Becoming a seller is a pretty straightforward venture, with you only caring about your customers. But being a sales leader is on an entirely different level. Jumping into this position means you are getting a much larger circle of people to please. In this first episode of a three-part series, Samuel Gbadebo is joined by Terry Coutsolioutsos of Siemens Healthineers. Terry looks back on how an aspiring Wall Street guy like him found a bigger purpose in the field of medical sales. He talks about his never-ending curiosity and constant desire for a challenge that allowed him to grow in his chosen career. Terry also discusses the required efforts from sales managers to produce efficient sales representatives under their wing.
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Terry Coutsolioutsos On What It Takes To Become A Sales Leader
We have with us Terry Coutsolioutsos. Terry is a fascinating guest because not only is he a great speaker but he’s the Senior Vice President for Sales Operations Marketing and Communications for Siemens Healthineers. He brings a unique perspective because his role is on the front lines of transformation when it comes to the medical device sales space. He has such a wealth of experience from where he started to where he is now. When you hear about the story of someone that ground their way through to the top, Terry is the person you want to hear from. This is going to be a multiple-part interview. We had a lot of fun. We got into a lot of conversation. We covered quite a bit. This is part one. As always, thank you for reading. I do hope you enjoy this interview.
I’m excited because we have Terry Coutsolioutsos. He has had an amazing career. He’s done amazing things. He’s finally here to talk with us. Terry, before I say any more, I’m going to let you go ahead and talk about who you are and what you do.
I head up Marketing and Sales Operations and Communications for Siemens Healthineers in North America. It’s a great group that is going through a tremendous amount of change and offering great value back to our commercial organization. We are a centralized group. We’re a shared service group. We support about 1,200 or 1,300 sellers and marketers.
You’re at a pretty high level in your company. Everybody wants to know how it is you got there and where it is you started. Take us back to college. Did you go to college saying, “I want to be the Senior Vice President for Siemens Healthineers one day?” What were you working on coming out of college?
I’m glad I lived through college and I made it through in four years. I did not go to college to become a medical device, medical sales representative or an executive. I went to college at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio. It’s a great liberal arts school. My goal back then was to go into banking and finance. I wanted to be a trader on Wall Street. I graduated in the late ‘80s. For those of you that are old enough, there’s a major market crash in 1987. I was graduating right after that. They weren’t hiring anybody on Wall Street. They were laying everybody off. My first job out of college was in banking. I went into the typical three-year rotational program where you do a little bit of commercial, a little bit of retail and learned how to become a commercial banker.
What happened to even introduce the healthcare sales world to you?
I got to give you a lot of credit because you provide a channel for people who are trying to get into medical sales and become medical sales professionals. Kudos to you.
Thanks, Terry. I appreciate it.
People like you didn’t exist back in the late ‘80s when I was trying to get into medical sales. I was a college graduate that had spent three years early in the banking industry that realized he didn’t want to be a banker. That’s all I knew. I was fortunate enough to have a great mentor that I worked for in the bank. I had a few friends that I hung out with that were young professionals that were in the medical and pharmaceutical space. There were some tremendously interesting disruptive things happening in the medical space when I wanted to get back into it.
US Surgical became a part of Covidien, which is now part of Medtronic. It was introducing laparoscopic and endoscopic surgery. That was a technology that was starting to take off in the early ‘90s. I had two choices. I’m either going to go into financial sales. I had a job offer from Merrill Lynch and from Roche. I had two birds in the hand within a couple of weeks. It was faith because I went into the Merrill Lynch office to go spend a day and didn’t have a great experience watching how that office worked. I ended up taking a job with Roche and moving to Chicago. That’s when my medical device career and technology for services and healthcare took off.
You had a couple of people in your circle that were in this space. You started with Roche and then I see that you went to work for Pfizer. How long were you a pharmaceutical sales rep?
I wasn’t even a pharmaceutical sales rep. In my first job with Roche, I sold laboratory testing services. I did this in Chicago. These were the days before LabCorp and Quest. The lab service company would come by and pick up the specimens from the office and they would go back and test them. They then would send you either the results by fax. They have these little modem printers that would be in your office and they would send the results back. This is a job where you would knock on 40 or 50 doors a day. This is like a copier commodity sales type of stuff where your whole goal that day was to get 2 or 3 appointments scheduled to come back and have a real conversation. I would consider that was a real School of Hard Knocks.
After Roche, talking about the circle. When I lived in Chicago, my next-door neighbor was a recruiter for the healthcare space. He was recruiting for a company called Circon ACMI. It became a part of Gyrus, which was in the laparoscopic and endoscopic business. That was the first what I would consider a transformational sales role that I had because laparoscopic surgery was beginning to emerge. This is when we were taking gallbladders out with scopes in 3 or 4 holes and trocars in the body. You were not opening people up for surgery anymore. I was a technical service representative. I serviced about 8 or 9 account executives in the Midwest. I had Iowa, Chicago and Nebraska.
I was the guy that they would sit into a hospital for a week and babysit a demo in their territories. I got a chance to do that. When I did that well, I got promoted. I got my territory. I moved to New Jersey. This was a role where it was 100% commission. The only thing the company gave you was a commission check and the ability to buy health insurance. All the expenses were on your own. If you spent dollars investing in a doctor to go take them out or take them to a conference, it was out of your pocket. It was an interesting opportunity and a great learning experience for me as a business owner. Even now, when I’m running a budget of multi-millions of dollars, I still feel like I’m spending my own money. I can remember going back to those days in New Jersey and New York City when I was the account owner and spending my own money on my own business. I still carry that mentality with me wherever I go.Sometimes, your best sellers don't necessarily equal your best sales leaders. Click To Tweet
I’m sure it served you. Not just that but I’m sure you have the grit and grind, that’s reinforced when you’re 1099.
That 1099 will go away. That’s the commission check. Back then was in my single days. I wasn’t married. I didn’t have a family. I could move to Chicago and New York. I have that free lifestyle that you could pack everything you own in the back of a U-Haul truck and drag it across the country and pretty much start your life right over again. It’s fun.
This was with Boston Scientific?
No. That was with Roche first in Chicago and then with Circon ACMI, which became Gyrus Olympus. I did that here in New Jersey. I was sitting there with my job with Circon ACMI and I was sitting in the Marriott lobby at LaGuardia. I remember this guy, his name is John Oaks and he worked for a division of Pfizer called Schneider. It was one of the first endoscopic stents ever. He was like, “You played around with this thing.” I’m curious in nature and I’m like, “What’s this?” He’s like, “This is a stent.” I’m like, “What’s a stent?”
Little did I know, that conversation turned into me walking into a business that started off at $0. Now, when you look at the endovascular and cardiovascular stenting business, it’s probably a $10 billion marketplace worldwide. Back then, when I was touching and feeling this thing at the LaGuardia Airport, it was a $0 market. He and I developed a relationship and had a couple of conversations. About 3 or 4 months later, I was working for Pfizer in a division called Schneider, which was then bought by Boston Scientific. We’re selling this thing called the Wallstent. It’s fun.
That’s a pretty organic move, then Boston Scientific buys that division of Pfizer and I’m assuming you rolled right in with Boston Scientific then because you were doing a good job.
It’s what I did for a while. There was a company called Guidant, which also had another stent. I left Boston Scientific to go work for a company called Guidant that had the first cardiovascular stents in the marketplace.
What inspired that move?
I went from selling stents for the body and legs. There was a new thing that they were developing, stents for the heart. I went from selling cardiovascular products for the legs to cardiovascular products for the heart. I went to work for a company called Guidant, which is another long story because Boston Scientific bought us about 5 or 6 years after that. I’ve worked for a couple of companies at Boston. I started working for Pfizer selling the Wallstent. I got married in that timeframe, too. There’s a lot of personal change in there. Boston Scientific bought Schneider. I then went to work for Guidant. After that acquisition, my wife and I said, “Everybody waits until they retire to move to Florida.” I didn’t realize I was unemployed after the acquisition. We packed up the truck and went to Florida. I ended up getting a job with Guidant. I opened up one of the first territories in Florida. That was a lot of fun.
After Guidant, what happened next? You’re in Florida and you’re working for Guidant.
I’ve been carrying a bag at this point, probably for ten years, close to 2001. I had about every conversation you can have with a physician about the product. I can remember going out every day. One of the most fun I’ve ever had was working for Guidant. It was one of those disruptive, transformational times in healthcare. It’s a successful timeframe. Everybody was having a lot of fun. With an 80% sense of accuracy, I could start talking to physicians about my product. I was starting to even predict their objections before they even came out of their mouth. I was doing some field sales training, bringing new hires on and was like, “This isn’t challenging anymore for me. I’m going to say this and the doctors are going to say this. I’m going to say that and then we’re going to come back.” It was almost like we’re predicting the whole thing.
At that point, I wanted to do more. I was starting to do some field training and mentoring for new hires. That was inspirational for me. I thought the next step was to go into sales management. I wanted to get into sales management and Guidant said, “You’d be a great manager and a great leader one day.” I said, “That’s super. When can I start?” They said, “We want you to go do a development-rotational role.” I’m like, “What’s that?” A good philosophy by this company is that they develop talent and people would go up but they also wanted people to go sideways.
I had an opportunity to go work for a guy named Ernie Edwards. He took a chance on me. He brought me in as an investment and bringing the salesperson into marketing. I left Florida. I went out to Santa Clara, California to do a marketing rotation. It was a phenomenal experience for me because when you’re a sales professional and you’re in your territory, that’s pretty much the only thing you know. It’s like heads down, “Here’s my number. Here are my customers. Here’s my product. I’m going to go bang it out every day.” The rest of the world around you sometimes doesn’t exist. It gave me an opportunity to see what marketing was, what running a company is and what collaboration inside of a company looks like. It was a wonderful learning development opportunity for me. That’s something that I’ll always cherish.
This is great to know, the fact that you were carrying the bag for ten year and you realized that you no longer want to be siloed. You needed to get access to more of what was going on because you wanted to provide more value. When people that are in the field read this, what would you advise them that would get them in front of?Confidence is a huge part of anybody's role in success. If you lack competence, the likelihood of success is low. Click To Tweet
There are a couple of things. You have to be self-reflective. Becoming a sales leader or a manager is something you got to want. Be careful what you ask for. You have to have a severe passion for people and helping other people be successful. A lot of great sales professionals are great in their world and mind. They’re kingdoms of that part and they love that. There’s a place for that in every sales organization. We always need great sellers who are also field ambassadors and field leaders. Sometimes they’re not necessarily built and wired or capable of leading others for success. Sometimes your best sellers don’t necessarily equal your best sales leaders.
The first thing I would suggest you do is to reflect on yourself, do you want your next role to be about everybody else but you? When you’re a seller, it’s about you and your customer. It’s a pretty simple world. It’s two-dimensional. When you become a sales leader and a manager, you have people to please, your team. You have your boss, company, organization and customers to please. All of sudden, you’re getting more variables and dynamics into your world. It’s less about you and more about everybody else. That was the one thing that I started to embrace and hone in on. I was that sales representative who was focused on their customers and their territory. I needed that new role to broaden my vision, perspective and appreciation for what a sales leader does.
You said that when it comes to getting into leadership, you have to reflect and then assess if you’re capable of doing it. Do you see that it’s something that can be developed or no? You either that person or not?
Most skills can be learned. There are a lot of things that aren’t me and inside of me, DNA, that I’ve developed over time because you recognize them. You have to work with somebody to develop conscious decision making, conscious coaching and conscious activity into muscle memory. First, it becomes conscious. You have to remind yourself to do things. Hopefully, over time, you do it enough that it becomes a subconscious thing. There are a couple of things. One is you want to do more, raise your hand and engage with people who have done it before.
The other thing too that I’ve always told people who’ve wanted to progress that has worked for me is when they want that next level job, start acting and doing that job now. Prove to that person who’s going to hire you into that next level up that you selecting them for that job is not a risk because you’re already doing 70% or 80% of it already. You make it easy for yourself to step into those roles because you start experimenting a little bit.
I’ll give you some examples. When we’ve looked at high-caliber talent, we start as an organization looking at individual contributors and say, “We believe, this person has a legitimate path and runway to do more from a leadership perspective.” We start putting them into leadership programs. We don’t make them a leader and say, “We hope you can do it.” Sometimes that happens. If you do it right, you bring people in. You put them through some leadership classes. You let them do some role-playing and learn how to do talent acquisition and do some interviews.
As a regional manager, if you have somebody on your team that wants to do that role down that road, let them participate in selection rounds for talent. Let them take on budget discussions. Let somebody take a different role on a team that’s leading a function inside of a regional sales meeting. Let them take things on and develop those skills and capabilities, so they’re confident. At the end of the day, confidence is such a huge part of anybody’s role in success. If you lack confidence, the likelihood of success is no. There are different ways to get confidence, experiences, didactically learning fundamental skills, concepts and processes. When people have those things underneath them and they start putting them together with action and experiencing some failure and some success, that builds upon for the next role every single day. That’s a good way to go.When pursuing that next-level job, start doing that job today. Prove to the person hiring you that you are the best fit for the position because you're already performing around 80% of the work. Click To Tweet
If you’re out there and you want to do more, raise your hand to your boss and say, “What can I do to get myself ready for a role like you have?” Maybe it’s not their role but maybe it’s another role. You say, “Susan, that’s a job I want. I’m passionate about that. How do I get there? Help me understand that.” If they’re good leaders, they’ll help you map that, create a pathway and provide experiences for you so that one day you’ll be in a position that you’ll deserve.
This makes me think of an issue that a lot of reps face that want to get into leadership at some point in their career. It’s that difficult manager. Have you ever had that experience where you had a difficult manager and you weren’t sure how you’re going to move the needle forward in light of their leadership?
What do you mean by difficult managers? That’s a big word.
A lot of times, it’s the perspective of a sales rep. Have you ever had a leader that was leading you and you didn’t get along?
Everybody’s had a boss like that. I’m sure people have said that about me too. It’s all about collaboration. At the end of the day, it helps me as a leader. I wish I would have known this earlier in my career when I wasn’t a leader as well. Communication is such a key thing. We’re much better communicators than we were years ago when it comes to an organizational perspective. As organizations, we are much more sensitive, empathetic and understanding nowadays than we were years ago when it was a vertical world in nature. There’s a lot of different demographics in the workforce today. We still have Baby Boomers in the workforce. We still have Gen X-ers like me. We’ve got Millennials, Y’s and Z’s. It’s probably the most diverse time in our lifetime.
I grew up with the Boomer and Gen X-ers, which was pretty much more of a vertical like, “Here’s the message.” The message goes downhill. Nowadays, we listen and communicate more, more empathetic and understanding. People in nowadays’ marketplace and workplace should be seeing leaders and managers that listen and looking out more, that have a perspective of work-life balance. I never heard about work-life balance years ago. That word didn’t exist in the dictionary. Nowadays, some of the main topics that I discuss with my team and leaders are pressure, mental health and happiness. Nobody had any discussion about my mental happiness years ago. It’s a pretty cool time for people to be in the workforce.
If you have a difficult leader, communication is key. Be upfront and having honest conversations with your leader but in listening too. Both sides need to listen. Your use the mouth and ears ratio. As sellers, we should be better skilled at listening than speaking. It’s about sharing perspectives and aligning expectations. That’s something that we’ve done well at Siemens Healthineers. It’s what we call Our People in Leadership Practices. It’s about, my team can come back to me and say, “I’m not comfortable with this goal, task, timeframe, this deadline or my budget.” I can still say, “I don’t agree with you. That’s what we have.”If you have difficult leadership management relationships, you need to work it and know the right time to move on. Click To Tweet
I do create a platform and an open-door policy for our people to have that type of conversation to give me feedback. I am constantly asking my team, “How am I doing with you?” I tendency fall on accountability for empathy. I’ve learned how to be a more empathetic leader by far. My ground zero response is accountability. I ask my team all the time, “Am I doing okay? Am I asking the right questions? Am I giving you what you need? Am I giving you enough space? Am I diving in and driving you when I need to drive you?”
Leadership is a tough thing. Some people in certain situations need less direction and need less of you. In fact, they need less involvement of you. Stay away. In some situations, they need help. They need you to remove barriers, obstacles and have conversations with other leaders or get more resources. You’ve got to be close in contact with your people. I would say that if you’re having difficult leadership and management relationships, it’s like any other relationship. If you want it, you got to work at it. If you don’t, maybe decide to divorce that relationship and move on.
What was your last leadership position at Guidant?
I was a regional sales leader for our cardiac rhythm management group, pacemakers and defibrillators. It was a dynamic business, a big sales organization and a massive organization. I had a $30 million or $40 million region. I had eighteen sales and clinical support people reporting to me. That was a dynamic, hardworking, highly committed group and patient-oriented. Not to exaggerate but these devices save patients’ lives every day. We have a pacemaker and internal defibrillator that shocks somebody’s heart back into a normal sinus rhythm when it was in a lethal one, two minutes before.
It’s tear-jerker stuff. Your patients will tell you that they’re in the grocery store and they fell out of breath and dizzy. The device, when it recognizes it, it’ll start beeping out of your chest, so it warns them. It shocks the heart. They said that it feels like a horse kicked you in the chest and then they wake up. They’re the stuff when you listen to it, brings tears to your eyes because the whole family is there. You know that if that device was not in the chest of that patient, they’d be in the ground the next day.
That was Terry Coutsolioutsos. What I love about listening to Terry is how he was able to leverage all of his experiences into new roles because of his natural-born curiosity. Whenever he got into a role, he would get curious about what he was selling and what he was doing. He wants to understand it and understand where that device was going, where it was headed, the plans for that device and then put himself in a position to work in an environment when they’re in the front of it. It’s a great way to lead your career. We talked about it in this interview.
I want to remind you all that this interview that you’re reading from Terry is part one. We’re going to have a part two and there’s going to be a part three. As you learned, part one is mostly about his career and his experiences to get him to where he is now. Part two is going to be a little bit about that but then we’re going to talk more about leadership and transformation. What do I mean by transformation?
Let’s think about his role. He’s the Senior Vice President of Sales Operations Marketing Communications for Siemens Healthineers. His role is responsible for getting in front of all the changes that are happening as far as the buying experience with customers and what Siemens need to do to make sure that experience is great. In a role like that, there’s a lot to talk about around change. With what we’ve all experienced with COVID, there’s so much to cover and go over. We’re going to do all of that in part 2 and 3. Make sure you come back for those episodes.
If you’re reading this and you’re thinking to yourself, “I want to work in this space. I want to be in the medical device sales.” Maybe you want to be in pharmaceutical sales, genetic testing sales or biotech sales. Make sure you visit EvolveYourSuccess.com and get in touch with us. Click Attain A Medical Sales Role and follow the prompts. Find us on LinkedIn and look for Samuel Adeyinka, send a connection message or a text and have a discussion with us. We’re going to introduce you to an opportunity that can completely change the game for you.
We have a program that has helped so many, placed them in the right positions within medical device sales companies, pharmaceutical companies, genetic testing companies in the medical sales space. If you’re a sales rep or you’re a sales leader, you have a team that you want to take the next level and you’re trying to understand better ways to get in front of your customers and get access to your customers and grow the business, reach out to us.
Send a connection message or a text and one of our client specialists will get with you and have a great discussion about what we can do to get your team to the next level or get you to the next level. As always, we do our best to bring you excellent guests that have fascinating stories and we give you insights into their careers, what they’re doing, how they’re doing it and how you can do the same. Make sure you come in for another episode. Thank you for reading.
About Terry Coutsolioutsos
Transformational sales, marketing, and sales operations leader.
Key Experiences: Regional, Area/Zone, and National Field Sales Leadership, Enterprise-Wide Strategic Accounts Leadership, and North American leader of Marketing, Sales Operations, and Communications.
Specialties: Revenue development and generation, strategic business planning, sales execution, CRM and Tech Stack Execution (Design, Development, and Adoption), digital and sales process transformation, sales education and skill development, empathetic and accountable leadership, talent acquisition and development, pricing and contract negotiations, organizational effectiveness (structure and alignment), and Winning Sales Culture initiatives.
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