questions about whether you’ll be successful.
Which leads me to the next point:Don’t ask your recruiter if she thinks you’ll be successful in medical sales.If you’re not confident, I won’t be confident, and my hiring manager won’t be confident… and I won’t present you for the job.
These are just some things that you want to think about as an entry-level person in the medical sales field and what you need to do.The top things you can do:be flexible, be available, be honest, and DO YOUR HOMEWORK.So when I ask you, “What have you done to prepare for a sales job?” don’t say what one person said to me this week:“Why, nothing.I don’t have a sales job yet, so how would I prepare?”That’s not what I want to hear.I want to hear someone who’s creative in their thought process, has looked on You Tube for instructional videos, has read some books, and has done a ride-along or a job shadowing.I want to see someone who knows why he wants a job in medical sales, laboratory sales, biotech sales, medical device sales, or pharmaceutical sales. I want to see someone who’s gone the extra mile to be a top candidate. I want to see someone with energy, drive, passion, and a desire to do something more, and different, and to make themselves better, more and different.
The Medical Sales Recruiter
BONUS: Sign up for this FREE webinar: How to Land a Job in Medical Sales. It’s an hour of straight talk from the medical sales recruiter on the 6 essential steps to transitioning into medical sales, the 4 things you absolutely must say in the interview, and much more. You don’t want to miss this unique opportunity to hear job-landing tips from a medical sales expert!
I had a question from one of my YouTube videos this week from someone who is interested in getting into medical sales and wanted to know if she should invest the time and money into a NAMSR (National Association of Medical Sales Representatives) training program. They (and many others you can find online) offer medical sales training for various areas for fees that can range anywhere from $300-$1000, depending on your professional level and area of interest. You can then put that training certification on your resume, and (in theory) get a jump over other candidates. So, she wanted to know if I thought a medical or pharmaceutical sales training program would be valuable for her.
On one hand, I think that all training is valuable, and many people do it. I’ve had a candidate who invested $5000 of her own money for training. I personally don’t think anyone needs to invest that much, though. You do need to invest a lot of time and energy—read a lot (sales books, on motivation and technique), listen, ride along, work with some folks who have had that experience. But– is the training valuable? Yes. Does it show initiative? Yes. Does it show commitment? Yes. I like all those things.
On the other side, it doesn’t really differentiate you from another candidate if, when you get on the phone or get to the interview, you’re not as strong as the other candidate. So, you might want to think about doing those things that will make you stronger than the other candidate when you interview. Polish your interview skills. Practice phone interviews. Have a 30/60/90-day sales plan.
I do provide custom consulting services as a medical sales recruiter, so that you can see what YOU need to shore up in your own situation to make the cut. Just this week, I helped someone who wants to be promoted to Regional Sales Manager within his company. He contacted me and purchased a little of my time this week for me to help him look at his resume and his 30-60-90 day sales plan and also to talk to him about how to handle certain interview questions. So, you might want to think about investing some time and money in that way, because an hour with someone like myself who can talk you through the interview process, who can role play with you, might be more beneficial than that training sticker is.
Because, when the rubber meets the road on the first phone interview with the recruiter, and the first phone interview with the company, if you don’t do well with those two things… it doesn’t really matter how well-trained you are in any area of medical sales, laboratory sales, biotech sales, medical device sales, or pharmaceutical sales.