The Entitlement Mentality and Medical Sales

I get frequent calls from students graduating from college who want to know how to land a job in medical sales.  Recently, I had a call from a young man named Shane, who asked me some questions.  I don’t think he liked my answers.

Shane asked, “Where is the best place to send my resume to get hired?”

I ask a simple question, “Why would anyone who is looking to hire for a medical sales position want to see your resume?”

Shane, a bit surprised said, “What, are you kidding me?  I just got my bachelor’s degree from…” and he named a respected University in the northeast.

I said, “Congratulations Shane.  What did you get your degree in?”

“Computer Science.”

A bit curious, I asked, “Shane, why did you study computer science if you want to go into medical sales?”

“Well, I like video games and thought I would do that, but I can’t get a job in that field and I heard that you can make good money selling medical equipment, so I want to try that.”

“Shane, tell me about your sales experience.”

Shane seemed annoyed and surprised at the question.  He just said, “What?”

I repeated the question.  “Tell me about your sales experience.”

A bit agitated and annoyed with me, he responded.  “I don’t have any sales experience.  I’m really overqualified to sell so I think I should be able to get a job pretty easily.”

The silence was now on my end of the phone.  I wanted to bring this young man to some level of reality.  But first I wanted to be sure that I understood his expectations.

“Shane, what kind of job did you have in mind?”

“My fraternity brother’s dad works selling x-ray machines or something.  He pulls something like two or three hundred K with a company car.  I don’t know if I can find something like that but I’m willing to start at a lower level and work my way up.”

I figure, now we’re getting somewhere.  He knows he’ll need to “work his way up.”  I asked, “Shane, what kind of a starter position do you think you’re qualified for?”

He said, “I don’t know.  Whatever I can get.  I’ll work for a hundred K to start if they give me a car and benefits.  I’m a smart guy.  Do you know what companies I should send my resume to?”

Realizing he wasn’t going to acknowledge the reality of his situation on his own, plus the fact that my time was limited, I needed to just get to the point.

“Shane, there are talented and experienced people who already have medical sales experience and years and years of business-to-business selling experience.  Some companies receive 100 or more resumes for each job they post and many never get posted.  Medical sales is about sales.  Sometimes clinical experience is preferred, but most of the time, companies want to see a history of sales success.  If you’re serious about getting into this industry, I can make some recommendations about getting a starter job helping a distributor or sales representative as a helper, or you can go land yourself a position selling copy machines or postal meters or some other business equipment or service.  But truthfully, if you’re lucky enough to land a starter job with a distributor it’s not going to pay anywhere near 100K and if you land a B2B sales job, your pay will be based on commission.  If you can sell, you’ll do great!”

Shane sounded frustrated.  He said, “Nah, that’s not going to work for me.  I need a guarantee.  Maybe I’ll do something else.  I need to make some serious scratch.  I didn’t go to college for six years (six years?) to have to bust my ass for 50 or 60K.  Thanks for your time.”

He hung up.

Not all the calls I get are like Shane’s.  Many college graduates acknowledge that they will need to prove themselves and rise in the ranks if they want the best medical sales jobs that offer the greatest income opportunities.

While the current state of the medical device industry is sound (yes, it’s changing, but it’s not going away), landing jobs requires more qualifications, not less, and keeping those jobs is going to require serious commitment and performance.  Those who got by as “farmers,” i.e., being good enough to maintain the business, but not grow it, will be relegated more to a sales support role with a reduced compensation.  The value of the “hunter” will increase, for the hunter makes more and more money for his company every quarter of every year.  Hunters go after their prey and don’t wait for someone or some thing to feed them.

Entitlement is the kiss of death in this industry.  If you think the world, your employer, your customers or anyone else owes you…get over it.  No one cares how long you’ve been in the territory or brought donuts to the hospital.  If you’re not consistently creating value for your customers and your company, you’re a dinosaur facing extinction…or uncertainty like Shane.