My Medical Device Sales Career
This past weekend, I had the good fortune of spending 3 hours with my eight year old daughter at the local mall. This trip was different because our mission was to sell Girl Scout cookies. I have sold many things in my life but never Girl Scout cookies. What happens before we arrive is where the story gets interesting. I could not help but notice her preparation for the day. She got up early, did a quick inventory of her supplies and then proceeded to pack the car. In many ways, it was remarkably similar to my days as a medical device sales rep.
During breakfast, she discussed her strategy for selling 40 boxes of cookies. WOW! At this point, it hit me like a sledgehammer. My eight year is laying out a plan for the day which includes her strategy, tactics and goal. I could not help but wonder where all this was coming from as I had not seen her so focused. We proceed to the mall to set up our table directly in the center of the mall. I find myself a bit uncomfortable standing directly in the path of would be shoppers. I feel exposed as I am not sure what to expect. I have been in sales for over 15 years and I am actually nervous about selling Girl Scout cookies. Ouch! I notice that I am tapping my right foot on the leg of table as I feel my anxiety level rising. I experienced this same feeling on a consistent basis my first year in medical device sales. It was how I felt when I was tasked to make a sales call on that “doc” who had a reputation for berating sales reps in public. I am sure many of you can relate to that feeling of helplessness.
In this case, I was lucky because my sales manager (my daughter) was there to provide a much needed pep talk. She came over to me, gave me a hug and told me to relax and just do what she does. A sense of relieve comes over me and I settle into a nice rhythm. We anxiously wait for prospects to walk by so that we can ask them to buy a box of cookies. I am struck by how rude so many people are as some do their best to avoid making eye contact. Again, not much different from how many surgeons treat reps in the (OR). My daughter keeps plugging away and just keeps asking people if they are interested in supporting the Girl Scouts. She keeps a smile on her face and stays at it to reach her goal.
The day was a wake-up call of sorts for me as it was a constant reminder of what it was like selling medical devices in the (OR). For many of us, we cut our teeth by making cold calls at the scrub sink which was not that much different from selling Girl Scout Cookies in terms of our approach. Instead of standing in the mall, we strategically placed ourselves in the (OR) hall-way so that we could see when “that doc” was leaving the lounge and headed to their room to operate. We just happened to be in the area so we could introduce ourselves at the scrub sink. We then proceeded to discuss our product, its benefits and see if they would be interested in trying our device on that case. Many of the nurses complained as did materials management and I am not so sure it was the best way to facilitate a conversation but it certainly seemed to work more often than not.
I suspect that there are plenty of brave souls out there right now waiting to make one more scrub sink call. The uneasy feeling, unsure of what to say and when is quite an experience and certainly tests your psyche. Like my daughter, just keep smiling and keep asking and you too may reach your goals!