Working in the field of spine medical sales is not just a job, but an extraordinary expedition driven by purpose, resilience, and ingenuity. In today’s episode, we dive into the world of spine medical sales with Taylor Laneville. He is a dynamic individual who transitioned from being an organic chemist to a highly esteemed medical sales consultant. Taylor shares the ins and outs of medical sales, particularly in the field of spine surgery. He also shares the highs and lows of his career, from navigating a new industry to balancing caseloads. He emphasizes the importance of attention to detail, endurance, and the insatiable hunger for knowledge that drives success in this field. Taylor also touches on groundbreaking innovations in spine surgery, particularly the rapidly emerging field of endoscopic procedures. But Taylor talks about more than just the business side in this episode. He discusses the importance of networking, building relationships, and having a growth mindset for a successful career in this field. Tune in now and discover the world of spine med sales.
- Book – The Choice by Edith Eger
- Movie/Show – Grey’s Anatomy
- Food/Restaurant – Bateau, in Seattle
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All You Need To Know About Spine Med Sales With Taylor Laneville
We have with us another special guest who goes by the name of Taylor Laneville. He is the story of what happens when you take NCAA hockey, organic chemistry, and spine medical sales. I am not going to give it away. I know you are intrigued. Thank you for reading. I do hope you enjoy this interview.
Taylor, how are we doing?
Good. How are you doing?
Fantastic. No complaints. Why don’t you tell everybody who you are and what you do?
I am in the spine and pelvic space. I sell devices for surgery that involve everything in the sacral pelvic region. We do some pelvic trauma, spinal deformity, and primary upside joint fusions. Those are the three spaces we exist in. It is a lot of fun. I love my job. It is what I focus on day to day.
Let’s talk about the spine. What is the rigor of the job like? Take us to a day in life. When you are getting up, do you have command over your day? Are you waking up, and it is whatever happens? Give us the whole story from the moment you wake up to the moment you set it down. What is happening?
On a typical day, when there are cases involved, I’m up early. I like to get up at least an hour before I get out of the house to get my day going. You get to a case 30 to 45 minutes before. In those 30 to 45 minutes, that is when your day kicks off. Granted, once my phone is on and emails are coming in and texts, I will get back to those.
Those first 30 to 45 minutes at the hospital are important because you are making sure that your X-ray techs are caught up, your equipment is up, and your equipment is sterile. I like to be in the room when my trays are open. That way, I can make sure it is on the field. It is sterile, and I don’t have anything to worry about when the surgeon walks into the room. The hospital would like to know if the implants are there early. I always end up walking those in.
The first 30 to 45 minutes are regular on a day-to-day basis, but you are at the mercy of the hospital. The start times are usually 7:00 to 7:30. I’m at the hospital at 6:30-ish on a day-to-day basis. Depending on the type of case I have will define in the hospital all day long. I’m using time in between cases or in the hallways to maybe catch other docs I want to talk to.
If it is a shorter day where it’s a quick case and I have the afternoon, I will grab a bite to eat after my case. I will go out in the field and make sales calls. The one thing I learned in the industry is the saying, “Disciplined and doing the discipline things every day are what lead to success.” That is a typical day. I will usually get home about finishing time for most people’s workdays. If I get home a little early, I have to catch up on emails and everything else that I either passed up throughout the day or went off at a time that I couldn’t look at my phone.
Would you say that 2 or 3 weeks out, you know exactly where you are and where you are going to be? Is it much more week by week, and it changes dramatically? What is happening?
I wish I could say a week out, I knew where I was going to be, but you should probably know from the industry. It can be two days before a surgery schedule forgets to call and block time opens up or when we are doing some of the pelvic trauma stuff. If a case comes in, they go through 48 hours of observation, and we are ready to go.
I like to plan my days on a Friday afternoon, with the caveat and little star on my paper that this is the plan. There is also plan B, C, and D. Everything can shift at all times. If you are going to step into the industry, one thing you have to know, and it was an adjustment for me, is it changes all the time. Depending on what you know, the sector you are in, you are in the device, orthopedics, general surgery, or whatever you happen to be in, you are all going to have those changes that happen all the time. Is your change hospital? Is it lunch scheduling? What is going to change? Everyone can share the fact that everyone has a plan for the week. The week, somewhere along the line, hits a hiccup or two.
What would you say is your favorite thing about being in the spine?
It is a great space to build strong relationships. I enjoy working with the spine, neurosurgeons, and their teams because what I have found out at the hospitals I work at is it is always the same scrub tech and circulator. The PAs are all extremely highly skilled. All PAs are, but the spine ones take an interest in the surgical side of things because they have been in surgery for so long. When you see a familiar face all the time, you are building a relationship with that room. I enjoy that about it. There is a lot to learn and a lot of variants in the cases.
For every spinal deformity, you are doing different coronal and sagittal balances and trying to fix everything. It is fun to be in those cases and watch those surgeons put that puzzle back together. When your part comes up, if you can be an asset in the room and bring some value, that is always nice. They always know what they are doing, but there is a straightforward case where they don’t need to ask you a question, but it is nice to be in there. It’s cool to watch them work and problem-solve throughout that entire procedure.
Talk to us a little bit about the competitive nature of your role. What does the competition look like in your space?
In the company I’m with, we have a lot of niche products that put us in our own space. That is good because, with a great product with a great company that produces good data, competition is easy to fight off. In the spine space, there is a lot of competition, especially with the advancements in robotics and navigation. Navigation and robotics are going to the ASC. You have this big spread of companies that will come in with these super-specialized products that fit with their robots. Once the robot is in there, you are competing on the outside.
A lot of the smaller companies, like the one that I’m with, in comparison, that is where the competition is. Is your device compatible? If it is not compatible, you, as the rep, are responsible for figuring out how your instrumentation can be best utilized with the platform they are using. That is a lot of fun. It is where you can build a lot of value and street cred with your surgeons if you are like, “We can make this work if you want to use it.” When it does, they look at you like, “This works. Let’s keep doing this.”
The competition is friendly because the guys who are at the big companies who are doing the whole spine posterior hardware and the cages have such a strong relationship with those surgeons that they want to help you because they care about the patient. That’s one cool thing about the space is everybody cares about the patient. That is why we are all there. It is competitive, but it is a friendly competition.One cool thing about the space is everybody cares about the patient. That's why we're all there. Click To Tweet
Speaking of competition, let’s go back to some of your history and see how you got to where you are now. You were an NCAA hockey player. Talk to us about that life. Take us back to college. What was the outlook? What were you thinking you were going to be doing?
I went to school out in Worcester, Massachusetts. I had a ton of fun. I played hockey out there for four years. I came in and didn’t know what I was going to do. I was a business major. A year and a half in, I was learning in this class, and I was like, “I can’t listen to this guy anymore” I went and changed my major to pre-med. I walked down to the registrar that day, and I was like, “I’m out. I’m going somewhere else.” I left and called back home. I was like, “I changed my major.” They were like, “You are a year and a half. What do you mean you changed your major?” I was like, “I’m going pre-med.”
I did that and focused at that point on the science of it all because I have always been analytical and driven that way. I got into it. I did a lot of cancer research. When I came out, my whole plan was to get a job in research for a year, go to medical school, and go from there. A lot of people who are pre-med have a plan like that. What ended up happening was I moved back to the West Coast and ended up going into organic chemistry, which is a class that anyone who has a science background hates. It is the worst.
You struggle to make that one fun.
The next thing I know, I’m in a science career. I ended up getting into a company that was small and took over the organic extractions department, where I had a team of five scientists in the emergency response lab. There has been some big stuff going on with the plane hijacking in Seattle a couple of years ago.
For the emergency responses, we were able to do the cleanup projects for those and analysis for what needed to be done. It was a cool job. After several years, I was like, “I got no windows. I can’t see outside. I’m in a lab for ten hours a day. I need to change.” That is when I got pointed in the direction of medical sales and started to move my way down that road.
Before we jump into your journey into medical sales, you have to share some stories. What was that job like? If you can, share with us what was one of the craziest things you have experienced in that role.
We had a client come in. Everything has a hold time in science. After a certain date, it is no longer accepted by the EPA as a positive result or a viable thing for court documents. This is why I knew that people talked about the long hours of medical device sales. One night, the samples got there at 2:00 PM. They all needed to be done and extracted by midnight. They wanted the data the next day. For anyone who has done any analysis and organic chemistry, it takes 5 to 6 hours to get that analysis done, plus the machine has to run everything else.
I started doing it at 2:00. I got everything on solvent by midnight. I slept from 1:00 AM to 3:00 AM on the couch in the break room. I got back up, went back to work, and we got all the data to the client. That was the craziest thing because it was like a sludge from the sound. It was gross because organic chemistry is not clean most of the time. It is a lot of dirt, everything you are sifting through trying to make things happen. The train crashed out in Seattle a few years back. It derailed. That was crazy because that was another 24-hour turnaround. Hundreds of jars of samples were coming in. They needed it for the investigation. Everything was run in the mill besides that. I’m turning and burning all day.Organic chemistry is not clean most of the time. Click To Tweet
How did it happen? Was it a gradual like, “I got to leave this?” Did you say, “I’m leaving now and I’m going to explore something else?” How did you stumble upon medical sales?
My fiance showed me that there were options in medical sales, which was great because she is my biggest supporter. All the kudos to her for that. My stepdad has a golf tournament where he golfs with a bunch of people in cardiology, renal, and GI. They are all in different specialties, but they are all medical sales. That was another entry point or viewpoint. After talking to some of those guys, I was like, “You are telling me I can use my whole pre-med background, get back into medicine, and do it in a different route? Let’s see how I can navigate this.” That was the starting point between those guys and my fiance.
How long ago was this?
This was in 2018. Almost 2019 is when I first started to look. I ended up using my resources through my stepdad and getting an interview with one of the big companies. I didn’t know how to interview. I didn’t know anything about the industry. My resume looked like a scientist, not a salesperson. They were like, “You got to have some sales experience for this thing.” I had to go back to square one and figure out, “There has got to be a way to do this.” My first entry point was that mistake. From there, when you fall on your face first, it is easy to pick yourself back up and keep working.When you fall on your face first, it's easy to pick yourself back up. Click To Tweet
What was the ultimate first gig you did get?
The first gig was as a surgical sales associate with Summit Surgical, a distributor of Arthrex. That was in the foot and ankle. The thing with Arthrex is because it has a great team atmosphere and good training, you end up in sports med cases, rotator cuffs, and hips. You end up in everything, even though your specialty is focused on one thing. Everyone is expected to know about biologics. You get the whole gamut of orthopedics tossed at you through a fire hose.
If you can go back and say how long it took you to get to a space where you knew what you were doing, how many months it was or years, be honest.
The basic stuff, the hammer toes, and the simple foot and ankle stuff came in a few months. Once I left Summit Surgical, I was still learning the complex foot cases, how to define fractures and X-rays, what to look for, and gaining some of the concepts in foot and ankle and how these surgeons work and operate in their thought process.
Anyone coming into the industry should be aware that whether it is day 1 or day 800, you are still going to be learning because it is important. Medicine is evolving, new surgeons are coming through, and everybody is learning all the time. That is one thing about the industry that people need to focus on when they come in. That is why I can agree that it is a great industry, but it is not always for everybody. You always have to be curious and learn the whole time.
You know what we do here as an organization when it comes to helping professionals get positions. What is your take on what is available now, resources like ours that can help someone get one of these roles in three months? What’s your take on that?
I wish I had a resource like that to get me a role in three months because it took me about a year and a half of cold calling on LinkedIn having conversations like twenty-minute phone calls over lunch, and learning as much as I could about the industry because people will help you. You also have to reach out to other people that you can get a few to get on the phone because people are busy. When you are not in the industry, you don’t realize how busy people are.
This resource for people looking to get in that maybe have already had some career stuff and need a push, or they need a way to learn how to interview for these jobs is a great resource. It is one I wish I had had when I was doing this because I would have been in the industry a lot earlier than I finally got in. I’m here now. I have no complaints. It is a great resource for everyone coming in.
A lot of our readers want to get into any type of medical sales. Some of them are in different medical sales like OB-GYN, endoscopy, pharmaceutical sales, or diagnostic testing sales. They have thought about, “I would like to be a spine rep one day. I wonder what that life is like.” Talk to us a little bit about your top three things someone should consider and check themselves about before they try to get into the spine.
There are a few things. One, how is your attention to detail because even the most basic trained spine has a lot of instruments? Foot and ankle were the same way. That was a nice transition. Attention to detail is huge in the spine. What is your endurance like? A lot of these spine surgeries and these cases are big cases where you are going T10 to the pelvis, big scoliosis cases, it is endurance for the surgeon, staff, and reps. You will get to the hospital at 6:30 AM. You might not leave until 4:00 PM. You are in the OR the whole time. You might step out for some water, grab a coffee, or have a bar in your bag. It is a lot of endurance.
These surgeons won’t even leave to go to the bathroom. It is something about when you are in the OR, and everyone is on the same mission. It is an endurance race. It is a long marathon. Something to be aware of is it is challenging there. After that, you have to run trays. You have to stay after to clean up all your stuff.
The attention to detail and the amount of endurance. Can you process all the information? It is coming at you all the time. There is so much to know, especially when you get to the level of being a spinal consultant, where you are going over pre-op CTs, you are helping plan the cases, you are talking to the surgeon, and you start throwing in robotics, and navigation. It gets hectic. Do you want to keep learning all the time? Do you want to have these long marathon cases? How is your attention to detail? If you can check all those boxes, it is a great space to be in. It is amazing.
On the flip side of that, besides saying the opposite of the things you said, what are some red flags you need to be mindful of if you are stepping into the spine?
One thing is with a company where you are going to be trying to build the business, and there is not an established business there. It is a difficult space. Spine guys are busy. Their OR times are long. They don’t have a ton of free time. A lot of times, the relationships they have with their reps until their vacancy opens up are strong. You have to come in with a different product or way to get in. It is possible. People do it all the time, but it is a challenging space.
It is difficult to be in and to get a leg in a lot of these doors. It takes up to two years to get the first case or even a meeting with some of these guys because they are busy. They have been using what they have used for a long time. Those companies are constantly coming out with new stuff to try. Why do they want to try yours? That is one of the most challenging or red flag things about it. It is something to be wary of if you can’t take a no. If you can’t overcome the brick wall in front of you sometimes because that is how it feels, that is something to be wary of.
If you can, share the biggest innovation in the spine, you are most excited about.
It is cool to see where this endoscopic thing is going. The sports med guys were scoping the hip. Arthrex has the nanoscope. They are scoping the first TMT joint and the foot. They are scoping the ankle joint. They are doing debridement. RIWOspine and Joimax are taking this endoscopic ball and full speed ahead going with it.
It is going to be interesting to see how the space develops around that and how minimally invasive things can truly get. If you haven’t read. There’s a surgeon out in Idaho, Dr. Roland Kent. He has a podcast. He talks about robotic spine surgery. He eloquently talks about what minimally invasive means in spine surgery.
It is more minimally invasive than not. Instead of your whole spine being open on the table, you are only going through a little bit of layers. He explains it well. This endoscopic space is going to be interesting to see how viable the corrections they are getting, the fusions, the success rates, and the patient outcomes when you are poking holes in the fascia versus making these longer incisions. That is the most exciting innovation coming through the spine and for everyone wanting to get into the industry to be aware of.
We are going to switch gears a little bit. Talk to us about the social side of life as a spine sales rep. Is your lifestyle dominated by all your friends and workout buddies who are spine surgeons that you are a spine surgeon without the title? Does it look a lot different and you have your own separate social life?
I have my own separate social life. I’m not going to sit here and tell everybody about the work-life balance. Any medical sales are great, especially device sales. I have a group of friends. We hang out, go to concerts, and go to Mariners games. The Kraken is in town. I’m out here from Seattle. We do all that stuff together. I also do hang out with my customers like my spine surgeons and other reps. Depending on the company you are at, it is always like a team event. Everyone was tight-knit. You create good friendships and relationships through that.
I don’t think it takes over your life fully. I don’t think that there is anyone I have talked to who doesn’t have their other friends. What happens is the relationships you build in the OR with some of these surgeons become your friends outside. It is separate from work. I don’t think I end up only hanging out with medical people, at least not my experience yet. Some people have gone down that road, but I try to keep all my friends there. I still have all my hockey friends from growing up. I hold onto everybody if I can.
What is your life philosophy? What gives you the motivation to get up every day, give this career your all, and go all out? What is your driving force?
The driving force and everybody who goes into the industry to have that is you are doing something to help people. If you are concerned about patient outcomes and look at it that way that what you are doing is helping your mom or grandma one day, that is a good driving force and can help you push yourself on the days that are hard. The other thing is the ability to stay disciplined. That helps with all that, but having a goal and a why. The overarching why of medical sales is you are helping people no matter what specialty you are in. That’s a great driving force and a thing I believe in is if I’m doing something that helps, it is easy to get up and do it.The overarching why of medical sales is that you're helping people no matter what specialty you're in. Click To Tweet
One last question for you, and we are going to go to the lightning round of questions. I love what you said. You touched upon how you have your casework, but you have to go out there and make sales calls. I have seen in medical and device sales a lot of professionals are challenged in how to get that right balance of caseload versus getting new business. You are a senior in this space. You are in the middle of it. You got your place to peak performance. You are newly operating at that level. What has helped you create that balance? Would you even call it a balance? Would you call it something else versus getting that new business and covering all your cases?
It is a balance. I don’t think the workload is balanced because it is a lot. Anyone that comes into the industry, every company you go with, there are going to be 10 to 20 people on stage every year. They are going to be the best salespeople, the people who have gone out there and killed it. A lot of times, it is repeat offenders. They are A players.
The biggest thing you can do is, once you are in the club, everyone wants to help everybody in the club. Call people, talk to them, and find out what they do, find out their habits, how they navigate their day, and how they set their weeks up. If you do that, you can take little pieces of other people who have been successful and be like, “I don’t feel like that is going to work for me and the way I operate, but this part will work for me.” You can build your skillset and habits based on what everybody else has seen work and has worked for them and create a pathway for you to be successful.
That is masterfully said. Thank you for that.
To find the balance between generating new business and covering cases, I don’t want to sit there and say that it is a balance because to do both, you are putting in a lot of hours. One thing important for anybody to know is when you get hired at a company, there are always A-players. They are always on stage. They are repeat offenders. They are there all the time. It is never different people. It always seems to be the same because they do the same things all the time, which makes them successful.
What I did, especially when I came over to my company, is I called all of the A-players. A lot of them are from around the country. I was lucky enough to have a few of them on my team. I asked them, “What do you do day to day? What habits have you put in place?” If you have these conversations, you start to look like, “With my personality, this will be successful. This part might not be something that I want to do all the time. I’m not going to try that out yet. Let’s try this.”
You can build your own set of tools, skills, and habits to create something like, “This is how I balance this. This is what I do on Fridays.” You design your whole week based on a combination of what everybody else does to create your pathway to success. That is how you find the balance between those things.
Make use of the time you are allowed to be in the OR because if you have a reason to be at the hospital, it is a great time to try and catch some new business, a surgeon you want to talk to, and maybe a PA. If your company educates PAs and APPs, it is always a good time in the OR because you have a reason to be in the hospital. Those are the two things to do.
We are going to have our lightning round. You have less than ten seconds to answer a series of questions. Are you ready?
Yes, I’m ready.
There is no balance to these answers. First question, what is the best book you have read in the last several months?
I’m reading The Choice by Edith Eger. She is a psychologist who survived the holocaust. She tells her story for the first time and also talks about our patients. It is incredible. It is a good book.
Is it a deeper understanding of what it means to make the right choice, to make a choice for yourself, or something else entirely?
It is a deeper understanding of how to make choices and choose to be happy and the choices that we make in life. It is a good book. I can’t recommend it enough. I like a little bit of history. It dives into some history and personal experiences. I highly recommend it.
What is the best movie or TV show you have seen in the last several months?
I’m watching Grey’s Anatomy for the first time. After being in the industry for several years, I’m finally doing it. I finally put my hands up and my white flag.
Are you hooked?
I’m on season three in a month. I’m in it. I’m attached to all the characters, Izzie, George, and Meredith. I don’t like Dr. Shepherd. I’m sold.
For being a medical sales rep and getting hooked on this show this late, that is classic. I’m glad we have that captured.
I held off as long as I could. Finally, my fiance got me onto it. She was like, “You got to watch it.” It was all over. It was done. It was easy.
What is the best meal you had in the last several months?
I went to Bateau in Seattle. It is a place where they butcher a whole cow every night. They sell out of all the cuts. When you go in, you can describe the type of steak you like to eat. They will give you cuts from different parts of the cow. Instead of a rib eye, they have three cuts that are similar. They will walk you down it. You can get 2-ounce portions. It was good. It was awesome.
They prepare it. You make it there. They are not just giving you meat.
They prepare it there. They do 2 or 3 cows a day. They also dry age everything there. They have this giant meat room you can check out. It’s cool. It got nominated as one of the best places to get a steak in the world. You can fact-check me on that. I’m not 100%, but I’m sure that is what I heard.
Last but not least, what is the best experience you had in the last several months?
That is a tougher one because I haven’t traveled in the last several months. I took a mini vacation down to Portland to see my grandma with my fiancée. That was the first time. It was relaxing. That was a great experience. We walked around Portland. We went to coffee shops and breweries and had a great time. That is the best experience I have had in the last several months. That was great. It is good to spend time away from the computer and cell phone for a little bit. It was nice.
It was fantastic having you on the show. Thank you for spending time with us and sharing all the knowledge you can get from the spine and why we should or should not entertain that type of space. We look forward to seeing amazing things coming from you as you continue your career.
Thanks for having me and best of luck with everything. I will talk to you soon.
That was Taylor Laneville. What a wealth of information. I love talking to Taylor because he went in on what to consider if you are someone who wants to get into spine medical device sales. You might have read this episode, and maybe you are someone who wants to get into spine medical device sales, and you have some pearls now.
Your traction or pursuit and what you have been trying to do as far as getting into the space have been falling short. You are at a place where you are asking yourself, “What else can I do?” I’m here to share with you that you need to take yourself to EvolveYourSuccess.com, follow the prompts, fill out our application, get in touch with one of our account executives, and let them talk to you about how the Medical Sales Career Builder Program can change your life.
If you are someone who wants to get into medical sales, maybe you are not sure where you want to be, and you have thought about the spine, but you are also interested in pharmaceutical sales, and you have heard about the oncology and diagnostic sales. You are asking yourself, “Where do I belong? Where do I fit? Where would I find happiness? Where can I take the skills I have and make them work for me?” Visit EvolveYourSuccess.com, fill out our application, and have a discussion with one of our account executives. Let’s see if this program is the right program for you to get you where you want to be.
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- Taylor Laneville – LinkedIn
- The Choice
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About Taylor Laneville
Taylor Laneville, former organic chemist turned medical sales consultant, turned in his lab coat for a pair of scrubs and a red hat. His goal is to share how he overcame the gate keepers of medical device world and broke out of the lab and into the industry.
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