After 28 long years in breast imaging sales, the space has come to mean something really special to Shirley Taylor. In the previous episode, we got to hear the story of how she entered the world of sales and into medical sales in particular. She also discussed her views on DEI in the medical sales space. Continuing her interview with Samuel Adenyika, Shirley shares more about her role and some valuable wisdom that any budding medical sales specialist would be fortunate to hear. Tune in and be inspired to evolve your success in medical sales!
In this episode, we have part two with Shirley Taylor. We dive deeper into her many years of career. We talk about DEI and how it’s evolved in her career. We talk about what’s changed in the medical space as a whole and her role in breast imaging sales. This is a treat in an episode you don’t want to miss. Without further ado, here is part two with Shirley Taylor. I do hope you enjoy this episode.
Shirley, first off, do you believe that diversity, equity and inclusion are now a thing?
When do you remember diversity, equity and inclusion becoming a thing?
George Floyd and I say that and it’s pathetic but I remember that happening. We had someone get on a call the day after. It was myself and another person who was a person of color and they act like the weekend was great, “How was the weekend?” I remember I said, “You got to be kidding me.” I put my call on silent and the other person and I are texting each other like, “Does he not know what happened this weekend?”
To that point, the person came back a day later and said, “There are some things that have happened.” Management and C-level people said, “This is unacceptable. This is what’s happening.” I am not saying that diversity and inclusion weren’t there but it wasn’t focused. We have a diversity and inclusion officer who’s going to lead us through some things like, “Here are some books.”
It was the first time I heard people talk about, “Let’s get this book, White Fragility.” I said, “That book’s not for me. That’s books for you.” It’s the education piece and I feel as an African-American woman, I’m not here to educate you. You need to educate yourself about others. Like in school, how certain topics aren’t taught, you need to do that in the workplace as well. I haven’t seen it being focused until then. I’m being real.
Speak as candidly as you can. Within your organization, what do you think their perception was? Let me speak to that first because what I saw was a lot of companies weren’t sure what to do and they waited for the public to respond. When they saw the public response going in a certain direction, everybody took action and initiative and got serious. From your vantage point, what would you say you saw?
At that time, we did have a Black CEO. He’s departed since then but even his higher-ups above him supported what he was saying, “It could have been my son. It could have been some of my brother, my cousin.” That’s how you look at it. The way I understand it, he got some flashbacks of people saying, “This is the workplace. We shouldn’t be talking about that,” but we need to be talking about that. I feel the company did a great job of doing support. What I think is important though is its sustainability of it.
We can all come out and have officers and people take a look. How are we moving that? We all know what’s not happening overnight in Corporate America but how are we moving that needle? I can tell you, our new CEO is very involved with AAFG, African-American Forum Group, saying, “I don’t know how to fix all of this.” It’s true. It’s not their experience. “I’m putting the right people I feel in a place to educate me and tell me how we can do the next step and move forward.” To me, that’s all I’m at. That’s all of you. If you’re looking for that, then you’re looking for movement. If the needle still stays the same at 1% and 2% higher up for 3 or 4 years, we’re doing something wrong.
Would you say that as a whole? Is the medical sales community moving in the right direction and the needle moving forward?
I can’t speak for all medical community and I have other colleagues in different aspects of the medical community. We do talk about this. I find that in some areas where I see that they’re very progressive, they’ve made a big stance about it. I’ve seen some areas where they’re like, “No one’s even talking about it.” We have somebody. I don’t even know what they do. I don’t get invited to anything. When things don’t trickle down to the commercial sales side of the house, then you’re doing something wrong because if the field doesn’t know about it, then who does? The answer to your question is 50/50.
Let me ask you this. You are a family woman. You have how many kids?
I have two young adults.
With these young adults, are they very crystal clear about what you do or are they hazy about what you do?
Growing up, my kids knew I did sales but didn’t know what type of sales. My son, who’s the oldest, would say, “Mom, are you traveling?” One day he said to me when he was around sixteen, “Mom, my friends ask what you do.” I go, “My mom has clients and customers. She is in sales.” They know healthcare because they know the company name but they didn’t know about it. Growing up, I made them do proposals for anything that was above and beyond what I thought I should be buying for them. My kids knew that was part of something that I did. They knew it was sales but no. He’s graduated. He knows what I do and the space that I do. My youngest gets more granular like, “What exactly do you do?”
That’s how the kids are. They know exactly what’s going on.
She’s like, “Okay, mom.” I get that a lot. They don’t understand what goes into it, though but they understand that.
Do you ever have these discussions about the representation in the medical sales space or is it something that’s not talked about?
We do. They know from the group because I’ve been on different levels. I’m an individual contributor, now support but I’ve done national sales roles where I’ve had sales teams across the country and marketing roles where I’ve had a team of people leading a field sales group. They’ve seen the people that I’ve had on my team. I have been purposeful when I was in those types of roles to make sure I had a diverse team.
My kids saw that. They were like, “You’re bringing in this or that person. Wow.” I’d be like, “We got to make sure we’re representing everything.” I tell them that all the time. “Make sure that you’re in a space where you feel that you’re represented and supported no matter what you’re doing.” It trickles down to my actions and they’ve seen it when I used to have a team that I used to manage.
I’m going to change gears a little bit here because there are people in the audience who have never been medical sales reps. They want to be medical sales reps and then some medical sales reps have no idea what happens in your space. Talk to us a little bit about what does a challenging day look like? I want to know the hardest of the hard and when things are not working out. What does that look like? How do you address it?
The challenge for me is I did know about an opportunity, meaning a type of sales. I’m being called in at the ninth hour to go in and do a presentation because the customer is making a decision tomorrow. I’m like, “Okay. Regroup.” How am I going to get in? What am I going to do? How am I going to make an impact quickly saying, “We’ll take a look at you?” Not just, “All right, we’ll take a look at you,” but, “All right, we will take a serious look at you,” because you know the ones that do it because they need to look at three vendors.
I don’t know if you know this and if you aren’t in the medical, you will learn that a lot of corporations, hospitals or centers will say, “We have to have three quotes in.” Sometimes they call you in at the last minute and you would be that filler because they already know whom they’re going with. I have to do a quick study, down dirty. I call people. “Do you know this customer? Do you know this person? Does anyone know about this?” They’re looking at the competition and it messes up my flow because that’s not the way I like to do business but a day like that happens.
Also, on that same day, I’m having good installations happen, the product doesn’t ship or pieces and parts are missing. Another customer calls and says, “The equipment is down.” These happen. Along with the goods and the sales, you got to maintain it. You’re calling service trying to find out. You get the unhappy customer call. “I’m not liking what I’m seeing. What did you sell me? There’s something wrong with this equipment.” I’ve had that all happen on the same day at the same time. Prioritization comes into play.
Also, support comes into play when you got to know to get the right people involved and show your customers the love real quick to get things under control. Follow-up is key. I can get caught up in everything and then go, “Everyone’s a priority but what do I need to take care of to make sure we were addressing it for the customer?” That type of day is not my favorite day at all but everything comes to you and me in more than one. It’s not just one thing. It’s a couple of things altogether.
When it rains, it pours. What sustained you through all of this? You’re a high achiever. You’ve had a fantastic career. You’ve been on all sides of the spectrum and you’ve had these ups and downs. One thing is you’re a woman and an underrepresented person in a male-dominated space. How do you make it all work? What carries you through the toughest of your days?
With the years comes your confidence if you’ve been doing the right things and getting achievements. The achievements are where you’re looked at. You’ve met your numbers and done certain things. I take things lightly on what others might say. It might not be a good thing but for me, that keeps my balance because I know who I am. I know my faith and what I’m about.With the years comes your confidence. If you’ve been doing the right things and you’ve been getting achievements, you can take lightly whatever others might say about you. Click To Tweet
When I get other people at microaggressions may be saying, “Is she around? We don’t see her,” I’m like, “I’m doing what I need to do. You might not see me because I’m not in your face and I’m not talking with you all the time but you see me as part of the group. It’s that you don’t want to acknowledge that I’m part of the group.” I got over that a long time ago. For me to be successful, I got to talk to and be around the people that matter the most. Yes, I’m going to never not be a team player but what I am going to be is myself.
Getting to being yourself comes with a lot. You want to have good mentors and sponsors but you also want to always have the authentic you that you bring to the table. A lot of us as people of color sometimes feel like we can’t bring ourselves to the table authentically because we might be looked at differently but I found a way to say, “This is me. This is who I am. This is what I do. Let my number speak for itself.” If you have a problem with me, I’m more than willing to have a discussion. It doesn’t mean you’re going to turn me around though.
What’s your routine? What I’m asking is when you’re not working, do you have a routine that you follow that allows you to stay high functioning?
I read and meditate a lot. I travel whenever I can and that’s something that to me, seeing outside the different aspects of the world is one of the best educations you can ever do for yourself. If there’s a weekend where there’s a good flight to go somewhere and take a look at something just to breathe and see something different, I’m all for it.
I meditate every morning, even if it’s for five minutes to get myself on thankfulness, gratitude and what I want to accomplish for the day, whether personally or professionally. Sometimes, it’s not always professional. It’s personal. “Stay in your zone. Be this way.” It keeps me grounded. I love to go for walks. I feel it. Mindless walks or walking around wherever I go. It keeps me centered. Between work, travel and doing my walking, that’s something I like to do.
You got to appreciate the little things. When you walk in, you see a lot of things that you don’t even know. Even in your neighborhood. For me, in my neighborhood, I’m like, “So and so did that on there. The grass looks good. I want to know what they’re doing.” It’s these little things. You got to find small things to be thankful for so when the big things come up that might not be what you want to see or hear doesn’t faze you as much. I feel that it’s huge.
Shirley, is there anything else you want to share with the audience about your experience as a medical sales professional?
Never limit yourself as a medical professional. I pivoted from imaging to surgery where I was told, “How are you going to learn and get up to speed?” I had to come up with my quick thought, “I’m going to learn to be out there with the field and follow. I’m in a leadership role but I’m going to be a follower first to see how things operate and how my transferable skills are going to help.” Sometimes people get turned down and they might say, “You don’t have that direct experience. We’re not going to go with you. We’re looking for someone who has this direct experience.”
You need to be able to carve out your transferable skills and say, “I get that but if there’s training provided or I can sit with someone or shadow someone, I feel strongly that I’m a quick learner. I would get that. Unless it’s a mandated position where you have to have this type of degree because it’s regulatory and legal.” If you need legal, you need to be a lawyer. I’m not going to go into that space but spaces with a quick pivot and you’ve been showing how you’ve been doing it.
Don’t let someone talk you out of it. Sometimes people do that to see how strong you’re going to stay in it or if are you going to back down and go, “You’re right. I’m not a good fit for it.” I say that all the time. Sometimes people miss out on those types of opportunities because they get discouraged quickly. Even the person whom you might consider to be a sponsor, sometimes it’s their own thing that they’re looking at saying, “Why would you change from clinical to sales? Why would you do that?” It’s like, “It’s because I’m always talking to the customers. I’m following up and doing things that a salesperson does.”Never limit yourself. If you want something, don’t let someone talk you out of it. Because sometimes people do that just to see how strong you’re going to stay at it. Click To Tweet
Give yourself that grace and don’t let someone else tell you that you can’t do that, especially in the medical space when you want to switch over to it. Find that mentor and sponsor. Find someone willing to take a chance on you. There are associate positions that can get you in the door initially. Once you’re in the door and you’re doing good, no one’s going to remember that you didn’t come from that space. No one cares.
Did you ever think it would get this competitive?
I knew it was going to always be a competitive space. I was bought up on, “There’s a great advantage. We have a superior advantage.” You get brainwashed to the superior advantage of things and then the market closes in and the product that you thought was the best thing since sliced bread and you have the advantage. Some stuff comes up and some people like that too. What’s your story? To me, that is key. What else are you going to look at besides, “Mr. and Miss Customer, we have the newest thing and no one else has it because someone’s going to catch up to you.” Always be relevant and be aware. You can’t only sell on that.
There are going to be differentiating pieces but you got to connect with your customer to say, “Does that differentiating piece meet their needs?” If it’s something that they don’t care about, they don’t care. Surely, we’re not going to use that. That’s not our patient population. What you’re stuck with saying is, “I told them this is the best thing since sliced bread but they don’t need that. They got to find out what their needs are or show them a way that they could turn it around and utilize it for their patient population.
Patient care and patient experience are real. That’s a new role, besides diversity inclusion in the hospital or the medical space, CEOs or officers. My dad went for an X-ray and because he sends everything to my text. I got, “How is your X-ray? Please rate us.” These are things that people do. Those are positions in any type of customer space that you support.
It sounded like you were saying to trust your gut and don’t let anyone tell you differently if you think you can do something and it’s out there for you to want to do but I’m going to ask to dive a little deeper. I want you to address three audiences and we’ll start with the first audience. The audiences I want you to address are those that want to get into the industry, are in the industry and are leading the way. Let’s start with those that want to get in. If there’s one piece of advice you would share with anyone that wants to break into medical sales, what would you say?
Talk to people like your organization. It’s needed to try to get in so you can get educated on what’s around, what’s needed and what you might have to do to get yourself up to that spec. Talk to someone who you might be looking in that space and say, “How did you get here?” Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I would say, “Take a piece of paper and write down all of the skills that you have in whatever you’re doing currently.” Find out, when you talk to someone else, what they’re doing in a space that you might be interested in the medical space, compare it and say, “Do I have the skills for my list and column that could go over to that? What do I need to get there?”
What about those current sales reps now? You’ve been able to climb the ladder and experience all sorts of different positions. What would you share with those that wanted to do the same thing? They want to step into maybe a new space or get into management.
Hopefully, you have sponsors and mentors.
Let’s define that. What’s the difference between a sponsor and a mentor?
A mentor is someone with whom you set up monthly, quarterly and weekly meetings. They’re giving you good golden nuggets of, “These are some things you should take a look at to improve yourself,” and advice like, “Do you want to improve your speaking skills? There’s a class here that’s inside of the company. You might want to take a look at that.” That’s your mentor.
Your sponsor is someone who’s going to speak about you when you’re not in the room. The sponsor should know exactly why you are asking them to be a sponsor because hopefully, they’re in a position that you would like to someday get to or acquire. You’d be bold about it. You don’t waste their time to the point where you’re like, “If I’m not in that room, would you speak about me highly if you heard about this opportunity and get them?” You got to let them know that’s what you are asking them to be and be agreeable to. That’s my definition of those two.
For those that are in the industry, carve out your mentors and sponsors.
There’s nothing wrong with staying in the position that you’re in. Lots of successful people say, “I like it.” Every day’s not the same. “I like this space. I like my doctors. I like learning new things.” Brand yourself. There’s always the next level I feel that you can take yourself up to when you’re staying in the same space. How are you branding yourself? You may say, “What do you mean branding myself? I work for this company.” No, you are the representative that is doing that solution. How are you branding yourself? Take a look at that and see how you can. There’s nothing wrong with branding yourself. Sometimes people stay in the same position thinking, “I’m working for XYZ company. I don’t need to do that.” You should.
For those leading the way, what would you share?
Follow those people closely. Those leading the way, you got to see something new they’re doing, whether they’re bringing your energy into something. It could be the same platform or something that was done before. When I watch a leader who is making a grandstand of something, they never want to be the smartest person in the room. They’re either bringing some influx of some great people around them so they’re always in the know.
They’re also not afraid to say, “I don’t know so I’m bringing in some experts to help.” A great leader will do that. People will admire that and take a look saying, “I’m glad they said that and took a step forward.” Also, watching their actions or what they’re doing because they already know they’re in the spotlight and they’re being watched. “Let me see how they act.” A great leader should possess those things that you would want to look at and say, “They turned this around. They added something new.”
We’re going to have some fun before we close up. This is called the lightning round and you have less than ten seconds to answer each question. Pretty much what comes to mind is the best answer. I’m going to ask you four questions. The best book you’ve read in the last several months?
The Origin of Others by Toni Morrison. That’s a good book. She talks about the others.
What is it about in 1 or 2 lines?
It’s knowing about others, people who don’t look like you, what people might be saying, talking and not thinking about when they do talk. Also, The Four Agreements. I read that every year and I’m reading that again.
What’s the best movie you’ve seen in the last several months?
I don’t know whether to be impressed or shocked. Is it because TV doesn’t exist in your world or it’s TV shows? What is it?
TV is sure in my world but if you want to get on a thing, I like Snowfall.
We’ll accept that answer. The best meal you’ve had in the last several months?
In Italy, December of 2021. I went by the Colosseum. It was an eight-course tasting. It was incredible. It was right across from the Colosseum. It was great. I took my fiancé there for his birthday and every month they were coming out with different things. I was like, “This food is great.”
The last question is the best experience you’ve had in the last several months?
It was to make sure that I achieve some goals. Personally speaking, there were some goals that I wanted to take care of. My life is changing. I’m getting married again. We started doing some personal goals things. My life changes started such as maybe building a new home and things like that started.
Shirley, it was real. It was fantastic having you on the show. Thank you for your time.
Thank you, Samuel. I look forward to talking to you again.
That was a Shirley Taylor. She was a wonderful guest. She has seen and shared so much with us. I love to have her here as a guest. You might read this episode and think to yourself, “Breast imaging is something that I can get behind.” Maybe you heard part one and you have been thinking about it. Now that you read part two, it’s not leaving your mind. You are convinced. You know you want to be in this industry. Maybe a sales specialist with breast imaging, CT imaging or some type of imaging is a calling to you because of what you’ve experienced in your life.
It’s time to take action on that calling. Visit EvolveYourSuccess.com and select Attain a Medical Sales Role. Fill out our application and let’s have a conversation with someone here on the team and talk about how you can be in our medical sales career builder program. That can change your life. It can get you through some position that you dream of and think of every time you read one of these episodes.
If you are out there on the field making things happen but you know you can take things to a higher level, you know that the winner’s circle should be yours, the president club should be yours, the next promotion is right around the corner and you want to do that extra to get there, go to the website and select Improve Sales Performance. There you could fill out our application, submit the application and have a conversation with one of us here at the Evolve Your Success team. Let’s help you get into a program and where you want to be. As always, we do our best to bring you innovative guests that are bringing you insight into medical sales. Makes sure you tune in for another episode.
As a marketing and sales management professional, Shirley brings over 30 years of strategic goal alignment with experience ranging from new territory development and product launch, to mentorship and coaching both individuals and organizations to achieve high-performance.
Throughout her professional career, Shirley successfully partnered with numerous Fortune 500 companies including Eastman Kodak, General Electric, Siemens, Medtronic, Century 21, and Philips. In addition to excelling in commercial sales, Shirley is a noted expert in Field Marketing activation, facilitating Key Opinion Leader sessions, spearheading Go to Market initiatives, and designing New Product Introductions for sales teams.
Shirley also believes in community engagement. Her foundation, SurelyFab Cares, focuses on providing hygiene products to distressed and underserved communities. Shirley’s philanthropic involvement includes volunteer engagement with the Girl Scouts of America, Girls On the Run NYC Club, American Cancer Society, Lymphoma and Leukemia Society, and Long Island Cares Food Bank.
Shirley holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Mansfield University of Pennsylvania. Her certifications include Six Sigma Black Belt, Catalyst Diversity and Inclusion, Human Resource Leadership, and Strategic Sales Management.
In her free time, Shirley likes traveling, reading, event planning, socializing with like-minded people, and enjoying new adventures with her fiancé and family time with her two young adult children.
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