Change is a constant in most industries, particularly in medical device sales. Innovation happens rapidly. The landscape is always evolving, whether through mergers and acquisitions or the introduction of products. As you grow in your career, you'll aspire to reach higher goals and encounter shifts like taking on a new territory.
We asked Chris Massoll, a Philips leader and Vice President of Sales for the Midwest region, to share his advice for medical device sales professionals when common challenges occur, including receiving unattainable quotas, territory changes and company acquisitions.
Medical sales is a rapidly evolving industry. Can you share how being resilient has served you throughout your career?
Chris Massoll: I've recognized that sometimes to move up, you have to move laterally or back for a period of time. It's an evolution. You may take a role because there's a new business opportunity or because you're looking to change functional areas.In my career, I was on the service side of the organization managing a team of 25 engineers prior to moving into sales. Instead of letting my ego get in the way and demanding to manage a team of the same size, I recognized that I needed to take a step back. I went from a service management position to an individual contributor where I was an account manager, then worked my way up there.
Don't be so rigid in how you think about what the next role needs to be. Be open to possibilities. Take a long-term view. Consider how the next opportunity is going to position you for success in achieving your career goals.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a conversation with their manager about unrealistic sales goals?
Chris Massoll: What's important is transparency. There's rationale put into how goals are set, but sometimes when those goals translate down, they don't always align. That's why it's really important to be transparent and open around your communication.
Help your sales manager understand where the opportunities are for growth or potential stretch targets. Also try to set realistic expectations around where the challenges are. When doing that it's important to be factual. Try and keep the emotion out. Keep the facts in front and have open, transparent communication.
What do you tell people so that they stay motivated to reach their goals?
Chris Massoll: Being motivated is a challenge for everybody, sales or non-sales. Recognizing that is important. It's not a unique challenge for any one individual.
The approach that I would suggest is to understand your "Why?", and what I mean by that is understanding, "Why do you get up every day? Why do you do this job?" If you understand why you do what you do every day and keep your eye on that purpose, then it's easier to stay motivated when you face challenges.
Let's say you lost a deal. That's never easy to deal with, but instead you can say, "Okay great, let's reflect back and understand why we lost." That gives you renewed motivation to try again and maybe go back to that same customer to win a different deal."
Everyone responds to change differently. Can you tell us about a time when your territory changed and how you made the most of it?
Chris Massoll: It can be difficult and you have to handle it professionally. You don't know if you may be back in that account at some point. You may have to use that account as a reference, so focus on maintaining a positive relationship as you transition.
It also comes back to good communication and transparency with your manager. Realize that many changes are not in your boss's control. Work to understand what happened and the plan going forward.
In this situation, revisiting your purpose can help you stay motivated. Your "why" really shouldn't change because you're covering a different set of accounts. Yes, you have to build new relationships. But if you're grounded in a passion for wanting to help providers care for patients, that never changes, regardless of the accounts you cover.
What's the first step a medical sales professional should take when assigned to a different territory?
Chris Massoll: Get organized around your new territory first and foremost. Understand buying trends, relationship histories, and customer's problems. Orders may be stalled as a customer goes through a consolidation. Another may be in growth mode, building a new facilities, which can accelerate your sales efforts. Go on site. Meet with your customers. The most effective sales people are the ones who are organized and efficiently prioritize their time.
What advice do you have for staying healthy on the road, particularly during busy transition periods?
Chris Massoll: Make time for yourself. It's easy to dedicate your all to work and customers, but it's equally important to make time for family, physical activity, and eating well. I find creative ways to achieve that. I'll go out on walks during conference calls. I'll do a 20 minute workout in the hotel gym if I'm on the road.
Eating healthy is also crucial. Make smart choices when dining out with customers and be careful not to load up on empty calories with snacks or junk food. It may taste great, but if you're spending a lot of time sitting in meetings or driving between sites, you're not spending a lot of energy. In terms of mental well-being, pick up a hobby you enjoy like reading or another activity that helps you recharge.
In 2016, 60% of the largest medical device companies use acquisitions to grow. The total value of life sciences M&A is expected to surge again in 2018, surpassing $200 billion according to a report from EY. How can other medical sales professionals stay positive if their company is experiencing big shifts after a merger or acquisition?
Chris Massoll: In times of change there's opportunity. Look at consolidations or spinoffs as chance to position yourself for a new role. Capitalize on growth, both personally and professionally.
Finally, we all know that innovation happens at a lightning pace in the medical device industry. How do you keep your professional skills and sales strategies up-to-date?
Chris Massoll: I use a few approaches. One is staying connected to various trade publications. Beyond print publications, there are also many online resources you can consume content through. Stay curious. Always be learning.
Next, I'd say staying connected through various trade shows is really important. While you're there hosting customers or working a booth, take the opportunity to walk around the showroom floor. Look at what's going on in your space. Really spend time trying to understand it.
Finally, connect with your customers often. They can offer unique perspectives on new technologies that are interesting and powerful or methods of reimbursement, which may otherwise be overlooked.
Success rarely resembles a linear trajectory, so honing your ability to thrive amidst change is vital. Developing resilience can be a huge asset in your medical device sales career, helping you become more resilient and confident as a result.
Thank you Chris Massoll for sharing your insights and wisdom with us.