Mindset is a choice, and the mindset that you choose to have can change an experience that you’ve always had and turn it into something completely different. This is at the heart of what medical device sales rep and life coach Michelle Bourque brings into this conversation with Samuel Gbadebo. Medical sales can be a demanding role. You can only do it for so long before you feel the need to step back and do something else entirely. Michelle found that recharge in her life coaching practice, and it has been fulfilling for her to be able to help people in two different ways. Michelle is still an active sales rep at Medtronic and still imbues that spirit of service and commitment to the patient that reps in medical device are distinguished for. Listen in and be treated with lessons and wisdom from the best of both the medical sales and life coaching worlds.
We have with us an interesting guest because she’s a medical device sales representative that’s been in the industry for several years in pain management. She started her own life coaching practice while continuing to be a representative. Outside of her role and the products that she sells, she does spinal cord stimulators, targeted drug delivery systems outside of her role and what she does on a daily basis and how she got into it. She also discusses in this interview how coaching changed her perspective. Medical sales can be demanding especially medical device sales especially a role like pain management where a lot of hours are required. These patients that you’re going to hear about, they’re the patients that you might have a relationship with them that goes long beyond the procedure.
Your time needs to be there. You need to be available to address your customer, the providers and the patients too. For a lot of people, it’s almost like, “This job is my life.” You can only do that for so long before you feel like, “I need to take a step back, remove myself from being the frontline or go do something else entirely.” When she started her own life coaching practice, she was able to find this renewed joy and vigor within her role that allowed her to have even more time than she’s ever had, do things she hadn’t been able to do and see her trajectory in a completely different light to the point where not only did her perspective on her role improve but her actual tangible results from sales to management opportunities to entrepreneurial success. All of it improved. It’s interesting to hear and I can’t wait for you to know how she did it and specifically what it changed for her. Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy this interview.
How are you doing, Michelle?
I am excellent. Thank you for having me here.
Thank you for joining us. Give us your full name. What you can say about the company you work for? What do you do with the field you’re in? Give us the whole scoop. Go ahead.
I am Michelle Bourque and I work for Medtronic. I’ve been with Medtronic for several years and for the entire time, I’ve been in the pain management space. I work with patients who are either having spinal cord stimulators implanted or targeted drug delivery systems. They’re similar in that they both deliver some therapy to patients. The spinal cord stimulator delivers electricity to the spinal cord, and the targeted drug delivery system delivers medication to the spinal cord. We don’t necessarily save lives but we change lives. A lot of times, by the time we meet a patient, they’re at the end of their options. I feel like what we do is important.
What is the patient going through when they come across your services, what you sell? Do you interact with patients a lot or is it with the provider? How does it work?
We interact with patients. They have our cellphones. They call, they text and we are there to help with any technical questions. This job reminds me of all of the things that we take for granted because I might complain, “I have to do groceries on Sunday,” then I’ll meet a patient for a trial. With our spinal cord stimulators, there are two stages. They do a trial first and make sure it works for them before they move forward to implant. We like to assess what the goals are at that time and often, I have patients who will tell me, “I want to be able to go to the grocery store. I want to be able to sleep through the night.” They are at this place where they need something to change in order to help them.
Give us the day-to-day. What’s the first thing you do from you have to find these patients? Are the providers finding the patients and then call it on you to go interact with them? Give us the whole morning to evening. What does the day look like for you?
My morning starts at 3:15. I like to get up early, do the Peloton, get my reading and journaling and all my brain working, but then when we get ready for actual work, it’s a combination. Part of the job is that we work with doctors who already have patients within their practice that say, “This patient is a good candidate. I want you to come in and discuss with them, give them the education, help answer any of their questions.” A lot of times, patients don’t even know that this therapy exists and it’s been around since the late ‘60s. It’s crazy. That’s part of our job too, educating the community to let the patients know at a quicker or earlier place in their treatment options. On one hand, we may work with the patients who are already in practice and then on the other hand, it is that community education and hooking some of the primary care doctors up maybe with pain management physicians. When they think there are appropriate patients to refer that the doctor thinks it’s an inappropriate option to work with Medtronic also. Same thing, at that point, we would then help educate and be with the patient through the entire line of treatment. We work with them pre-education, during the trial, post-trial, implant and post-implant, the entirety of it.
What’s the length of that?
It depends on how open and ready the patient is to move forward with the trial. A lot of times, there’s a bit of concern because it’s going to be an implanted item. They have to understand that and be comfortable in their mind. On average, let’s say two months before we start some of the pre-education, you have to wait for insurance to do the approval. They do the trial. There’s usually two weeks in between before they meet with the surgeon. We typically have to wait another month or so for the insurance to approve the implant. It’s not a quick process but a lot of our doctors have great systems in place. They work with surgeons and they already have things teed up to make it as efficient as possible.
You go from case to case. How many cases are you handling per day?
That depends. I can have a day as a salesperson that I have zero cases but maybe I have patient follow-ups and I have a colleague that might be in cases. There are days when we have 2 or 3 cases each. It varies. There’s no typical day, which is what I love about the job. I feel like that’s why I’ve been here for this long because there is no typical day.
Where are you located?
I cover the Hudson Valley area of New York, which is about 1.5 hours north of New York City, and then parts of lower and western Connecticut.How we look at life and the results that we’re getting is important. It’s a full responsibility. Click To Tweet
You work on a team or is this more of a solo position?
It’s a team. I have one other colleague that we cover multiple counties within that territory.
Do you work with an associate sales representative as well?
No. The way we have it set up is I’m the sales representative and then my colleague is a clinical specialist. He is the point person for all of the cases. If there’s only one case, he would typically be the person to cover for that and then we figure out the schedule. The day before, that’s the craziest part about the job. That was the biggest learning curve for me is that you don’t know your schedule and you find it out the afternoon before.
Is it on-call in any way? You don’t know your schedule but it’s almost within this span of time?
It’s not on-call in the same idea as a trauma representative where it’s cardiac and it’s lifesaving but there are instances, for example, with targeted drug delivery. If a patient shows up in the ER, oftentimes we are called because we need to take a look at the pump. They want to make sure that it’s not over-delivering medication, under delivering. It’s usually never the pump but we still have to go to do the right thing and check it.
You’re in New York, we’re all experiencing what’s going on now with Coronavirus. How has it impacted business?
Everybody needs to start thinking differently. Our surgeries for the most part are considered elective, so ours were shut down. I say for the most part because my targeted drug delivery also entails Baclofen. For those patients, if the pump needed to be replaced, we did cover those cases because the patient could die if it was not replaced. It has offered an amazing opportunity for us to think differently about how it is that we all do business. Are there more efficient ways to do it? Are there new technologies that we need to be looking at? I try to embrace it in a way. How is this happening? How can we have this happen for us? What can we do to try to turn all of our thinking upside down and yet still help patients and be successful?
What does that look like?
Medtronic has been investing and looking at different ways to do remote interaction with patients and to be able to help them from distances. Also, we’ve launched some new wave forms and we have exciting information that was coming out during the March 2020 timeframe. Training looked different. It was all virtual. It’s looking at different ways to stay engaged with our physicians and to look at how to balance everyone being webinared out, but still be able to provide all of the amazing information to them.
When you say going the direction of being remote, are you saying you can do your role from right here in your own office, get on the computer and start helping a physician go through a procedure?
Not so much through a procedure but for some of the post-op information like post-op meetings and post-op education. We’ve been able to do more of that remotely. Interestingly, there was a case I also work with radiofrequency ablation. We did have a case where the surgery center did not want me to come in because I was coughing and they weren’t sure. We were able to do that though via FaceTime, which in the past I would have felt like, “I need to be there.” I’m like, “It all worked out.”
How do you think that’s going to play out in the future? Do you see an environment where you can do your role all from your home office?
I don’t know if my brain is open to that much of a change. I do think that we need to be in there. We bring the equipment and then we also help the doctors as far as if they’re new and they’re not entirely sure of the full procedure, making sure everything is moving smoothly. Even aside from that, because the doctors get it. It’s the interaction with the patients. A lot of times, it’s not even the technical part of. I feel like pain patients, there’s also an element of the thought process, where they are and reassuring them that it’s going to be okay and educating them. Some of that, I feel like you need to do in person. Also, if they don’t have the accessibility to telehealth, then that’s important to show them like, “I’m here. We care and we want this to go well for you.”
It sounds like you’re getting close to a lot of these patients.
It’s interesting because I started out in human services. I thought I was going to become a psychologist and I was going to save the world. I did a couple of internships that were sad and I thought, “This is not me.” I’m too goofy. I couldn’t seem to separate the two. I feel like working in pain has been an amazing opportunity to take part of that and be able to help people, and still be able to make an effect in their lives. For sure, patients will call on weekends, text on weekends, they have questions, they want to keep us up to date. I love that part of it.
The relationship with the patients, is it something that once they have this spinal cord stimulator, you’re still keeping up with them to make sure everything is working well?
Is it definite?
I always joke and I say, “We’re married. Once you get the implant, we are together until the end.” It is making sure that they are doing well. Sometimes they start to get used to it, they might need to make changes, maybe something changes in their pain pattern we need to get together. It’s important for them to know that they can contact us and we’re there to help to make those adjustments. Pain is dynamic, you need to have flexibility in the system to be able to accommodate for that.
That brings me to my next thing that I’m sure everyone wants to know, where you came from and how you got into this space. Let’s go back. What did you major in college and get this jump into your first career? What was that?
My first career out of college, I started in Human Services and then I went into English. I thought I was going to be a news reporter. I have my Master’s degree in Public Communication. I started working for the pharm team of the New Jersey Devils. From there I moved into sales for our local NBC affiliate in Albany, New York. From there I did pharmaceutical sales. I worked for GlaxoSmithKline for five years. Interestingly, I feel like the way I got into Medtronic was through karma. That may sound crazy. What happened was we went through a realignment with Glaxo. There was a woman who had an issue with where she was going. I suggested we could change. Fast forward, she ended up leaving, but one day I’m talking to this stranger in a local restaurant, it turns out his wife was the one that I offered to make the change for. He said, “I thought that was such a nice offer. We couldn’t believe anyone would do that. I want to help you with your career. I work for Medtronic and we have this position open. I would like to help you.”
That’s a first right there.
It was never even on my radar. I had to go back and research, “What does this mean? What are they talking about? I would be in the operating room.” It has changed my life. I still keep in touch with him. He’s made such a difference.
What did you see in his offer that made you say, “I’m going to make this job?”
When I first started researching, the position originally was in the deep brain stimulation division. When I did all the research on that, I thought, “This is amazing technology. You’re changing lives.” As it evolved and time went on, it moved into more of the pain division, which was awesome as well. I thought it was interesting to think that I would be in the operating room helping doctors do these cases, and then work with the patients but still have the element of sales where you can be creative and strategic and plan your business. It seemed like a perfect combination. In fact, I was at the end of the pharmaceutical sales. I know you talk about this with the golden handcuffs. I was like, “Am I making a difference? I don’t know but I’m making money.” It was back and forth. He had the answer.
You’ve found your calling because you’ve had several years in this space. You’ve had consistent levels of success. This is going to be a general question but off the top, what’s one of the things you’ve learned most about being a contributing member of society in this space? What have you learned? I want to believe that you’ve learned things about people and how people think and how people operate. You spoke to it about how people take advantage of the things they’re able to do. In totality, what’s that number one thing you can say that you’ve learned about people in general?
I’ve learned that mindset is important even in the pain space. I do the coaching but from a patient standpoint, when I meet a patient and they think, “I don’t think this is going to work for me,” then it usually doesn’t go well. That is important with my colleagues. Mindset is important to think we’re going to be successful or we’re not. Overall, how we all look at life and what we expect and the results that we’re getting is important. It’s full responsibility.
Let’s talk about that a bit. Talk to us about your coaching. Let us know when you started. What exactly are you doing in that space as you continue to be successful in your role?
Talk about full responsibility, this is probably where it stems from several years ago. I probably was like, “What am I doing? We’re always going. There’s got to be more to life.” I thought the answer was to get certified as a life coach and then I would start my practice and do that full-time. What I found was once I learned all the tools, I had to take full responsibility for my life. It had nothing to do with my job. It was managing my time, being responsible, owning things and accountability. Once I started to see that, I was like, “I can help more people like myself.” I love helping device representatives who are at a point where they think, “This job is taking everything from me,” and empowering especially women. I feel like this is generalized but for myself, what I found was I was blinders on to take care of the patients, take care of the doctors, take care of the territory that I didn’t take the time to stop and take care of my career development. We have an employee resource group within Medtronic ASPIRE, which is amazing. I was at a meeting one time and someone said, “You need to stop and take ownership of your career development.” That’s important for everyone. It is prioritizing and making yourself a priority so that everyone else benefits.
That’s critical. We’ve talked about it. If you get caught up in the day-to-day, you quickly lose sight of where you want to take things for your own career. Before you know it, 10, 15, 20 years have gone by.
You have to be intentional. I know you’ve talked about this also with the people you work with. Being intentional on what it is that you want to accomplish and taking the time. I don’t think a lot of us take the time because you’re going to stop and have space to think. Let your brain clear out and get creative on how you can come up with new solutions for your customers, for your patients, for yourself and make a difference.Take full responsibility for all of your results. We cannot change anything if we blame everything else and look at ourselves as the victim. Click To Tweet
What was the biggest or the most market change when you started to learn these tools and apply them? What did you start noticing that was different in your own career?
Where I thought I had no control over my calendar, I mentioned we don’t know our schedule until the day before, but that does not mean I don’t have control over it because I do. I’m the one who shows up every day. What I found was I could learn different tools to be able to organize my time in a more efficient way so I’m able to do more. Year-on-year, I’ve made increase in sales ever since doing coaching. Mentally, I have never felt more peaceful. In addition to that, I’ve also started my coaching practice, developed an online course. I feel better overall. It’s crazy. I feel like I know the magic to the universe and I have to tell everyone.
That’s expansive now. I like the fact that you’ve been doing this role for a good amount of time and almost like you found a whole new level of life within your role. Has this changed what you want for the future? If you can, what did you think you wanted for the future before you started this back in 2014 or 2015? What has changed now with what you want?
A lot of what I talk about is what you’re thinking and how that creates the results in your life. I know the exact thought that I borrowed from my representative that I worked with when I first started and he said, “You be a good representative and you fly under the radar.” For years, that’s what I did. I was a good representative and I flew under the radar. When I started coaching, I was like, “No. I need to make a ripple effect in the world. I need to step up. If I’m going to share these tools, it has to change.” Now I feel like because I do think I want to make a bigger impact. I am much more open to leadership opportunities. That is another thing that changed. I’ve stepped into more leadership roles within employee resource groups and any projects to take on. You summed it up. It’s a whole different level and it’s fun.
Let’s go back to your actual role. What would you say the top three things are to be the best and be an effective pain sales representative? What do you got to be doing?
Number one, take full responsibility for all of your results. If we’re blaming everything else out there and we’re the victim, then we cannot change anything. It’s full responsibility. Time management and prioritizing is also important. Third, take the time to think strategically. The difference is people are busy, and busy is sometimes a badge of honor. We have that all wrong. We need to be productive and get results and not be busy. That might look like you take some time to yourself to think, and that should not be frowned upon.
For those that are reading that want to get into this field, what do they need to be mindful of going in?
It’s fascinating because I’ve talked to a couple of candidates if they’ve been interviewing and sometimes they don’t call back. My boss is like, “What did you tell them?” “I told them the truth. You have to have a work ethic here. It is something that is expected. Your doctors have questions and need solutions. Your patients need solutions. You need to be on top of your game, also being open to change.” That is the biggest thing because I feel like change is the one constant. If you want to keep up, you have to be willing to make those adjustments and not get in the mindset of, “This is how we’ve always done it.” That is like nails on a chalkboard for me.
The person needs to be innovative and think on the fly.
That is a great way to say it. Innovative, think on the fly solutions-based thinking and have an amazing work ethic.
Is there a difference in leadership in this space? Would you say that it’s similar to other fields? Is there something different?
I don’t know if there’s anything different. The differences come with the different people, how anybody shows up in a particular role. When I think about leadership, I think it’s empowering your people, trusting that they’re going to be doing what it is and observing and supporting in any way that you can to make the entire team successful. My manager, she’s amazing. I love her. She has us in a winning direction. I feel like that energy is important. Specifically, within my leadership, that’s amazing. Have I had other opportunities with not the same leadership? Yes. Are there maybe differences? Yes. That’s across the board in any field.
With the patient involvement especially in medical device sales, not every field has this level of patient involvement. For someone that wants to take this on, what do they need to understand about that?
Even when I’m speaking with new hires, I make that clear. There are a number of roles in medical device that you go in, you do your thing and you go out. This is something that has to be understood that there may be times that you have to talk to a patient, and it’s on a weekend and you’re at lunch with your husband. It has to be something that when you’re signing up for it, you understand. There is this give and take. It’s not 9:00 to 5:00. Someone needs to be clear on that and okay with that. It works for a lot of people and it doesn’t for some, but what’s important for the sake of any company and for the sake of the new hire is that is clear so that you’re not starting under different assumptions of what the job is.
Let’s jump to your coaching. What’s the kind of the person that you specifically invite into your coaching practice? I know there are a lot of people reading that are going to want to know what that’s about. Tell us a bit more.
I love specializing and helping women be able to take control of their calendar and to find life outside of work, so that they can excel in their career but without the stress and overwhelm to allow them to be able to do more of what they want.
Is it medical device-focused, even pain management-focused or is it corporate-focused? What’s the focus?
When I first started, I have some people that are busy professional women but I find I’m helping more specifically device reps because I get that. That’s where I’m from. I know the issues and the pain points and I know I’ve done the work, so I can help you.
How can they find you?
The best way to find me is MichelleBourqueCoaching.com. It has all of the goodness there.
Michelle, it was amazing speaking to you. I love what you’re doing especially with the coaching practice. It’s cool for you to notice that there’s a definite need in your space and you saw how you can contribute in a bigger way, how you can show up in a bigger way and you took it upon yourself to create something that is helping people. That’s beautiful. Is there anything else you’d like to leave with our readers?
I want to say thank you. I love watching and learning all of what you’re doing. Thank you for this opportunity.
I’ll talk to you soon, Michelle. Take care.
It’s refreshing to hear how the mindset you choose to have. I say “choose” because mindset is a choice but when you’re exposed to think differently, you realize that your mindset is a choice and you choose differently. The mindset you choose to have can change an experience that you’ve always had and make it a completely different experience. That’s the heart of what Michelle was talking about in that episode. It’s critical for all of us. Every one of us needs to evaluate, “Are we happy doing what we’re doing?” If we’re not and if we feel burned out or that this has lost some of its meaning or that we don’t belong anymore, before jumping ship, we should make sure we evaluate our mindset and we understand how we’re thinking and how we’re seeing things. That’s what life coaching does.
One thing that is important that a lot of people don’t understand because it’s still becoming a recognized part of development, is coaching. It’s been around for a while. You hear the buzzword “life coaching” but until you experience it or until you do it yourself, you don’t understand the value. I talked to many leaders and representatives in this space and many of them are involved in coaching, whether it be executive coaching or life coaching. They swear by it. They share with me how it’s changed, how they see things, to how they lead, to how effective they are with their team, to how effective they are in the field. Even to how effective they are within their own organization and how this coaching element has allowed them to be exposed to opportunities that they probably would have never seen otherwise.
It’s important to have something in place to help you evaluate your mindset and make sure that whatever you’re involved in now is being seen through a lens that allows you to thrive. Especially now, we’re still in these COVID times. People are still trying to manage not just work and whether it be, “How do I get the work I want to be in? How do I continue to matter the work that I’m in? How do I deal with everything else with the fact that this is happening? The fact that we’re in quarantine, how do I handle my life?” When you’ve taken the time to understand where your mindset is, and you’ve been given the tools to choose a mindset that will serve you, that’s when life can be fun even in an environment like this.
I’m grateful that Michelle was able to join us. I hope you were able to learn so much in this episode. If you’re someone out there in the field and you’re reading this and you’re saying, “I need to temp check and consider what resources are out there to help me.” Please make sure you visit Michelle’s site and you let her know because she’s created an amazing resource that is helping people all over and it’s completely transformed her life. Also, if you’re someone that wants to get into the industry, you’ve been reading the blog and you’ve said to yourself, “I need to do something different because I want to be in this role.” Make sure you visit EvolveYourSuccess.com and take the assessment. It’s going to give you some insight into where you are in your pursuit and what you need to do to sincerely make the dreams that you have happen. Go to that website, click “Attain a medical sales role.”
If you’re someone that you’ve been reading also and you’ve been thinking, “I want to improve my performance. I want to take my career to the next level. I want to be able to get access to providers that I can’t. I want to do something different within my sales calls. I want to be more effective. I want to grow within my organization.” You need to visit EvolveYourSuccess.com and click “Improve sales performance” and get with one of us at Evolve Your Success. Let’s have a conversation and let’s talk about how we can evolve your success and help you enterprise yourself within your organization.
If you’re a sales leader out there and you’re looking for ways to grow your organization or ways to lead your team, we have resources for you at EvolveYourSuccess.com. You can also click “Improve sales performance” or send me an email at Samuel@EvolveYourSuccess.com. I want to thank you for taking the time to read the blog. We do what we can to bring you guests that will provide value and give you insight into getting into these types of positions, succeeding within these types of positions and leading these types of positions to even greater success. Make sure you tune in for another episode.
One on one coaching for professional women who want to improve work-life integration. Empowering women to excel in their career – but without the stress and overwhelm. Host of It’s Your Time podcast.
Sales Representative III, Medtronic Neuromodulation. Responsible for driving the strategic growth of Spinal Cord Stimulation, Intrathecal Drug Delivery for Intractable pain; malignant/nonmalignant pain. Serve as lead in the education of physicians and patients ensuring access to therapies and growth of community awareness.
Chair, Membership Committee National ASPIRE Women’s Leadership ERG Medtronic.
Chair ASPIRE Women’s Leadership ERG Medtronic – Hudson Valley NY/Western CT Local Area Network.
Community Manager of private online community for professional women: It’s Your Time – Own Your Life.
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