Linda Hertz Group

My Medical Device Sales Career

Waiting for the next downsizing? Praying it is not your Medical Sales Job?

I felt compelled to write an article this week about the calls and stories we have been receiving from many of you, sales representatives and sales managers alike. Many of you have been through the wringer, sitting by your home office phone, as instructed by your company, waiting for your scheduled call from your HR Department or immediate manager; the call where you will be told if you will be one of the lucky ones who keeps your job.

If you are one of the “lucky ones”, you then quickly realize that your company is only in phase one out of two or three phases of layoffs scheduled! You quickly realize you will be sitting by that phone praying perhaps a few more times before April 1st. Now that is a heck of an April Fools Day! Do you see the signs of jobs being cut at YOUR company? Then read on….

This scenerio is particularly true if you are in the Pharmaceutical side of the business. That said, it cannot go without note that a well known medical disposable company had their entire sales force sitting on pins and needles for weeks waiting for their new re-structure. In perhaps one of the tackiest downsizing execution plans yet (in my books), the sales force was then informed on a Friday that they would be called the following Monday about their plight. Everyone wrung their hands all weekend and then waited by their phone on Monday, Martin Luther King Day, to receive their call. This is the God honest truth and we recieved many, many calls duing that recent situation from worried employees.

There is no good way to slice and dice a sales force and then line them up to communicate who got the axe (although not doing it on a holiday would be a good start!). I speak from my experience of being involved in merger work as an Area Vice President with Sherwood Davis and Geck back in the early 1990’s. I was one of a team of 10 who pieced together the new divisions of over a 1 billion dollar merger. We camped out in a hotel for nearly three weeks working around the clock sifting through personnel paperwork as we evaluated hundreds of sales people by developing metrics to weigh Performance Reviews, Sales Performance, tenure and other factors as we decided who were plugged into which positions that had been carved out and those that were just out.

The downsizing process was uncomfortable for me and the others I worked with on that merger, up until that time company and employee mutual loyalty was always there in our industry. That time was soon coming to an end dictated by pressures from competition, more mergers (anyone remember the Tyco acquistion mania and the now infamous Dennis Kozlowski of Toga Party Fame?) and the need to make double digit stock growth for their stock holders (Enron anyone?).

Fast foward to 2007, everything had been swinging pretty good in our pharmaceutical and medical sales industries since about 1999. All was going well enough that people in my age bracket thought they were feeling the love of company loyality again and their memories grew dim of the downsizings in the 90’s when we were younger and could handle it! The younger folks who graduated from college since 1999 never experienced the sloughing of jobs before and were too busy flipping realestate and thinking they had a steady eddy job in a completely recession proof industry and this would just continue forever (although this younger group is smarter, they never bought into that company loyality thing).

Now you may be asking what is the point Linda? OK, I will get to it. Super fast forward to now, 2009. I am still surprised when I call a sales person or a manager from a company who has announced they will be doing layoffs and they say, “well Linda, I know the company is not doing well but I have been with them a long time and I am going to wait this out and see what happens”, or “well I was just hired in the past year and they would never hire me just to fire me in that short of time”, or “my boss brought me from our old company to work for him, we’re buds and I am sure I am fine“. By the way, that last scenario played out this way; the sales rep. and his bud, the boss, were both let go! They have plenty of time for futher bud bonding now.

The Point? Now is not the time to wait and see if a fast approaching mack truck could miss hitting you while you are sitting in the middle of a one lane country road, in a dark suit, in the middle of the night. It just might be the time to start moving now in case you need to jump!

It could take up to a year or more in this market to find a new job if you are in sales management and/or over 45 years of age. If you are younger, you are not immune and you probably have less money to withstand what could be at least 6 months of unemployment or more in our industry (which is still, in my opinion, the best one to be).

Given the time it could take you to find new employment, you should always be prepared and looking for new job opportunities ALL THE TIME, not AFTER the mack truck has left it’s tire marks on your face! Praying that you will not lose your job is always a good strategy, but you should also send a few accompanying prayers up to help you find the time to prepare yourself in case you need to jump.

It doesn’t take a leap of faith to believe that in this job market you better have a strong resume and an easy to read resume template, not to mention the skills to conduct an effective job search for yourself NOW!

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Tags: Career, faith, industry trends

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