Episode 5 Sam Adams
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INTRO: Hello and welcome to the podcast for InsideMedDeviceSales. My name is Pat, I am your host, and it is my responsibility to introduce you to some people that can help you get to where you want to go. We are going to meet current medical device reps and learn how they got started, what the process was like for them, what their day to day activity is like, and what some of their biggest challenges are. We'll also hear about some interesting cases that did not go as planned. We will also speak with hiring managers where I will get to ask how they select candidates, what they look for, and how candidates can stand out over the competition. I will also introduce you to medical device recruiters. We will learn about the role they play in the process, different ways to highlight your strengths as a candidate, and the things all candidates should stop doing. Lastly, we are going to be speaking with the physicians that look to their reps for support. We will hear what it is they appreciate about their reps and the things great reps do to add value to cases. So thanks for being here, let's get started.
INTRO to SAM: Hello and welcome to another podcast episode for InsideMedDeviceSales. Today, I have the privilege of introducing you to Sam Adams. Sam has been in medical device sales now for two years, so I very much appreciate his perspective on the space. But I have to tell you, the creativity and the vigor with which he went after his first position in med device sales is just fantastic. It's pure genius. So I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did. Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, Sam Adams.
Pat: Alright Sam, thanks for being on the podcast, I appreciate you being here.
Sam: Hey, no, my pleasure, excited to be here.
Q: So why don't we just start off by you sharing how you got started in sales. Was medical device your first sales job, or how did you get started?
Sam: So yes, medical device was my first sales job, I got in actually right out of college. I was very lucky and fortunate. You know sales has always been in my family, my mom and dad have both been in sales. And I was really pushed, my mom works for another big medical device company, and I was very fortunate to kind of have her help and guidance. I feel like it's a career and a profession that not too many people know about, but I was lucky to know about it through my mom, and I started thinking about it as a freshman in college. I went into college saying I’m going to be a doctor, a bio major, all that and I kind of realized that wasn't the right path for me. I kind of wanted to be in more of a relationship driven role where I'm kind of, I guess kind of more of interacting with people is a better way to say it. And so a combination of that interest in medicine as well as the interest in sales kind of drove me to the medical device profession.
Q: Okay, awesome. You said you started thinking about this as a freshman in college. Did you ever consider anything else, or did you have this set as where you were going to be?
Sam: I was dead set that this is where I was going to be and I was not going to take a job out of college until I got into the medical device space. And I think I ended up waiting about probably six months after I graduated to get in. You know, people were saying you're crazy, you should just get another sales job before, but I was very stubborn and dead set on getting into the medical device industry.
Q: Well, stubborn I think works here fairly well sometimes. So that's good. So when you were, I assume that six month timeframe, you were interviewing with companies. What kind of feedback where you getting as you were going through that process?
Sam: The feedback that I was getting was, well I had actually two internships in, medical device internships, during college because I knew early on this is what I wanted to do. So the feedback that I was getting is your well prepared, you obviously have connections, that you've done your homework, you’ve done your research, but you're very young. People typically at your age don't get into this industry. And so that was pretty much the feedback I got most of the time.
Q: Okay. So when you were doing the interviewing, how did you get the interviews? Were you going through a recruiter, were you just going onto websites and sending in your resume,
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What did that look like?
Sam: I was, every single way that I could attack getting into this industry I did. So I went on Linkedln and saw every alumni from my college who is in the medical device industry whatsoever. And I sent out emails to anyone who I even had a connection with I sent out emails. I sent out probably one hundred emails to people, not asking for an opportunity, just asking for advice on how to get into, kind of asking for mentorship on getting into the industry. Then, what else I would do, I realized that, this is kind of funny, but the Starbucks by hospitals, a lot of reps would be going in and out. You could kind of tell by their scrubs. And I would I would sit and work on my resume and I would literally go up and introduce myself to them and just say, I'm assuming you're a medical device rep and I’m really looking into getting into the industry. What can I do? What advice do you have for me? That actually turned into having a few good contacts in the industry.
Pat: That is genius!
Sam: I realized that one time when I was just going into Starbucks and it was by a hospital, and it worked out. And then too, I used a recruiter at one point, and then I also just tried find every single contact that I could and ask them for advice.
Q: Perfect. Man, that Starbucks idea is fantastic. So when you started interviewing for medical sales jobs, were you surprised at all by the interview process?
Sam: I was, and it's funny because you know, that first initial interview was, you think sometimes more relaxed or sometimes more, but you know, it’s just get to know you. I was drilled with personality questions, I was drilled with going through my entire resume asking why this experience was a meaningful, how this experience would impact or make me a good employee. So I think the biggest thing for me was after my first interview, treating every single interview as very, very serious and treating it as serious and treating it as, this is going to be very tough.
Q: Okay, good. So you finally got, well, why don't you explain, what was it about the role that you have now, did they tell you why they selected you?
Sam: I think it's kind of a few things. It was how well I did my research, so how well I knew the company and I knew the role. Again, not too many people know about medical sales. And so I researched it myself, I asked reps if I could ride along with them. If not ride along with them, if I could buy them coffee. I was willing to go anywhere and everywhere at any time. So how prepared and how much I knew about the role they really like. My overall personality, I'm a very goal oriented, competitive person with a sports background. And they said, even though you don't have device or sales experience, we see your personality and the work that you have done preparing for this. This is how we think you're going to prepare in the future for your job and this is how you're going to interact with customers. So I think it’s kind of a combination of my being prepared and my, just overall personality.
Q: Okay, awesome. So can you share, and you don’t have to tell us anything about your company, but can you tell us about your role? What role are you playing right now?
Sam: So I am currently a joint replacement sales representative. I spent, and it’s in the orthopaedic industry, I’m at an orthopaedic device company. My original role, my current role is, I have a number, I have a quota. And it is, I’m a sales rep, and I spent actually a year as an associate as well.
Q: Okay. I was going to ask that. That's, I think a lot of times, especially it seems like in the orthopedic space, maybe the spine space, starting off as an associate rep is pretty common. So can you talk a little bit about that experience?
Sam: So that experience was fantastic for me. In all honesty, it was probably one of the tougher years in my life.
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I was on call, working seven days a week. And it’s actually very, very challenging role because there's, you're doing a lot of things. You're learning. First of all, you're learning how to conduct yourself in a hospital. So I had to, I think with any company, they're not going to hold your hand. So they kind of just, they throw you in there, and you are spending a lot of time learning how to interact with hospital employees, how to interact with staff, learning the surgeries, learning the trays, learning the devices. At the same time, you're also having to try to learn the business aspect of it, too. So it’s just a lot of different things and there's not too much direction there. And also, you're kind of, you’re the person that helps everyone else out. So if there's a surgery at Friday at 7:00 pm, you're the person that gets to do that. That role was really good for me to kind of learn the industry, learn everything that goes on, from not only a clinical side, but business side as well. And it's tough to not get too bogged down in the clinical side, you have to realize that you also have to learn the business as well, and I think that's one of the toughest things for most associates. They're so focused on clinical, clinical, clinical, how is this surgery done, this and that, they kind of lose sight that we’re also sales reps as well. Once you, I kind of get promoted from being an associate, there's going to be a number that you have to hit, there is going to be certain areas for growth that you're going to have to think about. So overall, I had some great mentors that really prepared me for that transition from an associate to being a rep.
Q: So you talked about learning the surgeries. What type of surgeries are you doing?
Sam: When I was an associate, I was doing foot and ankle surgeries, trauma surgeries, as well as total joint replacement. So for foot and ankle, it's plates, screws and, just plates and screws, kind of foot and ankle surgeries. For trauma, it was any broken bone, really. So broken bone could be fixed with a plate, a screw, or nail. And then, what my role I'm in now is total joint replacement, so total knee replacement, total hip replacement, and total shoulder replacement.
Q: Okay, so the whole body?
Sam: Yep, the whole body.
Q: Okay. Is there anything that surprised you about the role?
Sam: Oh, there’s stuff that surprises me every day about the role. I think the biggest thing was the autonomy that, or not the autonomy but the freedom that you get. I have an amazing manager, but I don't talk to him that much. He expects me to get my work done and if I need help, I’ll come to him. Especially being kind of a younger person in the role, that definitely did surprise me, is kind of having that freedom, especially initially.
Pat: Kind of nice though, right?
Sam: Oh, I love it. It's great now.
Q: So who are your customers? Not names, but are we just talking about orthopedic surgeons? Do you work with anybody else?
Sam: Oh, I wish I was just talking about orthopedic surgeons, that would be nice. And from at least what I've heard, it used to be more so back in the day, you would just talk to the doctors. But now, it seems like I am dealing with administration, I am dealing with anything up to the C-Suite level. If it’s a big deal, I’m dealing with higher ups at the hospital, but also OR coordinators, purchasing managers, as well as selling the orthopedic surgeons on my certain implants.
Pat: That's a great point, I'm glad you brought that out, because I think that may surprise some people. And that has changed over the last five to seven years. I remember when I got started, my first medical sales job was in sports medicine. So I remember distinctly walking into a hospital, I had just done a case with a surgeon, I had to run out to my car to get something, we were in-between cases. And as I was walking into the lobby of the hospital, he was walking from the OR area back over to his office because he had to go see a patient, and I had this shiny object in my hand.
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And he stopped in the middle of the lobby and he pointed at it and he goes, what is that? And it was something for an ACL surgery. And he walked over to me and said let me see that. And he's looking at it and he's like, can I use this at two o'clock? Sure. I mean, there was no Purchasing Manager, there was no OR manager, there was no conversation about cost, what did it replace, is it on contract? None of that was discussed, and that's kind of how it went back then, but that has changed drastically. So I'm glad that you brought that to light because it's a reality that all reps are facing. You have to engage with the administrative side of this business, or you just can't be successful.
Sam: Definitely. I mean, I was just in a case yesterday, Friday, I think I was at the hospital until 9:00 PM. And it’s a very frustrating thing too, because there are seven doctors at one hospital I work at and I think I've sold pretty well to three or four of them, and they want to use my product, but it's very tough because we're not on contract there and there's nothing they can do. And so you kind of have to build consensus within a group of doctors to, when that next contract’s up, of trying to at least get a seat at the table, and a lot easier said than done.
Q: Right, absolutely. So you talked about the different types of customers. You’ve got your physician customers, and you've got your administrative customers. Can you describe how you interact with those different types of customers? What does that look like?
Sam: It's definitely a very different interaction. I would say that physicians are getting more and more economically cost sensitive. They're starting to realize prices, but they're still, it’s a very clinical conversation with physicians whereas administration, it is obviously what's best for the patients of that hospital, but it's also what's most cost effective. It's more of, well yes, this initial price might be higher, but you're readmission rate is going to be lower, so it's going to save you costs in the long run. So it's a lot more, kind of cost driven from the administrative side.
Pat: And that's definitely, I mean it sounds like you're picking up on this early in your career, so that's awesome. But it's a skill to be able to translate or communicate a clinical benefit into an economic benefit that the administrator’s going to listen to. So that's an art and it sounds like you're picking that up quickly, so that's good.
Sam: I’m trying to.
Q: What do you think is the most challenging part of your job?
Sam: I would definitely say dealing with it seems like five or ten things at once. I’ll give a perfect example. Yesterday, I had nothing going on, it was a Friday, those are usually slower days. About 8:15 I’m at a Starbucks, typical med device rep getting some work done. I get a call from one doctor who says, hey, can you bring lunch to the office? I know you've been trying to get in. Yeah, of course I can. Twenty minutes later, I get a call from a hospital. Hey, we have a total hip add on, can you come out here? All right, yeah, I think I can. And then fifteen minutes after that, I get a call from another doctor. Hey, we have a revision, can you have the implants out here by 2:00? And so, it's kind of dealing with those sudden changes and dealing with multiple things at once that you're not really prepared for, but it’s also one of the most exciting parts the job. It was definitely very challenging, but kind of, I love that rush and, kind of adrenaline rush, I compare it to how I felt before football games. It's very challenging but very exciting at the same time.
Q: So how do you deal with that, when you've got, you just had three things put on your schedule. How do you triage that?
Sam: There's only one way to do it and it’s through effective communication with your colleagues. The second I got off the phone with the third doctor, I am calling my warehouse to get implants shipped out. I am calling people that I work with, associates and other reps that are on my team, saying, hey, alright, you're most comfortable with this doctor, you're going to go out here.
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Can you go and cover this case, where I’m going to try to make it at the end? And it's really done through just effective communication and kind of willingness to help people at your company out as well.
Q: Ok, good. You don't have to give any trade secrets here, but how do you differentiate yourself from your competitors?
Sam: I think most reps will say I feel like my product has great clinical benefits, especially for a specific patient indication. One of the things that I've learned, and this is very hard to do, but really kind of showing the physician, the nurse, the tech, and really kind of the whole entire hospital staff, that you actually care about the patient outcomes. And I think there's people in this industry that might not. But truly showing that, you know what, even if you don't use my product, I will still help out, and I will give you another rep’s number, because that is better for that specific patient. And really being an asset to that doctor so that he knows, he or she knows, that if I'm going to call Sam, he is going to give me the best answer, no matter what. And I think that's the way to set yourself apart from the competition, is truly developing that partnership with the hospital staff, as well as the physician and being an asset and resource to them, no matter if it benefits you in the short term or not.
Q: That's fantastic. You talk about being an asset, can you describe your role once you're in the OR, you're in a procedure, what role do you play?
Sam: You know what, it's different every single time. Sometimes a lot of people will say device reps are just in there to open boxes. You know what, in some surgeries, we have customers that have used our product for ten to fifteen years and I'm in there, we're not talking much about the procedure, because they know how to do it, the scrub techs know how to do it. But there have been other times where I've had to be a very, I'm not necessarily saying this is what you should do, but, hey, Dr. So and So, I was in a case with this other doctor last week, and he said it really helped him out to do this. What are your thoughts on that? So kind of being that asset in the room. There's some times where, it's kind of crazy to think about, but even the busiest total joint surgeon, they're doing seven or eight a week, whereas I'm seeing thirty surgeries week. I am just seeing more than they are. So being able to be a resource from other things that I've seen, that's pretty common. That's pretty common to get asked, and especially, hey, how do I do this, or hey, what are other people doing in this situation? It's a very common question to ask. As well as knowing my instruments inside and out. This tray has this, this tray has that, this instrument goes together just like this. You're going to have to take it, flip it upside down, put it together this way. So it's usually a pretty active role in the OR.
Q: Ok, good. I was going to ask about things that you do to add value, but I think you just answered that. Being able to share what you see because, as you said, you're in more cases than your busiest surgeon, so being able to take that experience and share that, particularly with surgeons that maybe aren't as busy, and they don't see some of the complex procedures that you might do two, three, four, five times a week. I imagine they appreciate that?
Sam: No, they definitely do. And one of the biggest things, and I think it comes down to communication, is relaying to that physician, one, that you're an expert with your product, but two, that you're not trying to one up them, or you're not trying to look smarter in the room than they are. And you’re just there to add value and to overall help the patient outcome. And sometimes that’s a tough thing to get across.
Q: Sure, absolutely. So one of the things I typically like to ask, and it might be a little bit different for you, but I like to ask about how your role has changed since you got started in the business, but you've been doing this for what, a couple years?
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Sam: I’m two years in. I’ve been a rep for about a year now, and I was an associate for a year. And even in the short amount of time that I have been there, still there have been changes in the industry. I think one of the biggest changes I've seen is just how cost sensitive every single hospital is. And it does not matter if it's one of my big total knee femur implants that cost thousands of dollars, or if it's a little drill bit that cost $150. I'm constantly getting questions on every single bill that we send in. I think I got one this morning for example, on a Saturday morning.
Pat: It never stops.
Sam: It never does. My phone is on twenty-four/seven. But I think that I've seen that change be very prevalent in this role, and I think it's going to continue into the future.
Q: I would agree with you. Can you talk about what's driving the orthopedic space right now? Is there a new technology? Is there a new technique? What's exciting in that space right now?
Sam: I think one of the big things that are coming out in orthopedics is robotics. I think it's very interesting. A few companies are coming out with different technologies, whether it's navigation, whether it's an actual robot, whether it’s an arm-assisted robot. I think that is going to be the future orthopedics. And I think it comes down to a lot of reasons why. One, marketing, it’s a great marketing tool for a hospital to have. And I think it’s a great marking tool because there are benefits of newer technology, especially as those results come out. And it’s not necessarily taking over for a surgeon, but it's an aid for the surgeon in the room. So I think that's going to be a player for years to come in the orthopedic industry. As well as new and improved instruments. I don't think implants, implants are changing a little bit, but new and improved instruments for streamlined, easier procedures.
Q: And are the orthopedic companies developing their own robots or are you partnering with companies like Intuitive Surgical?
Sam: I think it's more partnering or even purchasing. So I don't know how many companies are organically engineering their own robot. I think it's more acquiring smaller companies and then engineering it from there.
Q: Okay. Can you tell me about the strangest case you've been in?
Sam: Oh, yeah. There have definitely been a few. There is…
Pat: Without mentioning names.
Sam: No names. There was a really interesting one. This is the one I always kind of tell the friends and family about my job. It was a Saturday, I was still an associate, so I was doing the trauma surgeries and I was on call for the weekend. I had worked probably from about 8:00 AM till 6:00 pm at the hospital. I am so tired. I go to get some dinner, I go to my apartment and I crash. And about 1:00 AM, I got a call from the hospital, hey, there’s a distal femur fracture, you have to get in here right away. I roll out of bed, all right, I’ll be there in a sec. And it was a gunshot to the distal femur, so the lower part of your femur. And it was actually very interesting to see that and to be in the room when they're taking the bullet fragments out and everything like that. And then really being able to assist that surgeon from my experience, like a level one trauma center, being able to help that surgeon out on stuff that I've seen before.
Pat: That would be, that would wake you up, I would imagine.
Sam: Yeah, it definitely did, it was fun.
Q: What advice would you give somebody that thinks that medical device sales is where he or she wants to be?
Sam: The biggest advice is first, do your research. Know what this industry entails, because
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I feel like a lot of people have this vision of what medical device reps is or what being a medical device sales rep is. But they don't realize, one, the long hours, they don't realize the dirtier parts of the job. You know, again,
Q: What do you mean by that?
Sam: I mean, we'll you are in the OR, you are resetting trays that are sometimes bloody, you're putting gloves on and you're doing all these things. It's sometimes not the most, you're taking in totes of implants from your car to a hospital. So sometimes it’s not the most glorious job as people think it is. So I think understanding the negative aspects of the job as well as the positive aspects, and once you do that and you're like, okay, I can handle long hours, I can handle some of the tougher parts of this job, then I would really recommend reaching out to as many people as possible. Network, network, network in as many different ways as possible. Whether it's a physician, or a manager or someone that works in a hospital, reach out to every single person that you possibly can to try to get advice. And I think one of the biggest, one of the best things that I ever got from one of my mentors was don't ask for a job, ask for advice and you’re a lot more likely to get into a job from that.
Pat: Good advice.
Sam: So really, just ask for advice. And you know, I'm in a very fortunate situation, I realize that, but I wouldn't be in this situation without people helping me, and I think that's true for a lot of people in this industry. So I'm more than, I can't tell you, probably at least once a week I'll talk to someone who's interested in getting into medical device. I'm more than willing to do that because it's kind of you know, pass it along, people helped me, I wouldn't be where I was today without the help of other people.
Pat: That's awesome, that's fantastic. And I'm sure people that listen to this, you've already given some great tips and tricks on how to get out there and network, and that's fantastic. That Starbucks idea is fantastic.
Q: Sam, what would you be doing if you weren't doing this?
Sam: Oh, wow, I don't know, probably some other type of sales I guess. I don't know, I can't imagine myself sitting behind a desk. I can't imagine myself in a different industry, but I would have to say some type of sales, from selling copiers or selling insurance or something like that.
Pat: Copiers is not fun. I speak from experience.
Sam: I forgot about that.
Q: So are you on social media? How can people reach out to you just to try to connect and maybe seek some more advice from you?
Sam: Definitely, I’m on LinkedIn, my name is Sam Adams, I graduated from Wabash College. Once you go to the profile and see a really attractive guy in the picture, that's me. I’m kidding. But no, anyone who's listening to this feel free to add me on LinkedIn. I would be more than willing to help out, talk, and help however I can.
Pat: That's awesome. Sam, I really appreciate you doing this. I think some people are going to really get some great ideas just from listening to your experience and the path that you took. So thank you very much for being willing to share with everybody out there.
Sam: I had a great time, really, thanks for having me on.
Pat: Oh, my pleasure. Take care, Sam.