Passion is what fuels success in the medical device sales world. Having made the critical transition from pharma to medical device, NuVasive Director Andre Dubose knew that there was no other way to go but forward. In the previous episode, Andre talked to Samuel Gbadebo about the intangibles that made his transition a success. Now, he continues to tell the story of how he developed his medical sales superpower in Medtronic and how he eventually transitioned to a leadership role at NuVasive. Andre also talks in more detail about the things that hiring managers look for in medical device sales candidates, the sales rep’s role as general manager in the operating room, the importance of drive and passion in the profession, and the importance of building relationships and working with mentors in developing a medical device sales career. As we have seen in the first part of this interview, Andre has always been on the lookout for the next thing in his career. What comes next for this ultimate bootstrapper? Listen in and find out.
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From Pharma To Medical Device: The Intangibles That Get You There Part 2 With Andre Dubose
This is what’s happening in this episode. We spoke with Andre Dubose. It was part one of our dynamic conversations and as promised, you get part two where we go into detail about some of the things we touched on and more. In this episode, we talk about what it looks like when you’re making those transitions from pharma to the medical device. We talk about the importance of mentors when you’re developing and moving on in your career. We even get into what it means and how to carry yourself as a medical device sales rep in the OR and how to be that general manager of the operating room. We get to some other things too that I believe you’re going to find interesting. Thank you so much for reading and enjoy this episode.
Another thing that is interesting is certain medical device environments are not all the same. You could sell disposables, biologics, implants and capital. They’re all different. You might have one where you have patient interaction and you have one where you’re not seeing any clinicians. You’re almost exclusively on the C-Suite, the carpeted areas of the hospital. For people to say that pharmaceutical reps can’t transition into medical devices is shortsighted because medical devices are dynamic. It’s different. Not to brush my shoulders off, but I had a good amount of success as you have as well transitioning from pharmaceuticals into medical devices. I know a lot of other people that have done extremely well in doing so. I’m open to hiring those types of people if they have the right mindset and pedigree.
Do you think in general that the direction is moving towards everyone’s an individual, there are amazing pharma reps out there that get into devices or do you think in general that stigma is still where it was 5, 6, 7, 10 years ago?
I think it’s evolving. It’s also because of the way that we’re interacting with customers because there are many medical device positions that have a significant office-based component. The biggest part of the stigma is related to how you’re self-motivated and how are you deviating from a script in order to grow your business. There’s no product catalog or a brochure that says, “These are the five things that you should tell this person about this product and contraindications. You have this message X number of times per day and you’re going to have a certain level of success.”
How many thousands of products do I have or does my team have? They have a hospital that they have to figure out how to penetrate this ecosystem and establish themselves with trust. Not only do they have to understand how those products function, they have to understand anatomy. They also have to understand the actual procedure that’s being done in those situations. There are some dynamics that make it more complex, but there are some fundamentals that allow for a lot of people to transfer those skillsets into success in the medical device space.
If you’re a Master’s degree grad or you are someone coming from a different industry and you feel it’s important to get into pharma before you get into devices because your first initial push for devices, no one’s entertaining it. Do you recommend that as a good idea or not?
It depends on what their goal is because when I went from pharmaceutical sales to medical devices, I took a pay cut. It depends on where you are in your life and what you’re willing to do. In medical devices, my first job as a sales associate, I didn’t have a territory. I had to run and jump as fast and as far as someone else told me to. Everyone’s not going to be willing to in some cases, take that financial step back to be an apprentice for two years. If your mindset is, “I want to come in so I can establish myself and learn how to articulate clinical messages to physicians. How I can build a business in a territory and find success,” then I think it’s completely applicable. If you’re also at the same time continuing to understand the nuances of whatever medical device space that you’re interested in and you can articulate how all those things you’re doing are precursory to your success in medical devices, it’s game over.
It becomes challenging for people to do that and then some people get in pharmaceuticals and they’re like, “This money is good.” Maybe they don’t necessarily get to those same levels of earnings or the types of spaces that they operate in on a daily basis but maybe they find that it’s good for them where they are. I was single and I was in a position where I was interested in it and I could pursue it and also had to relocate. What got me from the Philadelphia area down to Baltimore is when I started at the opportunity as a sales associate.
You would never advise someone, “You need to get into pharmaceutical sales before you continue going after medical devices.” That would not be good advice.
I would say network, work with recruiters and find people who are at medical device companies that they might not have an opening, but you get to learn what they’re talking about. The three brothers that sow so many seeds into me are Mike Pitts, Dave Harris and Ben Barnes. They gave me the blueprint and I didn’t even know them. They saw me, they knew and they could tell by my posture that I was on the hunt and looking for an opportunity. They said, “What’s going on? What’s up with you?”
I’m like, “I’ve got an interview with Medtronic. I’m trying to make sure I’m all good.” An hour and a half later, they’re sowing continual seeds in me as far as how to talk and how to close, certain things to be cognizant of. I would say without a shadow of a doubt and every time I see them, I tell them this. If it wasn’t for them and the guidance that they offer me when I sat down with my VP at the time, I would not have been mentally prepared.
As a result, my first interview with Medtronic in 2004 was like, “Some things you might want to work on are X, Y, and Z.” My interview in 2007, I knew 25 people at the company. At the end of my interviews, people were coming up like, “How did you do?” I already had this family especially because there are not a lot of us in this space. There was even more of a willingness and interest in saying, “How can I help this brother get in because he’s done the work and he’s prepared?” I was fortunate and blessed to have those people present themselves as the leaders that they are.
You’re in Medtronic and I’m sure you’re the happiest guy on earth at that moment. You were there for eight years. You put in some time at Medtronic. I’m sure you established a base of support and an understanding of actual medical devices in the field that you were in. Tell us a little bit about that. What field were you in and what was it like from your first few years to your last few years there?
I’ll say I didn’t find spine, spine found me. I applied for a role and it happened to be within spine. I started off as an associate sales rep. I was working for a guy who was a former West Point grad. He called me at 6:00 in the morning and we got on the phone. I looked and it was like 6:15 clockwork. It’s that regimented and structured, but it takes that type of drive and he would be super-efficient in the way that he laid out what we needed to do in order to be successful now. I felt like I had a great training ground to learn, especially in Baltimore where some of the best hospitals are in the country.
I was working in the spine space. I did that for eighteen months. He prepared me on how to manage the territory on my own. He got promoted to a manager. As a result, I was able to assume his territory. The first 2 or 3 months was awesome. My compensation got a lot stronger. I had my fair share of challenges. It’s like all of a sudden, you’re on stage and the lights go on and they say action. You’ve got to make sure that you’re ready. It’s not something that everyone can take on immediately. For people who want to transition immediately into a sales rep position, it’s far and few between especially without some of that experience. You have to be prepared for the world once you get that opportunity.
I had my fair share of challenges like anyone else. About four months into it, my number one physician passed away. At that point, I’m no longer on a salary. I’m commission only. I’m trying to figure out how am I going to survive? I had built my business up from nothing. I got opportunities that were offered to me from other companies because people saw that I’ve been in the same facilities for two years. People are like, “We feel terrible for you. We can offer you a job and it would be as a glorified sales associate again.” I said to myself, “At some point, I’m going to face the challenge in life that I’m going to have to tackle.” Career-wise, I hadn’t faced anything like that.
I’m like, “I could either take this carrot that’s being dangled in front of me,” or I could double down on myself and say, “Let me go ahead and figure this out. Let me see if I can use the brand that I’ve established, the great products that I have, and the hustle that’s within me. Get this territory up to something that I can at least pay my rent with.” Over the course of the next couple of years, little by little stacking up crumbs in order to have enough to survive on. I got higher levels of success being that person that was ready.
I would do removal cases and I’d go to surgeons and say, “I’m the same guy that’s there for you whether it’s a deposit or withdrawal. I’m going to give you the same service and the same support.” People respected what I was doing. I got successful. I started growing my business significantly. I was probably on a run rate of about $4 million per year territory. I was doing it by myself. I had a little bit of help, but for the most part, I am running that solo. I was lucky that people took a chance with me. I was lucky that my brand was strong and that I had taken all those lessons and all the seeds that were sowed in me and say, “Now it’s time to truly apply it.”
How long did that take you? You said that you had to build the business from the ground up. Was that a number of years until the end of your time with Medtronic?
That was probably somewhere around 2009 and 2010. It probably took me about two years to get things to where it was like, “It’s on now.” During that time, I started identifying different products and different ways to infiltrate facilities. There was one little product and I started having some conversations with a customer and a lot of folks that have been in the medical device can appreciate this. They don’t necessarily always want to talk about new products until they’re tried and tested and true.A sales position is not something everyone can just take on immediately. You have to be prepared once you get that opportunity. Click To Tweet
They don’t want to create disruption like that. They want to make sure that they know that there’s not going to be any issue. I’m like, “I’m not in a position where I can do that. I’ve got to sell all the new stuff.” Embracing technology is exciting for me. I started selling things that other people weren’t and finding these little niches. I’m like, “If I can find a niche that gives me a reason to be in the room and if I have a reason to be in the room, then I can brand myself.”
If I can brand myself and I’ve got decent other products, then eventually either one of two things is going to happen. Somebody is going to drop the ball, one of my competitors and I will be like, “I’ve got my stuff here.” Eventually, someone says, “I like the energy in the room when Andre is in.” For medical device books especially in the OR, it’s all about the energy that you bring into that space, how you manage the operating room.
You’re the general manager because who else is going to be in there from the beginning of the surgery to the end? Nurses come and go. Scrub techs are going to get relieved. Anesthesiologists are going to go on break. If they’re lucky enough to have a PA, they might have to go up and see somebody do a consult or something like that. The only person that’s there from the beginning to the end is the surgeon, the patient, and you. How do you make that environment net by? I’ve still got playlists on my Pandora from surgeons that I used to work with up in Baltimore because I’ve got to make sure I got the right vibe.
That puts a lot of pressure on the sales rep for you to be one of the factors into making sure the energy is right and your entire career is based on how well you can establish that on a consistent basis.
Somebody can cut you off in traffic on your way anywhere. I don’t care where you’re going. You can be going somewhere super fun. You may be going to the airport to go on vacation. Somebody cuts you off in traffic or takes a parking spot in the garage. You’re walking through the concourse still and then let them change your gate. Now you’ve got to go from A terminal to B terminal. Now, it starts to snowball. OR is the same way. It’s a theater. It’s a suite for them to focus on doing the most important thing at the time.
You’ve got to make sure that you preserve the integrity of that sanctuary for them so that they can do what they do best in the environment that they need it to be. I’m not an expert at it but one thing I’ve realized is that certain surgeons were in better moods when the temperature was right and the music that they wanted to hear was playing. If too many people were talking in the background, I might lean back like, “He’s decompressing right now. You might want to dial it down a little bit.”
You are establishing yourself as a true asset, a resource in every way of the word. As you said, you become highly valued in your territory and that’s when things start happening and you start growing the business.
That’s part of the reason why I got tapped on the shoulder to lead a team after some success in President’s Club and things of that nature. I got an opportunity to lead a team in a slightly different division. I relocated from Baltimore to move down South to Atlanta and I managed four states with seventeen people in that position.
Medtronic is an amazing company. Why did you leave Medtronic?
It was a great experience and there are great opportunities there. There was a reorganization and I was being offered a number of roles so I could have continued my career there. My wife was pregnant. We were building a house and we’d moved the year prior and the idea of me going into my wife and saying, “We are moving to New Orleans,” it was not optimal. Also, the types of roles at that point in my career I was interested in started to shift.
Intellectual curiosity, one is to find ways to help other people start enjoying leadership and one to help other people find success. During that time, I had conversations with folks and there was a gentleman who I was in initial training with a Medtronic who was at NuVasive and he was someone who I respected tremendously. He started talking about how cool his role was, how cool the company was, and the technology’s killer.
Innovation is always something that’s driving a lot of the decisions that I make and the culture of the organization. When did he start talking about the technology that they had and the procedures and the approach to engaging customers being different than, “You want a screw? We’ve got screws.” It was like, “We’re going to talk to you about a procedure of how you can use these and maximize the outcome for a patient.” I was sold.
I started interviewing for a market development position in the Southeast and I took that on. I was excited about that because it gave me big geography and gave me the opportunity to brand myself in a lot of different areas. I think more importantly, that position, we were at the tip of the spear from a clinical perspective. It allowed for me to dive into my chops of understanding clinical literature and how to articulate it and how to walk someone on his journey from doing procedures one way to doing things totally different. I felt like that was a position that had some gravitas and some juice. It’s a fraternity because there’s a long lineage of those individuals within the company and even thereafter.
Then here you are at NuVasive.
I am fortunate and blessed with the opportunities that have been presented before me and I don’t take it lightly. The only thing I can do in order to feel like I’m somewhat paying it back is by paying it forward and by having conversations about how other people do it.
In your role in NuVasive, tell us a little bit about what leadership looks like. We’ve talked about it before. You make hiring decisions for your team. Tell us what that looks like and maybe the top 2 or 3 things you especially look for when you’re looking to bring someone onto your team.
I’ll tell you some of the things that I look for are people that have hustle and drive. People that have something that they’re passionate about. Every conversation doesn’t have to be related to what they’ve done in their careers. It’s about, “Do you have the drive, do you have the passion to be successful and to help people in this space?” That’s what’s going to fuel you more than what you get paid. You get paid a lot less than you have to go to the bank of equity, energy and hustle. That’s something that you have to do on a daily basis. I look for people who have those characteristics.
I also think about people who are memorable and likable. You’re going to spend eight hours in a surgery with a surgeon. You have to be able to have the IQ and the EQ, but you also have to be likable so that they say, “The case went well. I enjoy having so and so in the room.” Whether they acknowledge you or not, they hear it. They know what’s going on. Those are some of the things I think are extremely important. Also, if you’re passionate about something, it comes across and then people get attracted to it.
It shows in the interview process too.
In the spine, in particular, there’s always going to be a desire to have people who have some OR experience because there are a number of factors that can create some challenges for people when they’re transitioning. You have to understand the surgical procedure. You’ve got to understand the anatomy, then you all have to understand the products that you have. In many cases, you’ll have surgeons like, “I know your stuff better than you do.”If you're passionate about something, it comes across and then people get attracted to it. Click To Tweet
How do you then in that space brand yourself and also, how do you ensure that you’re understanding and learning all those nuance things that could potentially be asked? You’ve got to be able to walk and chew gum. People who are dynamic are those that I pay attention to. The person who can hear what’s going on in our conversation while hearing what’s going on in another conversation and be able to manage those dynamics. It is some of those unspoken things.
For the future, what do you see in the next five years out? Where would you like to be if it was a perfect world in anything you have, you can have it?
Heading to the airport without somebody cutting me off in traffic and changing my gate. It seems like it’s going to be a while before we can be in that position and to a place that’s hot with no mosquitoes. Professionally, I think there are certain things that are key functions of my role and responsibility that I’ve come to appreciate and love, that are part of my why and my true north. That’s helping other people become better versions of themselves. Helping other people understand how to be good leaders and be good stewards of the organization and to help the organization reflect the world that we exist in more so than they currently do.
How do I take my position within the organization and create some scale and some dynamic where it will exist even if I’m not here? I’ve fortunately been in different leadership positions where I’ve helped partner with women’s spine and with diversity and equity and inclusion. I’m trying to make sure that those individuals who don’t get opportunities traditionally now have a voice and get a chance to have a seat at the table and now get a chance to let those talents shine so that organizations can continue to grow and find success by having a more diverse workforce.
Taking individuals who are skilled and talented, but have a tough set of circumstances and helping to make sure that they’re thinking about their business in a strategic way so they can achieve the success that I know that they’re capable of. The things that I’m most excited by is when I see on LinkedIn or in text messages or things like that when people reach back and say like, “I won President’s Club again.” “I hit this particular quota.” “I had this level of success.”
When I knew that they had it within them, but their current circumstances didn’t illustrate that it was going to be the reality for them. Anytime I have an opportunity to help people become a better version of themselves, I’m always down for the cause. To be able to do it in a space like healthcare, where you know that throughout that entire process, hoping to change the dynamics of people’s lives all over your area, that’s a win-win. The money, success and trophies will come if you do all of those things the right way every time.
Last two questions. Let’s take it back to right before Cord Blood Registry. If you can give yourself a piece of advice for the rest of your career. Something that you know now that you didn’t know back then, what would that piece be?
Stack cheddar. Stack your money. I’ve had many conversations with reps especially in the role prior to this current one. I’ve covered the entire Southeast so I’ve spent a lot of time with folks. I see how successful they are or how their business is growing but then if you see them at meetings and I’m like, “I see you are making a couple of dollars. Make sure you invest because you getting a check for $150,000 for closing out a quarter is great. Don’t just spend it.”
That’s the old head in me these days that says save your money. I also say, “If you’re having those types of wins,” buy something that you can look back at in the future and say, “This is a sign of that year where I killed it or that year I won President’s Club, so I bought a watch.” I was told by another overhead, like you’ve got to have something that you can look back to and say, “This is a sign of a level of success that I achieved that I’m proud of.” Manage your money when you’re in those spaces.
I think the only other thing that I would say is to continue to cultivate and nourish those relationships with people, with consistency whether you’re looking for a job or whether you’ve got a good job or not. The more you’re able to cultivate and establish those relationships and continue to invest in them, you’ll be a blessing to other people and people will be a blessing to you. I see it especially with my wife because she’s extremely good about that and always has been.
I see the nature of her relationships and how deeply rooted they are and it’s beautiful. In the hustle to do well and be successful, you get focused on your task at hand. Some environments, especially medical device environments have been intense and highly involved but don’t be busy that you can’t pick up your head and say, “Let me make sure I survey the landscape, touch base with people that are important to me and keep those relationships.” Before you know, you’ll be an old hair too.
You took the last question right out of my mouth with that one letting people know that they need to cultivate their relationships. That’s important. That’s critical. Even after you get the job, if somebody helps you get the job and you’ve got your network tight and they’re all supporting you and you get your role, keep those relationships going.
I’ve had people call me the night before like, “I’ve got an interview tomorrow. I need some tips.” He’s my frat brother and I love him. I’m always looking out for him. When you get those opportunities or you get that job or you kill that deal and you reach a certain level of success, make sure that you give those flowers to those people while they can smell them and say, “I appreciate you.” It might be Father’s Day. It might be the holidays or Christmas, but let people know, “I appreciate you because you helped me out.” Putting it in the universe is only going to come back full circle.
With that said, thank you so much, Andre. You serenaded us and you dropped a lot of knowledge. I know that everyone reading is truly appreciative of it.
Wasn’t that a great interview? We tackled many things in that episode. We went over the transitions you make in your career when you’re jumping from one field, for example, pharma to the next or medical device. We went over what the actual role is when you’re a medical device sales rep in the OR. I would love to hear any of you, OR reps that are reading this blog, please visit the website. I would love to hear how you manage the room, how you bring that energy and create that vibe. Go to EvolveYourSuccess.com and click the send a voice message tab and let me know. We even went over how to practice having a certain demeanor when you’re doing your job especially if you’re in the OR.
Lastly, one thing that I can’t let go of is to make sure you stack cheddar. That’s straight from Andre’s house of terms and invest your money. You’re making a lot. You’re doing well and this applies to anyone in medical sales. Many of these medical sales careers, you do earn well and if you’re a consistent performer, you’re consistently earning. You want to make some wise investments. Don’t think it’s always going to be there. Plan for an end so that you’re where you need to be when the time comes.
It was such a dynamic episode. I loved having Andre on as our guest. He knows how to express where the value is for someone that wants to be in the industry, where the value needs to be for someone that is in the industry and even how to think of the future as you continue to develop. As far as the challenge, I’m going to keep it simple. I want to hear from you all out there, what resonated with you in this episode, and what is something that you would like to be addressed in future episodes? I’m always doing everything I can to make sure you’re getting dynamic guests like Andre and you’re getting insights and perspectives that you might have never considered. Feel free to share. You can visit the send a voice message tab on the EvolveYourSuccess.com website, or you can send me an email at Samuel@EvolveYourSuccess.com.
For those of you that want to get into the industry, you already know where to go. Go to the website, take the assessment, get an idea of what you need to get in and then you’ll be prompted to set up a call with me. We can talk about what we can do with our program to help you get a position. For those of you that want to increase your performance, you’re reading to these episodes and you’re thinking, “I want to perform at that level.” Visit the website, go to the sales builder page, schedule some time and let’s have a conversation. Thank you so much for reading the blog. Continue to stay tuned for more amazing episodes with more amazing guests.
About Andre Dubose
Andre Dubose is a connector and a commercial leader—something he comes by naturally as the son of a former sales professional. His dad was his first mentor. This influence, along with his desire to impact the patient experience, is at the foundation of his record of award-winning achievements within the medtech industry. From his ranking in the top ten-percent of 340 sales peers in the second year of his career to his development of sales leaders recognized as some of the best within the industry, Andre has consistently outperformed goals for companies like NuVasive, Medtronic, and Johnson & Johnson.
Andre joined NuVasive in 2015 as a Market Development Manager in the Southeast Region. Over the next two years, he served as a field-based business partner for the region’s General Manager to drive the adoption of the company’s new product launches and disruptive technologies. He was promoted in 2017 to lead a sales organization in growing implant, disposable, biologic, and capital equipment sales across the Atlanta markets. As a Sales Director, he has led the expansion into the Chattanooga market and the transformation of his team, returning the territory to prior growth levels in one year (annual quota achievers in 2017 and 2018).
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