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Work is life, you know, and without it, there's nothing but fear and insecurity.

John Lennon,

When medical supply companies begin interviewing for a new sales position, one of the steps involved is having the job candidate ride with an experienced rep in order to give the candidate an idea of what the life of a medical rep is all about. It might be helpful; however, to have an idea what that life is like before the interview process begins. Featured below is the written diary of a medical sales rep from a Fortune 100 company. The diary includes all of the activities participated in during a one-week period. (All names have been changed, and none of the names used are intended to refer to a specific person or place in health care.)


5:30 A.M. Left home to drive 1 hour to first call at St. Mary's Hospital. Stopped along the way and bought donuts for surgery staff.

7:00 A.M. Held product in-service for operating room staff on new product they will begin using today. In-service lasted 30 minutes and there were 23 nurses present. They seemed excited about the product and agreed to use it for one month.

8:00 A.M. Met with OR business manager to discuss product ordering for new product and also showed new XXX.

8:30 A.M. Completed business review for a materials manager, which highlight previous quarter usage trends. Also, discussed interest in XXX, which is currently supplied by competitor. He agreed to entertain a price proposal from me.

9:30 A.M. Met with unit manager of the neonatal unit to demonstrate XXX. They are using a competitive product but are not happy with it because of quality concerns. She asked me to get pricing for her and some additional samples for her doctors to review.

10:00 A.M. After completing calls at St. Mary's, drove over to Smith Surgical, our local distributor. Spent 30 minutes on the phone making appointments for Friday then met with operations manager just to make sure enough inventory had come in for the St. Mary's start-up of XXX.

11:00 A.M. Met with the facility manager at Jonesville Health Clinic. That was an initial meeting with her, and she indicated that cost containment issues are driving all product decisions in her facility. She said that she would be willing to look at any products that have the potential to reduce supply costs. Also, indicated that she did not want me demonstrating any product to any end user without her prior approval. Asked her for product usage figures on competing products, in order to complete an initial proposal.

12:15 P.M. Had lunch with Kevin Wilbur, the rep for Smith Surgical, to discuss target accounts on new product launch. He agreed to ask his top five accounts to evaluate XXX. He will fax me competitive product usage and pricing if he can get it.

1:30 P.M. Held short in-service for Dr. Wilson's nursing staff to review the use of XXX. Dr. Wilson has agreed to trial the product in his office, and if he likes it will also ask the hospital to buy it.

2:15 P.M. Spent additional 30 minutes on phone making appointments. Made 6 calls and contacted 1 person.

3:00 P.M. Initial call on lab director at Caylor Hospital to demonstrate the new XXX. They were happy with existing product and said that they were not interested in changing. Last call of the day-over at 3:25.

5:00 P.M. After 80 miles of driving to get back home, made phone calls to two other distributor reps to ensure that they were bringing additional new items into stock for St. Patrick Hospital and University Hospital.

7:00 P.M. Spent 45 minutes loading car for overnight trip to Wilson City. Packed enough of XXX to demonstrate on 4 calls over 2-day period. Ended day at 7:45.


5:30 A.M. Departed for 2.5-hour drive to Wilson City. Arrived in town in time for 8:00 A.M. appointment.

8:00 A.M. Appointment with CFO at Dustin Medical Center to propose prime vendor agreement with the Medical Center. The Med Ctr. has been challenged to reduce operating expenses by 15 percent next year. They anticipate staff layoffs and are interested in any opportunities to save money. He liked the proposal and asked me to follow up with him next week. Great meeting, which ended at 9:30.

10:15 A.M. Ran late for 10:00 A.M. meeting with the labor and delivery manager at the Med Ctr. She was late as well so it worked out okay. A major competitor has been in with their XXX. She seemed to like it and was really interested in it because it was 15 percent less in price than ours. Call the office about better pricing later.

11:30 A.M. Went to a lunch meeting with the local APIC (Association for Practitioners in Infection Control) chapter. Listened to a speaker from XXX Company. Was able to meet two new infection control nurses from the area.

1:00 P.M. Met with oncology unit manager to present XXX. He did not like it at all, but said he was always willing to look at new products. Make a note to see him again in three months.

1:45 P.M. Spent an hour on phone returning customer calls and making appointments.

2:45 P.M. Final appointment at the Med Ctr. was with the sterile processing manager. She also has been looking at a competitive product. She highlighted the pressure that everyone is under to lower supply costs. I told her that I was working on a new prime vendor proposal for the hospital that would lower my product's cost in her department. She promised that she would not make any changes until she received our formal proposal.

3:15 P.M. Left the Med Ctr. and drove across town for meeting at Dr. Johnson's Orthopedic Clinic. He had seen one of our new orthopedic products at the national convention of orthopedic surgeons and wanted to take a look at it. After demonstrating it to him, he asked me to get some sterile samples for him to try in the hospital, and also asked me to call on the orthopedic head nurse at the Med Ctr.

4:30 P.M. Ran by another distributor here in Wilson City to drop off new catalogs for their customer service reps.

5:30 P.M. Checked in at hotel and followed up on phone calls to manager and Steve Miller, a local OEM rep.

6:30 P.M. Went out to dinner with Jane Lister who is the general surgery coordinator at the Med Ctr. She is a strong supporter of our products and I may need her to help champion the new prime vendor proposal we are submitting.

9:00 P.M. Back to hotel and finish up some expense reports from last week.


7:00 A.M. Checked out of hotel and drove over for meeting with the environmental services manager at Bart Memorial Hospital. She is concerned with the disposal costs associated with one of our products the hospital just began using. She claims that it will cost the hospital another $2,000 annually to dispose of XXX properly, and she wants the hospital to reconsider their decision.

7:30 A.M. Met with Judy Johnson, the infection control nurse who was primarily responsible for getting XXX into the hospital. We discussed the concerns expressed by environmental services and she indicated that it was nothing that would reverse their decision to use our product.

8:15 A.M. Hooked up with Lisa Jackson in purchasing at Bart Memorial to see if they have had anymore back orders on XXX. We have been slow in production on this product and have had to help her find substitutes on two occasions. As of today, all orders have been filled.

9:00 A.M. Went to local Kinko's and made copies of product literature, sent two faxes, and also made telephone calls for about 45 minutes.

11:00 A.M. Met with OR director, Nancy Ryan, at Belmont Surgery Center to present XXX. She is very interested because she feels we have a superior product. She will need help in convincing the doctors who own the center to switch because our product is more expensive. She asked me to try and catch Dr. Hoffman in his office today to discuss the product differences. Had Nancy call his office to let them know that I was coming.

11:50 A.M. Was able to catch Dr. Hoffman and show him the product. The cost difference is only about $1,500 so he indicated that he would support the change!

12:30 P.M. Began drive back home and made appointments on car phone while driving to the next account. Also, ate burgers through the drive-through.

1:30 P.M. Stopped at Rush County Hospital to meet initially with the materials manager. Do not have any business here and the hospital is owned by Columbia. Since we do not have a contract with Columbia, John Wilson suggested we probably would not have any opportunity to do any business there. I do not plan on going back unless National Accounts does something with Columbia.

3:00 P.M. Made final call of the day on the Diagnostic Laboratory. Received a lead here from one of our distributors. Lab manager, Jill Coleman, agreed to place a trial order provided our pricing is close to their current product.

5:00 P.M. Got back home and spent two hours on the computer working on presentations for tomorrow, bringing weekly report up to date, and also updating customer database. Finished day at 7:00 P.M.


8:00 A.M. Conducted sales meeting for sales reps and customer service reps at Smith Surgical. Went over all new product releases since last sales meeting and provided product samples they could use with customers. Introduced sales promotion program designed to reward reps who help close new business. Two-hour meeting that was very effective.

11:00 A.M. Did short product presentation to orthopedic group. Went well but didn't get much time to really cover what I needed to go over. Two of the doctors mentioned that they liked it, and the group said they would review it at a later date. I must get some support from Drs. Nephews and Flowers in order to have a shot at this business.

12:00 P.M. Lunch appointment with Gil Sanders, a local OEM rep with Regional Custom. We discussed the business at Caylor Hospital and also targeted the Thompson Medical Pavilion at the university. We will make a joint call there next week, and Gil agreed to make the necessary appointments.

1:00 P.M. Began a series of appointments at Belleview Community Hospital. The first meeting was with Jan Wilson, OR manager and we discussed ways in which we might help them improve the utilization of our products by completing a review with her head nurses in the department. We scheduled a time for me to come in next Thursday during the afternoon to meet with them.

1:30 P.M. Met with materials management to present XXX. Don Hatch views these products as commodity products, but he did agree to switch over if we were priced lower than the current supplier. He gave me competitive code numbers and usage figures and asked me to offer a proposal when I'm back in next week.

2:15 P.M. Appointment with Amy Mincer, manager of the emergency room. She had requested to see XXX through a professional journal. We reviewed the product and she called Don Hatch to let him know that she wanted to place an order for 2 cases. Went back down to see Don and called the distributor to make sure that they had the product in stock. Don did place the order.

3:30 P.M. In-service for oncology unit. Reviewed new product to be used by physicians and nurses. Highlighted functional differences between current product and ours with emphasis on ease of use with our product. Staff liked the new measurement system because it eliminates faulty readings.

4:15 P.M. Finished up day at the hospital with a quick call on Don Hatch's assistant, Mary Phillips. Mary does all of the ordering of our products for the hospital and has been complaining that she has had trouble getting some of our products through their distributor. She says that she has had no problems this week but that she will call me if anything else comes up.

6:00 P.M. Back in my office at home to make phone calls to distributor and OEM reps. Also, loaded car and prepared all sales collateral for tomorrow. Finished the day at 7:30.


7:00 A.M. Picked up sales manager at airport and had brief sales update for the territory and reviewed sales forecast for the next quarter.

8:00 A.M. Had first appointment with Parkside General Material's manager, Will Anderson. This account has been a long-time customer and I have a standing appointment with Will every Friday at 8:00. He usually has a couple of people for me to see.

8:30 A.M. Will asked me to follow up with Beth Miller in purchasing to finalize the implementation for XXX. They need approximately 2 weeks' worth of product for an initial stocking order and also need the distributor to bring committed volume into the distributor warehouse.

9:00 A.M. Meeting with Austin French, the OR director, to discuss interest in switching their XXX product line. Austin is very analytical and wanted to see performance data on all of our product as well as a complete line-item pricing analysis. We did cover all of the product data today, and he wants the pricing comparison before he takes it any further. However, he was very positive about taking a closer look.

10:00 A.M. Got a break to make phone calls and send a couple of fax follow-ups. Spent most of the time on hold but did get two appointments set for Monday.

10:45 A.M. Had brief meeting with Jennifer Coldiron, lab director. She is very unhappy with a recent change we have made in XXX. She wants to send the product back and look for something else. The change is permanent and we do not have the old product available. I arranged to come back in next week to talk to her staff about their concerns. There is a strong possibility of losing this business, but we will try to solve this next week.

12:00 P.M. Went to chapter meeting of local Association of Operating Room Nurses (AORN) for lunch. A program was presented on "Laparoscopic Instrumentation." I did hook up with one new OR director at this meeting and also saw 7 current customers. This is a monthly meeting that I regularly attend.

1:30 P.M. Met with the corporate VP for materials management for the Health Alliance of Northern Illinois, Dick Greene. This alliance consists of 8 rural hospitals totaling 1,104 beds. We have no business with this group but want to pursue it because of the committed volume they offer suppliers. All of the negotiation is done at Mr. Greene's level, but product preference is determined at the individual hospital level. They have a monthly product review meeting that is attended by the purchasing managers of each hospital.

3:00 P.M. Dropped manager off at the airport and then made it back to my office and spent the remainder of the day filling out weekly report, writing follow-up letters, and making phone calls. Finished up the week at 6:00 P.M. Friday.
Each moment in the life of a medical sales rep is filled with small steps designed to constantly move the business forward. Minutes not spent in direct customer contact are usually dedicated to planning and prioritizing the next move. For those who enjoy the psychology of persuasion and the challenge of pursuit, this field will never disappoint.
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