Medical Sales Reps Who Jump Around: What message are you sending to your customers and to future employers?

Aside from technology, I don’t change things much.  I’ve had the same car for six years, the same house for thirteen years, and both the same watch and the same wife for 25 years (and the wife is much more dependable than the watch!). The last sales job I had in the medical device industry I kept for over twenty years.

Do I ever grow tired of things?  Of course, but before I change anything, I take time to think about what quantitative and qualitative results I’m going to receive from the change.  The hard part is to take emotion out of the equation, but it’s something you need to do when you’re considering the big changes—like a job change.

I’m amazed at how much people in healthcare sales change jobs.  It’s as if they are always chasing that star, looking for the ideal job with the ideal company and selling the ideal product.  Why?  Most of the time, it’s due to emotion.  Medical sales is tough.  You don’t always win the business.  Sometimes a competitor takes your business and you want to blame your company or your product.  Where working on one’s selling skills, organizational skills and motivation would bring much better returns, many reps are drawn to the new shiny object and instead jump ship to work for somebody else.

If they start to have better sales because they have a “better” product, it seems like a good move.  But what happens when that better product gets outpaced by a competitor’s new product?  Should you make the lateral move again?   And again?  Many reps do, and it’s usually because of emotion. “I don’t like this territory so I’ll get a new one.  I don’t like this company so I’ll go work for a new one.  I don’t like my manager so I’ll go somewhere else.”   That’s all emotion.

The first time you change jobs to move into another selling position it might be a legitimate lateral move.  But often, any additional moves after that, depending on your tenure in each position can be a step backwards.  Why?

Your healthcare customers, when it comes to changing their products, companies and sales reps are like me.  They don’t like to change.  They might follow you to a new company one time, maybe twice, although that is rare these days.    But when you’re switching companies every couple of years, well, let’s just say you don’t exactly project the image of stability.  Healthcare customers like…no they LOVE stability!  When it becomes known in the marketplace that you’re a “jumper,” customers won’t think that you’ll be there for the long term and might choose to go with a sales rep that stays put.

What about future job opportunities?  One of the first things that hiring managers look for on your resume is how stable your employment record has been.  If you’ve stayed with one company like I did for a long period of time, they know you have the attitude, commitment and drive to ride out the rough spots that everyone goes through.  If all you have done is jump from one job to another, they sense that you can’t take the heat in a changing marketplace.  When their company’s business cycles down at some point, they know that you’ll be gone.  Investing time, effort, training dollars and other resources in you doesn’t seem like a good idea.  And having a revolving door in a territory kills the brand and makes a company look unstable.

Are you thinking about changing your medical sales job?  You’re probably making a bigger career decision than you realize.  The grass might seem greener on the other side of the fence, but more than likely, in a short period of time, you’ll experience the same emotions that prompted the move in the first place.  Think you’ll stay put then?

Don’t let your emotions turn every good job into a stepping stone that leads nowhere.  If you really need change,  try the new car, the new watch, or a new hobby.  The better decision is usually to keep the spouse and the job.