Selling Power Magazine Article

Lifesaving Sales
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They're the heroes. They're the cool kids. They're the indispensables. They're in medical products sales. Yep, this story's all about the reps who bring lifesaving devices to those in the most need and sometimes just in the knick of time. These days, the life of a medical products sales rep is all about saving lives and the great feeling that comes from serving others. In the hit movie The Pursuit of Happyness, actor Will Smith plays a medical device salesman who reaches fame and fortune by breaking into investment sales. If that film had been made today, the producer might have been tempted to switch the two professions. Ever since the world economy had a meltdown, selling investments has become about as popular as peddling toxic waste.In contrast, medical device sales is a rapidly growing field in which sales reps command serious respect. "Medical device sales reps are a critical element of today's healthcare system," explains Dale Hagemeyer, an analyst who specializes in sales technology for the medical market at the market research firm Gartner. "If it weren't for medical device sales reps, the ability of hospitals and doctors to provide effective healthcare would quickly decline, and people would die. These are sales reps who definitely save lives."REPS IN THE OPERATING ROOMConsider, for example, an event experienced by Devin Hughes, director of sales at Genzyme Biosurgery, a company that develops and markets products for cartilage repair and severe burn treatment. On his first day at work at his new sales job, he was out on a field call at the Las Vegas University Medical Center. He was quickly brought into a busy operating room, where he was shown a patient lying on a table, semiconscious, with a machete sticking out of his chest.Hughes waited while the doctor removed the machete and then helped the doctor apply a Genzyme product that would keep the wound from developing crippling scar tissue. "The guy survived somehow, which was amazing. This wasn't a simple operation, because the machete was lodged close to his heart," says Hughes. "Realizing that I was playing a major role in whether that guy lived or died was a real wake-up call to what this job was all about."Turns out that medical device sales reps are frequently present in operating rooms, according to Hagemeyer. "The healthcare field has an enormous appetite for breakthrough products that have a great potential to save lives," he says. "In many cases, the people who are best informed about how the new products work are the sales reps, which is why the doctors want them right where they can provide hands-on help."Not that the sales reps are picking up scalpels. Their contribution is limited to advising and demonstrating, making sure that the medical product is used in a way that is most likely to benefit the patient. Even so, there's no question that, without the help of the medical device sales rep, new equipment and new techniques would take much longer to fall into common usage."We truly are agents of change," says Michael Maske, vice president of sales at TransMotion Medical, a vendor of specialized chairs and stretchers. "The members of surgical teams, like everyone else, are creatures of habit. When they operate, they get used to doing things a certain way - knowing where the buttons are located, as it were. By showing the surgeon, the nurses, the anesthesiologist, and so forth what's new, we provide a bridge by which they can incorporate better equipment and procedures into the operating environment."JUST-IN-TIME LIFESAVERSMedical device sales reps also perform the crucial role of providing just-in-time inventory to doctors and hospitals. Because medical facilities are expensive to run, floor space is always at a premium. As a result, few hospitals or doctors' offices are willing to commit storage space for products that are needed only occasionally. Furthermore, such inventory costs money to purchase ahead of time - money that cannot be recouped until an operation has taken place.Doctors understandably prefer to schedule operations in advance and order the devices and inventory they'll need when they need them. However, it is not always possible to forecast demand in an environment that's often driven by emergency situations. To help out, many medical device sales reps act as storage depots for the equipment, products, and supplies, bringing them directly to the doctor when needed."Suppose a doctor needs an artificial knee to replace one damaged in a car accident," explains Hagemeyer. "He can't wait for an overnight FedEx if the patient's leg is already opened up. However, there's a good chance his local sales rep has a (continued on page 2)
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I didn't want one either, but the guy had such a great sales pitch.