There are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to work in medical sales, whether in pharmaceutical sales, medical device sales, or diagnostic testing. And that happens most especially in a role like trauma. In this episode, Julia Greenspan debunks the myth of medical device reps in trauma sales and levels the playing field in orthopedic trauma. Julia Greenspan has 23 years of operating room experience and over 15 years in medical devices. Specializing in ortho trauma has given her experiences as a sales rep, senior sales rep leading trauma teams, training and managing successful associates, spearheading medical education programs for surgeons, and more. Tune in as Julia takes us deep into what it means to be in medical sales, especially in trauma.
I’m happy to present a wonderful guest that goes by the name of Julia Greenspan. Julia is a mom, a family woman that spent fifteen years in Trauma with young children and ultimately transitioned to Wound Care. She is the definition of authenticity. She tells it how it is, straight shooter, candid, lovely to listen to, and makes you feel at ease. She’s the person you can ask any question to, and she’ll give you a straight answer. I’m so happy to bring this interview to the airwaves because her story is something that I sincerely believe everyone should hear.
There are a lot of misnomers out there about what it means to be in medical sales, whether you’re in pharmaceutical, medical device, or diagnostic testing. I’ve seen there are even more misnomers or as many misnomers within a medical device. What happens especially in a role trauma and someone like Julia levels the playing field and lets you know what’s going on? This is a must-read. You want to catch this interview. You want to read every word.
I am so happy to bring Julia Greenspan to the blog space. As always, we do our best to bring you guests who bring innovation to the medical sales space and are doing things a little bit differently as they contribute and make it the great space that so many people should consider jumping into. I want you to enjoy this interview. I want you to read and as always, thank you for tuning into the show.
Julia, how are we doing?
I’m doing awesome. How are you doing, Samuel?
Fantastic. No complaints. What type of company is 3M to give everybody a little bit of context?
3M is interesting. A lot of us know them as the tapes company and the Post-it company. Maybe someone watched Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion and was like, “Yeah, Post-its.” They do a lot more than that. 3M acquired a company called KCI a few years ago. That is the grandpa of wound care. They have the most respected and clinically-based wound VAC on the market and they have the lion’s share of the market share there.
When they acquired them, they were acquiring a large business and needed some solid medical device reps. They got a lot of amazing KCI employees that came along with them. Also, because of 3M’s reach, they also needed to make sure that they were able to have enough sales force to tackle all the new business. I became part of that little fold.
What do you sell particularly?
I do wound care and wound VACs. For patients who are chronically ill or if you’ve ever been in a trauma situation, you have someone with a large open wound and things that can’t be closed right away, there are a lot of things that they can do to speed along the recovery process for that soft tissue damage. Wound VAC is one of the tools in the toolbox.
There are a lot of readers that aren’t too familiar with the med sales industry because they want to get in. Also, there are people that have been in their space for a long time. What industry did you come from to even be attracted to something like 3M?
It was an interesting transition. For my background, I was in the operating room for about 22 years, something like that, before coming to 3M. I was a Surgical Technologist and then Orthopedic Trauma Rep for all of that time. What brought me to 3M was a non-compete. I left Stryker and had a choice of whether to try to stay in Trauma for that year after the non-compete and deal with all that mess or to do a new thing. I had a Trauma partner of mine who had left Stryker previously and came after me a little bit for the 3M job. It was like, “Come over here.” I had a trauma buddy there, so I thought, “Why not give it a shot and try a new thing?” I’m loving it so far. It’s fun applying the Trauma mentality to Wound Care.
You’re at 3M. That’s Wound Care. Give us a day in the life of a Wound Care rep. What is that setup even like?
It’s a lot different. If you have someone like me who is used to operating room sales and surgical sales, your customer is going to be all aspects of that hospital. It’s a big ecosystem. You’ve got the materials management to the C-Suite, the surgeon to the surgical tech, but at the end of the day, the way you get paid is by getting a PO. We all know that. You go, you do your case, and you get your PO hopefully within 30 days. Cross your little fingers and your toes that you get that within 30 and get it off your list.If you are used to operating room sales and surgical sales, you know your customer will be all aspects of the hospital. It's a big ecosystem. Click To Tweet
For wound care, it’s different. I had never done DME sales, which is Durable Medical Equipment sales. I wanted to learn that side of the business since I had a year to play around in different waters. DME sales work a lot differently because your customer is oftentimes more the patient. You’re getting direct patient contact. I have known these patients for months, which is a different thing than walking into an operating room and seeing a surgical field and walking out. Now they have my cell phone number, which is a different situation. Thank goodness, I like people.
I like the patient contact aspect, but when it comes to the actual sales cycle, it’s also interesting and different because how I get paid is from insurance companies. Instead of having limited contact with how the payment happens, I’m deeply involved in the process, including authorizations and requirements for documentation for the patient as they heal things and things like that.
As a trauma rep, I had one phone to rule them all because you’re on call 24/7, so who cares? Now I’ve got 2 phones, 2 cell phones, 1 fax, and all this other stuff. I have sensitive patient information coming to my electronic devices all day because I’m dealing with insurance and all these new steps to the sales cycle that I didn’t have before. It’s a good learning experience.
Your account, then, your call point are various types of people.
Everywhere. Is it a wound center for patients that are chronic wound patients that are going to their physician maybe once a week or once every few weeks? You might see them for months like diabetics, with foot ulcers, things like that. Maybe it’s a private physician’s office. We know that sometimes there are complications from elective procedures like plastic surgery. Now I know those complications are owned by the physician for 90 days after the surgery. If there’s a complication, they got to deal with it.
For those situations, I’m a close partner with that surgeon to make sure that we get the patient on back therapy and get that wound healed. That’s a different type of patient, chronic diabetic versus an elective plastic surgery patient, totally different physicians. It’s an interesting thing to navigate and understand the different animals like, “This wound is going to act this way. This wound might act that way.” What are the tools in our bag to get that patient back to normal? Those are fun because, again, trauma’s so in the minute and by the second and by the hour, and then you’ve got wound care which is by the month or by six months.
With wound care, you are creating the majority of your schedule. You have this territory you’re responsible for and you’re deciding, “This is how I’m going to manage my day each and every day.” Is that how you treat it or is it more, “9:00 to 5:00, I’m going to make sure I’m in these areas at this time?”
It’s hard for a trauma rep to ever be 9:00 to 5:00, regardless of where you put them. It’s like putting me in a different fish tank, I’m probably going to swim the same. For me, I keep my phone on 24/7. There are some coworkers that I have that don’t do that and that is completely up to them. That’s their prerogative because 3M also has an awesome 1-800 number that’s on 24/7 with clinical people. Technically, you can turn your phone off and your patients will still get the care they need if they have a question, troubleshooting, or things like that. I find that my patients and my surgeons appreciate knowing that I’m around, even if it’s a text away or something like that.
Oftentimes, I can mitigate a disaster a lot faster than them going through a phone tree because some of my patients are also elderly. You have to put in your head, “Can this patient deal with a 1-800 situation? Do they need someone at the ready who can help them through?” That kind of customer service bleeds into the relationship with surgeons and prescribers. They know when they’re prescribing for my back, they’re getting me on the other side to help them catch that patient during times when they might need some support. If I’m willing to do that, then that adds a lot of value beyond the initial.
What does that mean? Are you taking calls in the middle of the night?
Yes. You can take the girl out of trauma, but you can’t take the trauma out of the girl. Sometimes it’s something simple. What if I have a patient who’s concerned because an alarm is going off, something hurts, or what have you? I can help them troubleshoot and say, “That sounds like you need to call your doctor. Let’s do that.” I can say, “That’s a cute alarm that happens when you sit on the tubing. Go ahead and pull the tubing out for me.” They’re like, “It’s done.” “Great.”
It doesn’t require you to go anywhere. It requires you to land calls and explain how the stuff that you sell works.
Yes, for the most part. Coming from my old world, when I got a phone call or a text message, it usually meant, “Get up. Get out of bed. Drive an hour. Go get your mails. Go to the operating room. Spend four hours,” that’s all right. Cool. I’ll take a phone call from a sweet little old lady who’s got a question. That’s awesome. That’s easy peasy. That’s fine with me.
To answer your question of, “What’s a day in the life?” It varies. This is a heavy administrative job because of the insurance piece of it. I try to parse out chunks of my day. I will set aside part of the early morning, do my admin, and make sure there were no emergent orders or urgent orders that came in overnight and things like that that I need to keep an eye on as far as, “This needs more documentation. We need a fresh prescription for this.”
I usually have my anchor appointments. For anyone who’s been in sales for a long time, usually, we have anchor appointments set up through the week that we work around. That is fun in this job. I can usually do that. We do a lot of training, especially for nurses, at-home health, and stuff like that. Usually, they’re a mix of training, in-services, and then sales calls. It’s nice because, in trauma, it’s hard to have a solid anchor appointment. You might get called out. All the stars have to align where you have coverage and it’s usually a quieter day. It has to be a special situation where you can legit make all your anchor appointments.
Let’s go back to college. Did you go into college saying, “I’m going to be a trauma rep?” How did you find out? On your graduation day, what did to do? Why did you make that decision?
I’ll take you back to high school. I’m going to tell you a story. When I was in high school, I wanted to go to med school. That was my initial plan. A lot of times, medical device reps start out being interested in Medicine in general. We think, “Med school is it.” I don’t know about you. I didn’t come from a wealthy family. I knew that if I went to med school, it was going to be on my own dime. I was like, “Let’s see if I even like blood.”
My high school had an ROP Program. The ROP Program was essentially getting to work at the hospital for the class times after lunch. You got credit and you could go to different departments. Most of the kids in that class used it to ditch. That was cool. I didn’t find that out until I was part way into the program. I was like, “I feel I might be the only one who seriously cares about being here.”
The nice thing is that that gave me leverage. I got to go to the Program Director, this awesome RN named Sharon Dahar. I was like, “Does anybody ever get to the operating room? Would you ever consider that?” She said, “You seem like you want to be here. Let me go talk to some people.” I got in. I started in the operating room when I was fifteen, washing instruments.
I got to be a Sterile Processing Tech during high school. That was great because the operating room was like a free-standing surgery center next to the main OR. I got to watch surgeries in between my cleaning and picking cases. As a teenager, there is no better way to figure out if you want to do this than going and standing in surgery for hours. It was awesome.You can take the girl out of trauma, but you can't take the trauma out of the girl. Click To Tweet
I worked like a mad woman. My class time was technically two hours after lunch and I would do it for as long as they would let me stay. I would do extra. I’m going to stay until the day is over. After that class, they hired me on as an employee. It was cute. I had to get early parental permission to work in an operating room at 15 or 16 by that point. That was cool. I started in sterile processing there. I did that for a couple of years.
I got to train as a Surgical Tech while I was in college. I went to UC Davis. It was nice because I spent probably a total of seven years at one hospital with this big family of operating room folk who was like, “This is our baby. It will help her launch her life.” I would be doing Physics or something and one of the anesthesiologists would be, “Get over here.” He would put the bed in reverse Trendelenburg and be like, “Nu is greater than 10 thetas.” He would give me little Physics lessons in the middle of surgery like, “You’re insane. I love you and thank you because I didn’t understand that concept.” That was cool.
When I was graduating, it came time to decide, “Do I want to apply to med school and try to go through this process?” It was daunting. A lot of us know it’s daunting. At the same time as I was deciding this mess, I was scrubbing, obviously, taking a call. I had an orthopedic trauma case pop up. It was a tibia nail. It was with a system that we hadn’t used before. It was the new version of the Synthes nail, their EX.
I called the rep and I was like, “What are we using tonight?” He goes, “The Synthes EX.” I was like, “Do you have the technique guide for that? I want to study before you get here.” He’s like, “Sure.” He sent me the PDF and it was like 80 to 90 pages. I dissected what I needed. I did a diagram of how I wanted to set up my table, threw it on the wall with all the pertinent information from it, and then did the case. He’s like, “Do you have a degree?” I was like, “Yes, why? I’m graduating in a month.” He is like, “You should look into this job.”
I had no idea what he did outside the operating room. I told him, “You’re like a medical device pixie. I don’t know what your life is like. I know you come in here, like little a pixie, with your little laser pointer telling me what to do, but I don’t know what to do.” He’s like, “At least take an interview. If I can get you an interview, would you take it?” I was like, “Yes. We’ll have a conversation.”
I met his boss in Monterey or Santa Cruz, somewhere around there. It was a hotel and a three-hour interview. I was like, “This is an adult job then.” I did four months of interviewing. Why ortho trauma? I have always loved orthopedics. I always loved trauma. What clinched it for me was because I met my senior rep. When I went on my first ride along with Jay Wisner, that’s what did it for me because Jay had been with Legacy Synthes since 1981.
It wasn’t just a situation where I was going to learn orthopedics. It was, “I’m going to learn Trauma from one of the OG Synthes reps who knows everyone in the country and worked with some of the top surgeons in California. This isn’t just a stepping stone. I could learn a lot from this guy.” It was when I learned who my team would be.
You then went on to have a fifteen-year Ortho career.
I did almost a decade with Synthes. I got super fortunate. I got to work in the East Bay in Oakland. There’s something special about the East Bay. Anybody who does trauma in Oakland knows if you get to work at Highland Hospital, you’re blessed. There’s no place like it. I stand by that. It’s one of my favorite places on the planet. Kaiser Oakland is their flagship orthopedic hospital. They got a dynamite trauma physician who came on over there. Between those two houses, I was busy.
What stood out about Highland that allows you to call your favorite place?
Highland is special because it’s a safety net hospital. It’s one of the hospitals in California that is state-run. It catches everybody regardless of whether they can pay or not. They get the cops when they get shot. They get the gang bangers on the street when they get shot. You get all walks of life. I love it because everyone is treated as an equal.
One of the most special moments in the operating room for me was watching one of my favorite traumatologists on the planet, Dr. Swap Shah. He’s incredible. I vividly remember him treating a patient like a human. I don’t mean connecting with him a little bit before surgery. This patient was scared. This patient was not okay. They were clearly panicking.
Anybody who has worked with traumatized folks who maybe come from an underserved population, there’s a lot of distrust of authority. It’s a scary thing to go to sleep with a bunch of people with scrubs around you when you don’t trust the system. He put his hand on his chest and he’s like, “We’re all friends here and we’ve got you. I’ve got you.” He stared him right in the face. “I put my hand on your heart. I’m going to take care of you.” That is powerful. The whole room changed.
There’s something special about clinicians like that who are like, “I don’t care if you’re high. I don’t care if you crashed your car because you were strung out. Regardless of why you’re here, I don’t care if you were a criminal, running from the cops, and you broke everything in your body.” That happened a lot, like people jumping off of BART platforms and things like that. It didn’t matter. Who cares? We care about you and your injury. That’s it. I haven’t seen it at any other hospital quite the same way.
You have this illustrious career as a trauma rep. Talk to us about you saying, “I am going to stop with trauma and look into doing something else.” What was going on there?
It’s a big choice. It’s scary. For me, it was because the leadership changed at Stryker. I won’t go into the nitty gritty or anything. You have to look at the leadership around you and say, “Does this fit me anymore? Does this fit my ethics, morals, and values? Can I learn something?” I’m big into like, “Can my leadership teach me?” You get to that point in your career when you’re like interviewing them. “Can I keep growing with you?” I was getting my MBA and I’m still getting my MBA, but I was doing that while I was at Stryker. I was starting to learn a lot about different leadership styles, different cultures, and different ways of implementing ideas.
That was the intro to Julia Greenspan. That was the first one, by the way. It has two parts. We spent a large part of that first interview going over her history and what brought her to where she’s now. In the next episode, she gets into the good stuff where we talk about women in trauma, what that means, what that represents, and all the connected topics around that. Make sure you tune in next episode for part two.
As you’re reading, maybe you’re someone that has a territory. You’re looking at the calendar and you’re saying, “I got about a few months to make a significant difference before this year comes to an end. I was tracking well, but if I could figure out how to go a little bit harder, I’m going to bring it home. I could potentially experience a winner circle. I could affect many more lives through my providers. I could get a promotion, be responsible, and drive other people to experience success. There are so many opportunities. How do I make this happen?”
That’s when I would say go to EvolveYourSuccess.com, select Improve Sales Performance, fill in some information, send it to us, and have a conversation with us here. Let us show you how we can get you on the right track and get you where you want to be before the year closes. If you’re someone that’s been thinking to yourself, “I want to be in Trauma,” maybe you’re a mother yourself and you’re saying, “I’ve always wanted to be in Trauma, but I’ve heard that I couldn’t do it,” guess what? You can. If that’s something that you want to do or anyone else that wants to get into that type of space, then you need to visit EvolveYourSuccess.com, select Attain A Medical Sales Role, and submit some information or application and schedule some time. Let’s have a conversation here with someone at Evolve Your Success.
As always, we do our best to bring you guests that are changing the medical sales space. They’re making headway. They’re breaking stereotypes. They’re making entirely new wheels. It’s fantastic. Hopefully, we can remain a part of it as long as we can here at the show. Make sure you tune in next time for part two with Julia Greenspan. We’re going to get into it. You got a little taste of it, but she’s candid. She’s authentic. She tells it how it is. I’m so excited to continue the conversation. Thank you for reading.
Senior Orthopaedic Trauma Sales Consultant
Medical Device (Ortho)
Julia Greenspan has 23 years of operating room experience, and over 15 years in medical device. Specializing in Ortho Trauma has given her experiences as a sales rep, senior sales rep leading trauma teams, training and managing successful associates, spearheading medical education programs for surgeons, and more.
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