Since COVID-19 hit, there have been a lot of changes to the medical sales field. Getting us up to date on what’s happening and how they are moving along to the current environment, Samuel Gbadebo sits down with the Senior Vice President of Global Sales at Providence Medical Technology, Jeremy Laynor. In part one of two of this special interview, Jeremy lets us in on his career, how he got there, and how he has been doing since. He then covers the current COVID-19 pandemic we are in and shares the ways he and his team are adapting, including the new technology. Tune into this episode as Jeremy shares more about his life and how he is creating an impact in the medical field.
I’m excited to bring this guest to you. We have with us Jeremy Laynor. He is the Senior Vice President of Global Sales at Providence Medical Technology. We get into this career and how he got there. We talk a lot about those details. We also got into leadership. We get into a book that he published that I can’t wait to give you access to. One thing I want to point out is this is a two-part episode. This episode is part one where we talk mainly about his career. I want to preface it that you need to make sure you tune in next episode for part two because we get deep into leadership, into many pearls of wisdom, and that wonderful book that he wrote that I know you’re going to want to know what that’s about. Thank you for joining us. I hope you enjoy this.
Jeremy, how are you?
I am doing great, Samuel. Thanks for having me.
Thank you for being on the show. Why don’t you go ahead and tell us who you are and what you do?
As a Senior VP of Global Sales, I’m in-charge of our commercial team. From a day-to-day standpoint, my job is to put in place a strategy for our commercial team to take our products and our innovation out to our marketplace. I identify who we want to target, why we are targeting them, and some of the messaging that goes along with that. How do we appropriately staff, fund and build out a budget that matches the vision and the goals of the organization, our CEO and board of directors? Most importantly, how do we do that in an environment that we have a lot of compliance and regulatory situations that we’ve got to stay abreast of and follow and make sure that we’ve got the right team in place to bring this innovation and technology to our customers, which for us is orthopedic and neuro spine surgeons. That’s where we focus our time.
We’ve got a solution for treating cervical spine disease. We’re focused on a particular portion of that patient population, which we call the high-risk patient. Those are patients that suffer from comorbidities in addition to having multiple levels of surgical spine disease. It’s a rewarding role. You’re on call 24/7. There’s no off as the VP of Sales, but I’ve surrounded myself with some tremendously talented people. I’m fortunate to be on a team, both at the senior staff level, as well as my field-based team that are pros, some of the best people in the medical sales profession. They take their jobs seriously and I also take mine seriously. When we focus on the patient and our customers, we tend to do the right thing. It’s a great role.
From your position, how often are you in the field?
I’ll answer it in two parts. Pre-COVID, I’m a real lead from the front type of guy. It’s important to me from a lot of the mentors I’ve had and my experiences to not sit in a boardroom or an office and make decisions that are uneducated. The way that I can get a real feel for the pulse of what’s going on, what’s our messaging like, what are our reps dealing with from a day-to-day basis, what are our customers saying, how are the patients doing with our technology, and what’s going on at the hospital, I got to get out there. I’ve got to be there.
A month would never go by where I wouldn’t spend a couple of days in the field. There are months that I’m in the field 50% of the business days. When we get busy in our planning cycles, in the budget season for the next year, it’s going to be less than a little bit. My goal was to get out in the field with all of our field sales representatives and our distributor partners every month. Since COVID has hit, there have been a lot of restrictions placed on our access, who, where and when. Travel was restricted. I’m getting back where I live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area where I’m doing a lot of local Texas regional travel, but I have not ventured back out beyond the State of Texas at this point.
With COVID going on, with your sales reps, would you say that they’ve still been able to go into the field a little bit depending on what procedures they are doing? Has it been stay at home until we figure out what’s going on here?When we focus on the patient and our customers, we tend to do the right thing. Click To Tweet
Our reps have never missed a beat. Because of the procedure that we support, posterior surgical fusions, there are many patients from the beginning of the COVID pandemic until now who needed to be treated for a variety of reasons. Our technology was utilized by our customers, so we never missed a beat. Our team fearlessly and courageously went into hospitals when the unknown was the unknown. I give them a lot of credit. People were getting on planes because they needed to get to a customer to support them. The access for our team has been almost unaffected as it related to case coverage. Where it has been affected is prospecting.
How are they getting around now with prospecting?
It’s an ongoing challenge. We’re doing some new things from a lot more digital outreach. We’re doing Zoom meetings. Physicians are becoming more accustomed to engaging with representatives in this format. We’re doing a lot more on the market lead gen side, outside of the organic field level. We’re trying to generate programming that will drive leads to the sales team to follow-up on. We’re shifting the onus of lead gen back on us, in partnership with the field team. We’re getting some traction and starting to make some success, but it’s going to be a long haul. Things are changing.
I hear from many different leaders that you would think that the healthcare community and providers would embrace this new technology and try to make things work, but it’s been a little bit of a struggle.
Old habits die hard. It takes a long time to change the way that people do things. Our physicians are accustomed to us being in the office with them. Our team looks at X-rays, we do a lot of pre-op planning. That type of engagement is what everybody’s accustomed to. Now with certain restrictions, those are not as viable anymore. You’re going to see a lot of enabling technologies that are going to allow for field representatives to engage with customers at the practice level, hospital and ASC virtually. They’re going to be able to do it in a way that doesn’t compromise patient safety. That’s not a bad thing. There are going to be some big advances in those areas.
How soon do you think that’s coming?
There’s technology out there now. We’ve talked to a few companies that have platforms where you’ve got multiple iPads in the OR in a variety of different setups. They’ve got their own cloud services where you’re streaming on the Zoom platform. We’ve covered cases virtually that way. With our particular procedure, because there’s a lot of image guidance, we do a tissue-sparing approach. Many of our procedures are done in a minimally invasive fashion. It’s hard to see the C-arm setups and all the things that have to happen in the OR correctly for our procedure to work well. It’s a dynamic environment. We haven’t adopted it, but I know there’s technology there now. It’s happening as we speak.
The future of someone getting into this type of role could be from their home office with multiple iPads guiding a provider through surgery.
A cookie-cutter may be the wrong term, but it’s something that the standard of care physicians are well-trained on. There’s not a lot of variety, even if the implant or the instrument is a little different, there’s going to be a lot of standardization. In those types of procedures, a representative may not have to be in the OR. I am not a supporter of the rep-less OR model and that you can hire at the hospital a level-1 or 2 hospitalists that then can understand all the different technologies that a surgeon may choose to use. That’s not what I’m saying. What is exciting is that these enabling technologies can augment and enhance situations that if you’ve got remote procedures being done in a place that you can’t get a field sales rep too, for whatever reason, there’s a backup. For some of these more standard procedures that are done every day the same way, maybe there’s an opportunity to turn that into a virtual case coverage model.
We’re going to get deeper into this but first, we’ve got to go back and figure out who Jeremy Laynor is. Take us back to the childhood dream. How did you even get into this space? Is this something that you always wanted? Did you have a completely different trajectory when you were a young boy enterprising life?
It’s a completely different trajectory. I grew up outside of Philadelphia in a small rural town called Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I was born and raised in Pennsylvania. Right from youth, I loved sports. That’s where I found my passion. It was in a field. I played everything you can imagine from soccer, basketball, baseball and track. I tried everything. As I was growing up, I honed in on soccer and basketball, then eventually I played college basketball. I had a real passion for the game of basketball. That led me down a whole bunch of paths that we can talk about.
Where did you play college ball?
I went to Slippery Rock University in Western PA.
Is that D1 or D2? What is that?
That’s NCAA Division-2 basketball. I was a point guard there and had a great experience at Slippery Rock, not just with sports. Overall, it was an amazing time in my life to spread your wings. That’s what college is all about. It’s learning about yourself, and then trying to balance academics with athletics in college was a big leap for me. High school was easy, then you get to college. You go from being one of the best guys in the area to trying to make the team. It’s humbling. The same thing goes academically. Balancing those two things was a huge growth opportunity for me.
I studied Sports Management and Business Administration. When I started, I wanted to get into Physical Therapy and that made my track. I was always interested in the sciences, that foundation was there. A lot of my family were teachers. I had a principal and a professor. My dad was a teacher. My mom had done some part-time teaching. My aunts and uncles were teachers. They said to me very young, “If you want to make money, don’t be a teacher.” It’s a great job. I was entrepreneurial. I had jobs when I was ten years old, mowing yards, shoveling snow, and picking berries at a local farm. I was always trying to make money to buy things I wanted and save for later. They said, “You’re not cut-out for teaching from the standpoint of what your earnings are going to be. Why don’t you look at business?” That stuck with me and I was thinking, “What can I do that would allow for that?” I didn’t even know medical device, pharmaceutical and medical sales existed. I had no idea.
In college, you had no idea that it existed?
It was never mentioned to me. I didn’t know anybody that did it. I had two uncles that were physicians, but that was never brought to my attention. My first track was professional sports. I worked for Major League soccer when it first started back in ‘96, ‘97. I did an internship with the Tampa Bay Mutiny in Florida. They eventually offered me a full-time role as a ticket sales representative. It was below the minimum wage. I did that for a couple of years. It was a tremendous experience. I learned about B2B sales. I was selling group ticket packages. I was going into businesses and learning the foundation of selling. It was a hard market. I was selling against NFL, Major League Baseball, and MLS had just come out. A lot of kids liked soccer, but their parents didn’t grow up with it. They didn’t watch soccer in America.
It was humbling as well. I ended up working for a sports marketing firm after that. We developed a national golf tournament that we ended up working with Playboy Magazine. It was called the Playboy Scramble. At the time in my life, I was going back and forth to California. There were some great things there. I was selling advertising tied to the tournament sponsorships. It was at that point when I was 23 or 24, where I finally met somebody that said, “Do you know about medical sales? Do you know about pharmaceuticals?” I’m like, “What is that?” That led me to Cardinal Health, which at that point was a Fortune 16 company.
They had launched a division in their pharmaceutical technologies where they were building a sales force for pharma, biotech and med-tech companies that had a product or a drug, but they didn’t have a commercial team. They would contract Cardinal. They built them a custom salesforce. They’ll launch a product or relaunch a product, and then if it went well, they would divest or that whole sales team would get acquired by the company. It was a neat model. I ended up staying there for six years. I started as a pharma rep. I was selling women’s health products like estrogen and birth control. It’s great clinical training. Eventually, I got into management young. I was managing a team in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina with twelve representatives. I’d hire them all and train when I was 24 or 25.
You got a start in management early into your experience with Cardinal Health.Old habits die hard. It takes a long time to change the way that people do things. Click To Tweet
I was three years of rep. I had gotten promoted to a trainer. I was in their management training track, and then an opportunity came up. I was inexperienced, but somebody saw something in me and said, “Let’s take a risk.”
Before you even continue beyond Cardinal Health, who showed you or even introduced you to medical sales?
It was my uncle who was an anesthesiologist, and he was in Arizona. He said to me, “Do you know anything about pharmaceuticals? I have reps that call me all the time and they do well. With your sales experience, you might be a good candidate and I know you like science.” I said, “It sounds great.” I started hearing about what they did and how they interacted with physicians. At that point, pharma was a hot ticket item. Everybody wanted in. It was competitive. I’m talking about ‘99 to 2001. That’s when Pfizer, Lilly and Merck were all building supermassive sales teams to launch blockbuster drugs that we all have heard about. It was tough going, but I was lucky to interview with Cardinal. They were 1 of 2 companies that I had sent my resume to. I got the interview and I got the offer. I credit my Uncle Jack. He opened my eyes to the opportunity and from there, I was lucky to get an opportunity at a hiring manager that liked me and said, “Let’s take a chance.”
You’re in Cardinal Health, you’re in management and you have a team. What happened that you even found out about getting into Medtronic?
I’m in a pharma world but we’re doing this different spin. We ended up building sales teams and I liked the business development aspect of it. I know people in the industry, friends and people are saying, “Device is where it’s at. Don’t stay in pharma for too long. They won’t hire you in the device.” I was like, “What is that stigma all about? That makes no sense.” I’m super well-trained. I sell every day. I see physicians every day. It boggled my mind, but that stigma did run true a little bit. I didn’t believe in that. I made the transition and I’ve hired numerous pharma reps since the time that I transitioned over here.
An opportunity came up and this is a good point for some of your readers. I was 5 to 6 years into this gig. It was a good role. I had plenty of upward mobility with a big good company, but there was something enticing to this medical device technology startup world that I got introduced to. There was a company called Tissue Link at the time, it was launching or had this bipolar sealing technology for hemostasis in orthopedic, general surgery, a whole bunch of applications. I didn’t know much about any of it, but when I went and met with the ventral guy that hired me, Jeff Williams, we sat down and he’s in scrubs. We’re at a Starbucks and he puts this wand down on the table. He’s like, “This is what we sell.” I’m like, “What is that thing? That’s what you sell every day?” He’s like, “That’s what we sell. We go into the OR, we support these cases. I’m in total knees, total hips, spine and oncology.” I was a manager at this point. I’m managing a team of a lot of people and thought it was hot stuff, and this was a sales rep role. I was like, “Okay.” The base salary was a quarter of what I was going to make at my role but the upside was tremendous.
I took the leap and as I look back, that was an important move. From an ego standpoint, the role and the title mean nothing. It’s all about what inspires you and what you get excited about, what value you can bring to your customers, and being part of another team. A theme with me is a high-performance team. That’s my why, building and being part of high-performance teams that create ripple effects of positivity for others. I felt like this is a chance to be part of a team early on that’s bringing technology to physicians and patients that need it. This is my chance to learn what it’s like to be in the OR. I got in and it was amazing.
The next six years were growing a market in Tampa from scratch to a multimillion-dollar, one of the top 3 to 5 markets in the country. I got promoted to a regional manager. They moved me to California. I got to build my own team from scratch on the West Coast and learn a whole new marketplace. I go back to some of the things I learned at Cardinal about building teams, hiring performance management, and all those things that I had a little foundation built off. I apply it in this new realm of the med device, which was awesome. We were going through 30% and 40% quarter-over-quarter growth. For that next foreseeable six years was a blur. It went from Tissue Link to a team of about 30 people to Salient. We were about 120 reps.
By the time I left, we were acquired by Medtronic. I had been promoted again to an Area Vice President. I was running a team of 45, 50 people. The book of business was $40 million or $50 million. I was surrounded by talented and high integrity people from our CEO, Joe Army, down to the associates we had. It was a culture that was amazing. I saw that experience of launching a new product to a market to the acquisition, and going through that was invaluable. There are many lessons I learned along that pathway, but it all started with taking a risk, moving the ego out of the way, and saying, “What do I want to do? What am I passionate about? Why do I want to do it? What’s my why?”
I love that, what’s your why. That’s a constant theme that I see with everyone I talked to and even in my own career. You kept highlighting that you saw a tremendous opportunity from where you were in Cardinal Health to jumping into the medical device space and what it could be. Tell us a little bit about what specifically were you paying attention to? The money wasn’t there because it’s a quarter of what you were making. What did you see that you said, “In four years, I’m going to be in a completely different trajectory?”
I had a couple of friends that had gone over to the device space. Some from pharma, some from other industries, and they were talking about the type of interaction they were having. What was going on in their day-to-day versus mine? What I saw was they were doing a lot of the same things I did from a prospecting standpoint, talking to physicians, but then they would get to take it to the next level. The next level was bringing some technology into the OR, coaching, proctoring and impacting the outcome of that surgery with a physician. I thought that was amazing. I can impact without being the physician. I can have an impact on the outcome of this patient and their family’s lives.
The technology that could come out is interesting. In the med-tech device space, you could be in spine, orthopedics, brain, cardiovascular or vascular. It was endless. From a career trajectory, I can get into this startup world as well. That could be interesting because there’s always new technology coming out. If I can learn how to do that, maybe I can do it again and again, and that can be my role. Can I be a commercial operator? Eventually, could I be a VP of sales? Could I be on the executive team? Could I be a CEO? What’s my approach to doing that? That inspired me because I thought the upward mobility and the opportunity to impact the business of the customer and the patient was a little more than what I was experiencing in my current role.
That was Jeremy Laynor. You learned about his career and why he made the decisions he did to get where he is now. It’s good stuff to know how passionate he was about the impact he would be making in the OR when a surgeon is in front of a patient. Anyone that wants to get into a medical device OR-based position needs to be in that mindset. You want to make that impact to truly be successful and not only getting into the role but succeeding within the role. This was only part one. I want you to tune in to catch part two where we get a little bit more into the pros of wisdom that Jeremy has been able to share with us from his career.
If you’re someone that wants to break into the medical sales industry, whether it be a medical device, pharmaceutical, genetic or molecular sales, I want you to visit EvolveYourSuccess.com. I want you to select “Attain A Medical Sales Role” and follow the path. Take the assessment, get some insight into what you can do to develop better to get into the role. Get access to one of us to talk about our program, the Medical Sales Career Builder. A program designed to take you through every step you need to go from wherever you are to getting yourself into a medical sales role.
If you’re someone that’s in the industry and you want to take your performance to the next level, maybe you’re thinking, “I want to have an amazing first quarter next year or I want to close out this quarter strong,” you want to make some big moves in your position, I want you to go to EvolveYourSuccess.com and select “Improve Sales Performance.” As always, I do my best to bring you amazing guests to talk about their careers and share pearls of wisdom with you. Thanks for reading.
I have always been passionate about health and human science. This led me to study Biochemistry in college where my dream was to solve the aids epidemic through molecular research. Along the way I discovered that my passion resided in helping individuals achieve health improvement one on one.
When my grandfather passed away of lung cancer in 2005, I chose to focus my energy into discovering new advancements in healthcare and medical technology.
As the Vice President of Business development for Atlas Healthcare Partners/Banner Health, I along with the team I serve, drive the growth of Ambulatory Surgery Centers in all states Banner operates with the mission to provide a lower cost surgical option and increased access to patients across multiple geography’s.
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