Diagnostic testing sales: where meticulous detail meets the human touch, changing the course of cancer care one relationship at a time. In this special episode for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Veronica Vasek uncovers the challenges, triumphs, and the vital role that diagnostic sales reps play in the healthcare landscape. Veronica discusses a revolutionary technology for testing and how it’s transforming the way physicians and patients approach cancer treatment. She also takes us through the ins and outs of her role, from tracking patient progress to delivering crucial results. As the episode unfolds, Veronica talks about the future of diagnostic testing, where it’s headed, and the potential it holds for patients and physicians alike. She shares the challenges of convincing healthcare professionals to adopt new methods and how patient preferences often drive the decision-making process. Tune in now and learn how cancer can be crushed in the world of diagnostic sales.
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Crushing Cancer In Diagnostic Testing Sales With Veronica Vasek
We have with us another special guest who goes by the name of Veronica Vasek. Veronica is a diagnostic testing sales representative. She sells tests for detecting or helping detect breast cancer. In the name of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this episode couldn’t be more timely. I’m not going to spoil you by telling you anything. I’m going to let you tune in to the interview. As always, we do our best to bring you guests who are doing things differently in the medical sales space. I hope you enjoy this interview.
Veronica, how are you doing?
I’m good. How are you, Samuel?
Fantastic. Why don’t you tell the audience who you are and what you do?
My name is Veronica Vasek and I am a Diagnostic Sales Consultant.
There are many terms in medical sales. What does it mean to be a diagnostic sales consultant?
A diagnostic sales consultant is somebody who provides testing and results to patients along their medical journey.
Let’s talk about that. Let’s break that up a little bit. Are the providers well aware of these tests that you sell? Are you just another provider of a common test or is it something new and innovative that they’ve never seen before? How does it work?
I am selling a molecular residual disease test. It is new to the market. It’s a personalized tumor-informed approach to molecular residual disease. What we do is create a personalized assay for the patient that can track them along their cancer journey. As I said, it’s new to the market, so we are teaching physicians new ways to test their patients and also help treat their patients.
This sounds fascinating. Give us an example if you can. What does this look like? Give us maybe a patient example, what the physician is experiencing, and them thankful that you came in because you showed them this test.
A good example would be if a patient is in remission for breast cancer. Insurance is going to have them do a scan once a year and that’s all they qualify for. The patients always going to have what’s called scanxiety. Every time they were they go in for the scan, they wondered what the results were going to be. They’re wondering if there’s a progression in the last six months since they’ve had one.
What our test does is it allows the patient to take a look at their cancer and make sure that they’re still in remission. Rather than doing that once-a-year scan, they can do a blood test every 6 months to 3 months and see if there’s any cancer in their bloodstream. For a physician, that gives them the opportunity to treat their patients 8.7 months before a scan will pick up a tumor.
My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went into full remission. Thank, God. Eight months to not know sounds like a world of time when dealing with cancer.
When you’re treating patients, that can be a difference in life and death. I’m sure with your mother, she probably wonders, “Is this going to come back? Am I going to know in time?” This test offers that to patients. It offers the ability to catch it early on if it comes back.
I almost feel like something like that should be mandated. Why wouldn’t any healthcare entity want to be in front of knowing exactly what’s going on with their patients as soon as possible?
That’s what we’re working on right now. It is getting it to be on every panel when a patient goes into oncology.
How does it work as far as the business? Are you showing up and cold calling physicians and saying, “I want to talk to you about a test that can change your practice?” Talk to us a little bit about that.
It’s a combination of a lot of different things. We get a lot of news press and that will prompt patients to go to their oncologist or their surgeon and say, “What is this? How do I get this?” There’s that and they will direct them to us. I do a lot of cold calling to find a practice that is interested in our type of testing. Also, I work with pharmaceutical reps to see what physicians they’re working with who are writing certain prescriptions for patients. I know that if they’re writing this prescription or giving this type of treatment, they’re going to want to hear about my testing.
How long have you been in this role?
I’ve been in this role for almost two years.
Tell us about your experiences before this. I know you’ve touched pharma and med device. Take us back to college and senior year. What was in your mind? What were you thinking you were going to go and do? Tell us what happened.
I’m getting ready to graduate in my senior year and I thought I was going to hit the ground running. I applied to probably about 300 companies and everybody asked the same question, “Do you have experience?” I said, “No, can you give me that experience?” They all said, “Come back when you have it.” I’m like, “Somebody give me a chance.” After doing some recon and talking to some people, I was told to try Enterprise. If you work for Enterprise Car Rental, a lot of companies will take you if that’s on your resume, so I went and interviewed with Enterprise.
Out of college?
Did you know you wanted to be a medical rep out of college?
How did you learn about that industry?
There’s a documentary called The Bleeding Edge. It talks about FDA approval and I had my own personal experience. My dad had a cobalt hip replacement. As we know now, cobalt is toxic to the body. Having that experience, I thought, “How can I be involved in the medical field and make an impact?” I had a thing with needles so I was like, “I can’t be a nurse.” What’s next? That’s where I came across medical sales.
That’s fascinating. You’re at a car rental, what happened next?
I was interviewed and they offered me the job. I checked in with myself and I said, “Veronica, can you clean cars right out of college? Is this where we’re going.” The answer was no, and God bless the people that do. It’s a very difficult job and it’s earning your stripes to get into medical sales but I felt like I needed to do something a little bit different. I applied to work under a distributor. I went right into surgical sales.
I did spine devices and biologics for three years. Working under a distributor, you do earn your stripes as well. It’s very hard work. There are not a lot of women in spine just because you’re on call with your surgeons. You spend a lot of time and holidays away from your family. I did that for three years and I had a unique opportunity to go into diagnostics. I was approached by a company at the time and they offered me a territory role for neuro diagnostics.
I was very interested in the role. I did some research and I took it. As soon as I got into the field, I learned so much about our healthcare system. Specifically how it works in California because it’s very different, which creates a lot of challenges. I did that for a couple of years, then I had my son. I decided, “I’m going to try pharmaceutical.” I’ve always felt like it wasn’t necessarily for me because if you’re in medical device, they don’t take pharmaceutical reps.
They do but you need to be a performer. You need to be a high-performing pharmaceutical rep, but I get what you’re saying that there is a bias with medical devices toward pharma. You’re right.
I wanted to try it out and see what it was about.
You are telling us that the diagnostic role was too demanding to do as a new mother. Is that why you wanted to make a change?
No, the company was being acquired and there are a lot of changes that take place when there’s an acquisition. I loved that I came to this company when it was a startup. When you go and work for a startup, you get to help create the process along the way. You can give your input and it matters. It’s not just a suggestion box.
I wanted to find something that made a little bit more sense for work-life balance because the diagnostics role and the surgical role did take up a lot of my time. I have this little person that is integrated into my life. Finding a work-life balance was important. I thought pharmaceuticals could provide that. There’s a lot of women in that field. I got in and I quickly realized that it was not for me.
Tell us why. Give us your personal opinion. It’s fine. It’s a safe space.
Pharmaceutical sales is a great field but I always had some concerns in the back of my mind like, “Am I doing the right thing for patients? Am I going to see these medications on the news in 5 or 10 years? I don’t know.” That was a challenge for me because going into medical sales and having the background that I did with my father, it was important to me to sell something that I believe in, that I’m 100% committed to, and something that I would do or give to my own child. I did that for about six months. There was another diagnostic role in San Diego that opened up. I jumped on that and I love it. I could not be happier.
Being a diagnostic sales rep, are you working with a team or are you more like your own island? You have to figure it out. You’re the nomad who is just working your territory and trying to get access to new businesses as often as you can. Talk to us a little bit about what the dynamic looks like.
I have a counterpart that I work with. She and I divide and conquer. We make an excellent team. We do have some large accounts. We figure out who’s going to do what, what accounts are challenging, and who can make the most progress in that account. We do get some leads sometimes from corporate. We have some news coverage and sometimes patients will hear from another patient like, “I’m getting a signature test. Have you heard of it?” It will forge the way for us to go and pursue that position. Physicians always do what their patients want them to do, so it’s in our favor for that.
Do you ever talk to patients directly?
We have an intake team that talks. What happens is they will run their insurance then there’s a welcome team that will call and answer any questions that they have. It’s not often that I do it, but every now and then, I will come across a patient who has reached out to the company through the website and they say, “I’m interested and I want more information.” They pass that lead along to me and I will talk to the patients and figure out where you at in your treatment process, what type of physician you are seeing right now, and how we can help.
It’s a two-person team. When new people come to the company, are all the different regions made up of two-person teams or is that just in your area that’s a two-person team?
It depends on the area, the payer mix, and what type of coverage we have in that area. If you go somewhere like Texas, you’re going to have probably 4 or 5 reps in that state. In California, it’s a little bit smaller because of the managed healthcare system.
Is it Northern California and Southern California?
Yes. They are split into different teams. My team is in San Diego, Arizona, LA, Las Vegas, and Hawaii.
Do you only go there once a year?
I don’t go there. I stay local in San Diego but our regions are those states combined.
With this makeup in diagnostic testing, do you spend most of your time out in the field? Is your time split between making calls at home and being in the field? What does the day-to-day look like?
The day-to-day has changed a lot because of COVID. You could not catch me at home pre-COVID. I was always out in the field five days a week. I did all of my administrative stuff on my own time. Now because of COVID, there are a lot of Zoom meetings that I do. There are a lot of emails and phone conversations, but I still try to stay close to my roots. I still go out there, pound pavement, cold call, try to get in front of people, and build those relationships organically. No matter what direction we go in society, that’s still the best way to build a relationship.Build relationships organically because no matter what direction we go in society, that's still the best way to build a relationship. Click To Tweet
I want to hear what is the most significant improvement you have made in practices, in existence, or in patients’ lives from the diagnostic test that you represent. Talk to us a little bit about some of the biggest wins that you’ve heard.
In my current role?
We have UCSD as one of our largest ordering accounts. Slowly but surely, we’re integrating through that institution and getting interest from a lot of the oncologists. That is a very big win. When you have physicians that call you up and say, “This is my personal cell phone. I’ve heard about your test. How do I order it? I can’t get there quick enough.” I’m like, “I’m out the door now. I’m coming to you.”
A lot of the wins that my territory has is when patients are in treatment and they don’t know if their treatment is working, our test will tell you if it is. When I see patients come through our portal and I’m tracking those patients, I can see what their results are. I know what it means when it’s good and I know what it means when it’s bad. To be able to provide a test that can help them at a quicker speed is one of the reasons why I love what I do.
Tell us a little bit about what makes an amazing diagnostic testing sales rep.
Someone detail-oriented. If you’re not a detailed person, then diagnostics is not going to be for you because you’re tracking your patients. You’re going to know where they’re at in their testing cycle and when they need a new test. If getting their pathology report is not attainable or if testing has failed, you need to know all of those things. The last thing you want is a physician calling you up saying, “I have so-and-so in my office and we have no results.” You’re looking and you find out that tissue has failed. You don’t want to deliver that news. If you’re not tedious in following and tracking, you’re not going to know that stuff. You’re going to quickly become a person that they can’t rely on.
I’m assuming when that happens, that’s the end of your business?
It’s the end of your business with that physician because someone else is going to come along with a similar test, and that sales representative is going to track their patients.
Being detail-oriented, I’m assuming that goes along with being very organized.
You have to be organized for this role.
Is there anything else?
Another thing is to be the type of person who knows who you’re walking into a meeting with. You want to know what their specialty is and what they primarily focus on. That’s important. A lot of times, I see people just come in and wing it. I’m like, “You don’t know much about the physician and what their focus is,” then they struggle throughout the meeting.
What does the competition look like in this space?
There are a lot of molecular residual disease testing companies out there. We are the first to market with a tissue-informed approach. With that being said, we have one competitor that does tissue as well. I know a lot of them are coming up and they’re getting ready to release their tissue-informed test. In the next five years, it’s going to be a lot of companies that have the same test. This is going to be a standard protocol for any patient that comes in to see a surgeon or an oncologist and they have cancer, as it should be.
When you first told me about this, all I could think was how in the world is this not mandated? How in the world is this not implemented in every single hospital setting around and patients aren’t getting this regularly? When that happens, what does that mean for you?
It means a lot more business and accreditation. We do have some physicians now that are still iffy about it. They’re like, “I’m not sure if this is something that I’m ready to do with my patients. This isn’t something that’s mandated now. Why would I do it?” It gets over those barriers and gets clinical relevance.
Some of the people tuning in to this are in this space and they know what you’re talking about, but I want to get clear on this. In a physician’s mind, what sense does it make to him or her to not do this test?
Here’s a great example. My aunt is a two-time breast cancer survivor. I said to her, “This is a test that you need. This is something that’s going to help you.” She said, “I don’t want to know. If this is something that is going to take hold of my life, that’s God’s will.” You get people like that. Also, sometimes physicians are very set in their ways. They’ve been practicing medicine for a long time and they’re not a progressive thinker. This is where they’re saying, “I’m not sure about it. I’m not going to do it unless I have to.” Those can be your challenges.
Would you say that it’s primarily driven by the patient then?
The patient is ultimately the one who makes the decision. There are some patients that we’ve seen that have been in stage-4 cancer and their tumor is not growing. They’re staying in stage 4. They’re not going up or down. They just don’t want to know because they know it’s terminal at that point. They look at it as whatever is going to happen is going to happen. There are some times when we will have a physician that’s like, “I’m not sure about this,” and the patient is like, “I’m sorry. We’re ordering this. I believe in this.” That’s awesome for us because then we get this opportunity to change a physician’s mind and give them an insight into how our testing works.The patient is ultimately the one who makes the decision. Click To Tweet
Share what you can. What stage or what condition is a patient in that this test benefits them the most?
I would benefit somebody the most depending on their tumor type, but for the majority of patients when they’re in stage 2 or stage 3, it would benefit them the most because you can do a resection. This test will tell you, “Did your surgeon get all of this tumor?” If they’re going to go through treatment, it’s going to tell you, “Is the treatment working?” As we all know with cancer, a lot of the treatments can be toxins on the body.
It’s hard when you feel like, “I’m going through so much physically. It’s taking a toll on me emotionally. I don’t even know if this is going to work.” If you go into your physician’s office and he says, “I have proof that this is working. Here’s the proof. Hold on, let’s keep doing this. You’re going to get through this,” the patient is going to leave with a lot of relief and a lot of clarity on their treatment.
Let’s switch gears a little bit here. You are a family woman. How many children do you have?
I have two.
My daughter is nine months and my son is almost four.
You’re doing the heavy lifting now. How does this career mesh with being a full-time mom and taking care of little ones? Talk to us a little bit about how it all works.
I’m in the thick of it with 2 under 5. There are a lot of nights where I need to get additional hours in to get information to physicians. I will put my kids to bed and then start working. There are a lot of times when I’ll try to get up earlier than them and get out a few things that are necessary, then start my day with them and get them to child care.
My son goes to a pre-K. During the day, I’m a powerhouse. It’s like, “I got to get all these things done. I got to knock it out. These little people are going to come in the door at 5:00,” and that’s when the clock stops. I am very fortunate to have a wonderful partner. We divide and conquer. We support each other. If there’s a dinner or if I need to go to an event, he will cover me.
You have a territory and your territory was pretty big because you said San Diego and LA. San Diego and LA are two hours away from each other. How do you manage the travel?
I only stay in San Diego. Our region is San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Hawaii. There are other reps in those territories, but we’re all in a team and we collaborate. If any of us need anything or if there’s a patient who is located in Hawaii but is coming to San Diego for treatment, we collaborate. I am primarily in San Diego. I’m very blessed to be in San Diego.
San Diego is a hot spot to be. We’re switching gears a little bit more now. Give us more of your philosophy on being in this space. Tell us a little bit about what can someone expect to make compensation-wise and what type of person should or shouldn’t consider being in diagnostic sales. We did address being organized and being oriented, but maybe a more 30,000-foot view of compensation and maybe a demeanor or person you should be if you’re considering getting into a space like this.
If you are a clinical person, this would be a role for you. I don’t think this is the right space for someone who doesn’t want to build relationships. If you don’t want to do administrative work and you just want to go out there and sell, then device would probably be where you want to be. When I was in the device, all I did was put a sticker on a sheet and send it to billing, then order my restocks.
In diagnostics, you have to be tedious and be willing to put in the work. You also have to continually differentiate yourself from other sales reps and other companies. You always have to stay current. If you’re not interested in studies and presenting studies, this is not the role for you because it’s very data-heavy. Sometimes the data can be complex. You’re talking to people who have a medical degree. They’re going to ask you complex questions. You have to be ready for that. That’s what I would say to somebody who is considering diagnostic sales.In diagnostics, you have to be tedious, willing to put in the work, and continually differentiate yourself from other sales reps in other companies. Click To Tweet
What about compensation?
In diagnostics is that sweet spot between pharmaceuticals and devices. You can come in at a junior role and you’re looking at a salary of anywhere between $70,000 and $90,000 per junior role, plus commissions. For juniors, those are typically capped. If you’re a senior sales rep, then you’re probably looking at $90,000 to $140,000, plus commissions. Those are usually uncapped.
Uncap means the sky is the limit. I want to say that you’ve probably seen what that sky is the limit looks like.
You are in control of your own income at that point.
That is very exciting This has been fantastic, Veronica. I feel like we have gotten a sound education on what it means to be a diagnostic sales rep. I have a question for you. You know what we do here at Evolve Your Success. How do you see programs like what we offer to help people get into positions?
I was first approached with this opportunity to come to talk with you guys and do the workshop. I was floored and jealous a little bit because when I was getting into medical sales, I had to apply to 300 places and be told no 300 times. I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know anyone in medical sales. I had no guidance whatsoever. I had to figure it out on my own. I would have loved to have a program like this when I was getting into medical sales. What you guys are doing is great work. It’s going to help so many people.
Thank you for that. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our audience?
If you or anybody in your family is going through a cancer journey, our company is going to be for them. Check us out and see something that will fit your family member or even yourself for your cancer journey.
Are you ready for the lightning round?
She’s like, “I have no idea what he’s talking about but I’m going to say yes.” You have less than ten seconds to answer. I’m going to ask you a series of questions. Are you ready?
Do I have a choice?
Let’s do it.
First question. What is the best book you have read in the last six months?
I haven’t read a book in six months.
What is the best book that is the last book that you have read? Whenever that was.
Tell us a little bit more. What is Conceptual Selling? I haven’t heard of that one.
Conceptual Selling is a good book about different selling methods and how to utilize those tools. As I was talking earlier about how I will utilize pharmaceutical reps for testing, I got that from Conceptual Selling.
You got something from a book. A round of applause for that one. That’s applied learning. I love it. What is the best movie or TV show you’ve seen in the last six months?
That’s the spinoff of Yellowstone. Is it good?
It’s good. It tells the story before Yellowstone.
Is that Harrison Ford?
He always delivers. That’s cool. What’s the best meal you’ve had in the last six months?
I went to a restaurant in San Diego and it’s called Addison‘s. It’s a three Michelin star restaurant. I will not tell you the price because it was disturbingly high. It was a nine-course meal and I had three different types of caviar. It was incredible.
I am completely intrigued. I have to see. I’m not too far, so I will note that. Lastly, what is the best experience you’ve had in the last six months?
I went to Orlando for training and our whole company went. It was the best experience I’ve had of being able to connect with everybody in the company. Our company does this crazy training. I call it terrorism because they literally make us sit in chairs and do elevator pitches. You have 60 seconds. You pitch to that person, then you sit on the next seat.
That’s good. That’s gold right there.
It’s intense and you hear so many different people’s pitches, but you’re picking up little pieces of information. That is stuff that you can take into your role. If somebody says, “This is a fingerprint into the patient’s tumor,” I was like, “I love that,” because that resonated with people. This is so personalized to the patient. It’s like a thumbprint. It’s always crazy when people from the company get together and people get in trouble. The stories float around.
That is awesome. Veronica, where can people find you to congratulate you on the show, and ask you questions about diagnostic testing?
I am on LinkedIn. I am always posting new press releases for Natera and Signatera.
Veronica, it was an absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Thank you for spending time with us.
Thank you so much. It was great spending time with you as well.
That was Veronica Vasek. Interesting space, diagnostic sales. You might have tuned in to this episode and said to yourself, “I can see myself doing this. I want to explore this as a pathway. What do I do next?” You already know. If you’ve tuned in to the show, even just one episode, then you already know what I’m going to say, but I’m going to say it anyway.
If you want to get into medical sales, you’re not sure where you want to be within medical sales but you know you want to be in that field, whether it’s as a clinical specialist or as an actual sales professional or some other ancillary position, but you know you want to be in the commercialization of services, products, and drugs to patients through providers.
If you know you want that, then you need to make sure you go to EvolveYourSuccess.com. Click Apply, fill out the application, schedule some time, and speak to one of our account executives. Let’s talk about how you can get your medical sales career started within the next 3 or 4 months. We’re going to continue to bring guests that are giving you insights into medical sales. If you’re thinking about making a move, keep tuning in, but let’s take some action. As always, we do our best to bring you guests who are doing things differently and innovating in the medical sales space. Please tune in next time for another episode.
- Veronica Vasek
- Conceptual Selling
About Veronica Vasek
Veronica Vasek was a Diagnostic Sales Consultant in this interview, but now a Cardiometabolic Account Executive. She has a background in 1099 Spine Device & Biologics, Neurodiagnostics and Oncology Diagnostics. She also had a short stent in Pharmaceuticals.
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