Salespeople are usually branded as solely focused on their money-making ventures and nothing else. For Matt Nover, it’s time to break the cycle of dull probing questions and pressuring buyers in favor of creating connections. In this second part of his conversation with Samuel Gbadebo, TELA Bio’s Clinical Sales Director explains why building relationships is always the best medical sales approach. He presents valuable tips in presenting yourself to potential customers, regardless if you are a sales representative or a regional manager. Matt also emphasizes the importance of proper education and mentorship in the constantly evolving medical sales industry.
This is a continuation of the last episode. We took the most popular episodes that we had in our show since inception, and we are playing them back for the new members and for some of the older members that have wanted to read some of the best stuff that’s going to help you in your career in Medical Sales.
This episode is with Matt Nover, a pro basketball player. This episode is part two of his interview, where he talks about how to go from sales rep to sales leadership, and what type of skills will serve you most in a Medical Sales career. As always, we do our best to bring you guests that bring you innovations and new insights, and even take episodes that remind you of how you can be a value in your position. I hope you enjoy this interview.
Here’s how. It’s like in sports. If I’m going into the game, I’m going to go play basketball and I’m only thinking about I got to get twenty points and I got to get ten rebounds. If that’s my only worry about the points in my stats, then I’m not focused on each play. I’m not looking at this possession and how I’m playing defensive, how I’m adjusting the help side, how the ball is going up, and I’m making sure I’m blocked out to get the rebounds. If I’m worried about those small details, then I’ll get 10, 15 rebounds. If I go down to offense and I’m making sure that I set the right screening angle. We’re setting up the play correctly and I’m reading my man and then making the moves off of that man, then I’ll score baskets. I’ll get open jump shots. I’ll get to the free-throw line and I’ll score my twenty points. It’s the same thing in our space.
If you come into a med device company and you have expectations and quotas. They’re saying you have to grow the territory from this number to that number. If that’s all you’re focused on, it’s going to be a lot of pressure. What do you do? You step back and say, “What are the success principles, what are the behaviors that I need to have top of mind? What do I need to learn and what do I need to do on a daily to move a surgeon or a customer from one conversation to the next?” If I focus on each conversation with each customer and making sure I don’t leave that conversation.
For example, if I had the next step in play and without an agreement between that person, be it an OR director, scrub nurse or a thoracic surgeon. If I’ve met them and I’m not setting in the next steps before I leave, then I’m not setting myself up for success. It’s all about building a relationship at the moment and taking that next step with that relationship to build trust mostly, and then make sure that you’re advancing the interaction to another level. It’s always the next frequency.
You’re saying with that approach that you got right now, the type of rep that’s only focused on the numbers and looking at the full business like you are, they both want the same thing. What you are saying is by doing it with a moral perspective and considering daily behaviors that will lead you to the numbers instead of stressing the numbers each day, you’re going to be more successful or you’re going to be in a better position to go into leadership later in your career?
That’s in the leadership, but you’ll be more successful if you want to be a career rep and you want to make your commission. If you want to excel and you’re not interested in leadership or advancement, that’s fine, but it’s the same for both. If you’re a sales rep, I believe that you’ll be more successful if you’re focusing on the daily activities, in your process, your education and you’re living in the moment. If you’re focusing on that, the results will come. You have to know what your number is and you better have a tracker and a plan. You better know what your numbers are, know them really well and know where you need to get.
By tracking that and understanding, “I’m supposed to get $4,000 of hernia business or product sales from Dr. Smith down in Mercy Hospital. What have I done to engage him this month? What have I done if I got him in front of a peer to peer or if I invited him to our lab?” Instead of worrying about, “I got to call the scheduler,” and I’ve done this before. I got to call the scheduler and make sure I get the case or I got to pop into the OR and pressure him to use my product. That’s thinking about the number and that’s worried about getting numbers, feeling the pressure and being in a desperate type of situation. That’s what the typical closer mentality is. I’m going to close the business. I’m going to make sure he does it. We know that there are all kinds of reps of the business that do this pressure sale. That is also not as effective anymore.
What matters is what are you doing to get them more interested that it’s their decision to use your product, not your sales pitch? It’s their decision. They’ve decided, “This is the best solution based on the company, based on what they shared with me, based on how they purposely designed this product, based on what the other surgeon’s experiences that they share with me and the successes of the surgeons are having. It’s good for me. I’m going to use it.” You’re going to see a lot more success in hitting your number if you do all those things.
I noticed you said something specific that I want to highlight. You said it’s not like that anymore. As if there used to be a cell where that hard close or that pressure sale was the standard and it was effective. Something happened and now, it’s lots of effectiveness. What would you attribute that shift being?
It’s fatigue. Nobody likes to be pressured. Corporate America and big sales traditionally were about you got to close the business. Another word that I think we need to get rid of this probing questions. Nobody likes to be probed. This isn’t aliens coming down and probing us and trying to get into our bodies. Probing questions to me, I never understood it. When I first got into it, they would talk about 2nd, 3rd, and 4th level probing questions. I’m like, “What do you mean by probing questions? What are we trying to do with that?” It sounds invasive.
Instead of thinking about probing people, diving in, bothering them, and peppering them with questions like, “Why are you doing this? What are you using now? What about ours?” It’s more about finding an understanding. You want to understand what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Once you understand what they’re doing, why they’re doing and what’s important to them, then you can use whatever solution you think you have that’s better than what they’re doing that would give them a benefit. Making that connection instead of probing and pressuring them and say, “You got to use this or would you use it?” You keep asking them to use it without clarifying any need, that’s what the more successful sales folks are doing. That’s long-lasting.
There are great closers out there. There are great sales folks traditionally when I meant that they can get out there and somehow, they get so in the face of the surgeon. They’re so engaging. They have an engaging personality, for example. They’re high type-A people and fun to be with. They love to go golfing. They take the surgeon to golf and they’ll take them out to dinner. They’ll engage and have a lot of fun. The surgeon feels like, “I should buy from that guy because he keeps asking me and doesn’t leave me alone.” As soon as that rep is gone, what happens to that business? The surgeon doesn’t care because he’s not bought into anything.
On the other hand, if you’ve already developed and that surgeon sees a reason why that product is good, why he loves working with your company and your organization and he has deep reasons for that. Even if that rep were to leave and this is what I do as a leader now. If I know that the rep has done it the right way, if that rep has to move on or if that rep gets promoted to leadership in our company, I’m going to have to replace them with another rep. I want to make sure that new rep can step right in and take over that relationship and continue providing a great solution to that surgeon because of what was already built before that.
Another thing I would highlight is there has been a noted shift in customer buying behavior where Millennials make up the majority of the decision-makers now and are going to continue to make up more of the majority of decision-makers. The way Millennials have been brought up, it’s less one-on-one in-person interaction. It’s more about a digital interaction with minimal in-person interaction. When there is in-person interaction, they want it from a reference point of, “Answer my specific questions. Help me identify my specific needs. Don’t sell me anything.” That’s why I was asking you about this shift because we’re already seeing it.
In COVID, it was a catalyst to push this even faster. The customers were saying, “During COVID, we were able to utilize your business a bit. You were doing things we want to do. Why do we need to see you now? What’s the point?” How do you train your reps to keep the ball rolling? You’re saying by adding this type of stuff, I have this approach where, “All I want to do is make sure I understand what you need, and whatever you need, I’m going to have it and provide a solution to what it is you need. I’m not going to be trying to push it forward.”Build every relationship with the purpose of advancing the interaction to another level. Click To Tweet
No, because it has to be your decision, the customer’s myth. I want you to know that it’s right for you not because I’m telling you what’s right for you, but because you believe it’s right for you. That’s the key. How we do that is by truly showing you care. Even Millennials now want to know, “Do care about me.” The social media, if you’re joining and you’re following someone, it’s all about what they feel they’re getting out of that by following. It’s a connection, so we got to build that connection with people. We got to be likable. In our industry, you have to build trust and you have to live every day with integrity.
I always tell my team, “If you’re going to do something or you going to tell somebody something, whatever you say, follow up on it. Do it.” When you’re talking to a surgeon and he works with residents. I’ve seen this a number of times. The surgeon will say, “Your product is really interesting. It’s a new technology in the hernia device arena. Can you go share that with the two-year resident group?” The rep is thinking, “Two years? I’m not even going to be in surgery for three more years because they’re only in the second year. They’ve got to go 4 or 5 years and they might do a fellowship.”
“I’m not going to waste my time with two-year residents telling me about new innovative technology. I’ve got more important stuff to do to get my number.” That could be a big mistake. What if the surgeon comes back and asks you, “How’d that meeting go with my residents?” What are you going to tell him? Because he’s going to ask the residents as well, “Did Matt talk to you about the new product in the hernia space?” They’re going to be like, “No, not yet.” Right there, you’re losing trust, you’re losing respect and you’re not living with integrity.
These things are so important. Being aware of how each customer is looking at us and what they’re thinking about us. In our space, it’s like when I would go play basketball overseas. Every time you went there as an American, you were looked at with suspicion because Americans were looked at as a little bit arrogant. They thought they were the best. They didn’t have to learn anything about us here in Italy or here in Portugal. They were going to come here, ball, tell us what to do and be the leader. There’s a lot to that.
The point is that every time I went to a team, I noticed a little bit of a wall was put on. In the hernia or in the medical device space, surgeons, when they see the salesman come in with a pitch and say that they’ve got lunch, they’re like, “What do you get?” That’s how they greet you. “What’s up? What do you get? What are you selling?” Especially when you’re new, you’re going to hear that a lot. You have to dial it back and say, “Doc, I think I’ve got a wonderful product. I’d love to share it with you. Before I even get to that and tell you about our story, I want to introduce myself, get to know you a little bit and understand your practice.”
I’d appreciate this time with you, the ability to meet, to bring your staff lunch and I’d love to educate you on what we’re doing in the market, but first of all, what are you doing for your patients? What’s important to you? What type of patients are you having? Why? What are your procedures look like and why do you use that procedure? What is your mesh choice and why do you use that mesh, for example? I want to get some understanding and see what you’re doing to see even if we have a solution because we have a great tool, but I don’t know if it’s a good tool for you. I don’t know if it’s a good tool for you to use on your patients. I like to learn about that first before I tell you what we got.
Have you seen the success with your reps when they take that approach?
Yes. With COVID, they’re hesitant to do it. Why? Because they haven’t been able to get in front of surgeons for months. When they finally get a meeting, they want to make the most of it. They’re like, “How am I going to take time to talk about them and show them that I care about their practice when I’m trying to get a case and I may not see them for another six months?” I tell him, “If you’re going to stand out if you are more honest and that they can look at you and say, ‘This guy didn’t come here to sell me. He came here to learn about me, to understand me because he cares.’” If you do that, you will see you’ll be able to get a meeting easier next time. It won’t take you six months.
When you call the office and the office scheduler said, “Let me check with Dr. Jones and she goes, ‘That guy from TELA Bio wants to meet with you again.’” If you didn’t make a cool connection on a human level and you were pushy or you spoke the whole time diarrhea of the mouth, they’re going to be like, “I remember that person. No lunch.” If you’ve made a connection and they’re like, “I remember Matt or I remember Shelly. They were talking about my patients. They made a connection.” They’ll say, “Yes, go ahead and schedule. I’ll see her again.”
We see the success that way and it works because that’s the problem. Nobody has time for reps anymore or the administration doesn’t have time for us. We have to identify what’s important to them, not what’s important to us. If we go into every engagement, every video email, every time we drop off a letter, it’s all about what’s important to them. I have to think about them, not myself. That’s the process. If you’re doing that, if you’re thinking about them instead of yourself, your number, and your quota even though that’s always there, you’re going to see better results sooner.
Listening to you, Matt is easy to see why leadership comes naturally to you. You really do have this all about the other person’s perspective. When you look at your role as a Regional Sales Manager and the leadership we’ve demonstrated and your role now as a Director of Clinical Sales, besides the fact that you have more responsibility as the director, what are some other more nuanced differences that you’ve had to adapt to be more effective as a leader from a Regional Manager to Director?
Now, I’m in touch with our company across all the departments. Trying to demonstrate or trying to balance what’s important to each department in and of itself and then how that cross pollinates with each other and what they believe they need from each other, if anything, sometimes you get that. We’re good. We don’t need anything or how do we cooperate and coordinate? It’s about that. When I was a Regional Manager, I had 8 to 10 reps on a team and I would tie in our clinical development person who was from another division. I would tie in our business manager to work with the accounts, IDNs and group purchasing agencies. I would tie in another clinical team that was in the science department and on the clinical data side.
They all knew what their role was and they all understood how they were supposed to help the rep. The rep knew how to use them, how to partner and cooperate with them to help their territory, help their business and help their customers. There was always a high level of communication and cooperation. You have to have that. You can’t go ride and you can’t have your business manager come ride with you and go to a health trust hospital, three of them in your territory, without setting up exactly what the purpose of this ride based on how many times I’ve seen it is? They’ll schedule, “I’ve got three meetings, come ride with me.” They’d bring them in and they go to the meetings.
There are questions that come up and they don’t know where to go or where to take it and they’ll leave the meeting without the next steps in place. That’s because they weren’t fully prepared. They didn’t know what the goal was, what was the purpose of this meeting, where we’re going to try to get out of it, what do we need to learn, and based on what we learn, how are we going to take it to the next level? Now as a clinical director, as you go up the chain, what I’ve noticed as I go from having that region team to now having the entire salesforce responsible for their development.Connect with buyers by understanding what they are doing and learning the reason behind it. Click To Tweet
It’s that there are six regions for us and every region is different, how are we coordinating that? How are we getting a shared message to all the regions while still allowing business entrepreneurs, which I like to call them? Every rep is a business entrepreneur in my mind because they have a territory and it’s their business. They’re running their business. How do we give them freedom still? They all have unique personalities, unique markets and unique customers. How do we still align and cooperate on a message or cooperate on an approach or a strategy while allowing them to not feel micromanaged and to feel like they’re part of a team, but yet they still have the freedom to be their own business entrepreneur? That’s a tough balance, but that’s what you start to develop as a leader, ways to do that.
Take us into your routine. How do you maintain all of this? Do you have a morning routine? Do you have some things that you do? Do you read often? Is there any kind of additional learning you give yourself to keep you on point?
Everything and all of the above that you said. I’m in Scottsdale now. I just moved out here and it’s hot. It’s 90 degrees at 6:00 in the morning. I’m up at 4:00, 4:30, 5:00 every day, trying to get a little bit of fresh air first of all. I was always an early riser because that’s the time where you can take some time to do whatever it is personally for yourself. The exercise, breathing, meditation and reading. All that personal development is always best done alone, quiet and in the morning. That’s usually what I do and then you dive into planning for the week and planning for the day, setting up the calls, working on your scheduling. By 8:00, you’re jumping into what you have to do and what you’ve got scheduled.
Taking the time and making sure that you’ve done that. Some people aren’t morning people and they do that at night. You try to bounce that around. Maybe it’s after dinner with your family and there’s a two-hour block where instead of watching TV or a sports game, that’s where folks take care of the personal care, workout, meditation, the reading and the study. Taking care of emails and setting up their schedule is done then. They wake up at 6:30 and they’re hitting the street at 7:00, 7:30. It depends.
You mentioned learning. It’s continual development for me. I’m always looking at journals, reading on websites and some members of whoever I can follow, the Hernia Society on LinkedIn and Twitter. I’m trying to understand what’s going on in the industry at all times. I’m constantly tied into what the competition is doing and what’s going on in social media, in their websites or what new data are they putting out. It’s a constant information influx. We need this in order to help.
If we’re not absorbing as much information about what we do, that we can, then how when a rep comes and says, “This is the objection I got.” The surgeon had a big bridge and they didn’t have any muscle to cover the abdominal wall. It was just skin and subcutaneous fat. They didn’t want to use our product because they thought that the biological material wouldn’t hold up. They want to use a synthetic piece of mesh, for example. I didn’t know how to explain that to them exactly. There are all kinds of different ways that I help them understand how our material or how our device was purposely designed to assist in that kind of procedure.
If I didn’t have a deep understanding of how we developed it, what the source material was, where it came from, what it was made of on a cellular level, then I couldn’t help that surgeon understand that. Our reps are getting there, but these are the details that we go to. We would go to a cellular level, invent a device to understand what an implant is doing, what does a medication doing to a patient’s tissues or their body or an organ that matters.
Sometimes when we’re doing this training and people are looking at it, “Why do we need such a deep anatomy background?” What are we going into the science? I never have a conversation about cells with the surgeon. What are we doing, Matt? I say, “You may not but it’s like martial arts. Martial arts experts may never have to fight, but they’re so confident.” When they walk around or get caught in a bad neighborhood, they’re not petrified. They’re at some level confident they can handle themselves because they’ve been trained, they practiced and they studied. That’s what it’s all about.
Matt, this has been an amazing time to spend with me this afternoon. Go ahead and give us your overall philosophy. Anything you might leave and share with people that want to get into the industry, be better in the industry.
If you’re somebody new in sales, use resources like what you’re doing, Samuel, because I keep talking about learning and educating yourself and you can’t do that alone. I always had a mentor. One of the programs is a mentorship program and I’ve implemented that across our entire salesforce. It includes our leaders as well as mentors or mentees. Find mentors, find programs where you can brainstorm, where you can get into a coaching course or you can get into anywhere where people are signing up, taking a course, but they’re working in groups. We always do team calls as well as one-on-one individual calls.
The individual calls understand their specific business and what they need in their territory on a daily. The team calls are opportunities for you to hear what success looks like from others. The obstacles that you get that now you can see others are also getting. You learn from that and then you brainstorm on it, and you throw ideas back and forth. These mentorship programs or these round table discussions are vital.
Our leaders, that’s what we’re doing with them as what we’re doing with our salesforce. If I were new out there, I would look for programs like yours and I would say, “Can that help me? Can I find a mentor through Samuel? Can I engage with some of the other speakers that he’s brought to the show? Maybe that’s an opportunity for me to learn in the least, let me reach out.” That’s what it’s all about. Make some connections, you’re not on an island.In the sales industry, you have to build trust and live every day with integrity. Click To Tweet
In the medical device sales, we have a huge geographic territory the size of Scottsdale, for example, and there might be only one rep in Phoenix while you might feel you’re on an island because you’re alone because you don’t have anybody with you. We always tell our folks, you’re not. That you’re a phone call away, a text away, a video call away from 100 people in the company that you can reach out to, so don’t hesitate. It’s the same for anybody out there that’s looking to transition to our industry. Former athletes that I talked to that are looking to get into sales and looking to get into the med device arena. They talked to me about it as well. There are tons of resources out there that we can help them with. They’re not alone and embrace it. Don’t be bashful.
Thanks so much, Matt. This is great. We’ll be catching up with you and we’ll talk to you soon.
Thanks so much, Samuel. This was fun.
That was Matt Nover. He has a pretty fascinating career. He’s taking himself far in his career and now he has so much wisdom to share with all of us. I love the relationship he makes between leadership in basketball and in medical device sales and what he does to TELA Bio. There are so many commonalities there. You might be reading this and you might be someone out there that’s thinking about getting into a career like this. TELA Bio is a pretty fascinating company. Even what they do is interesting. You might’ve heard this episode and thought to yourself, “I want to get in. What is the next step I need to take?” If you’ve been trying online and you’ve been sending out your resume, hoping to hear back from a recruiter or you’ve got some interviews and you can’t seem to get to that final stage.
I want you to visit EvolveYourSuccess.com and select Attain a Medical Sales Role. This is where you can find a product program that’s specifically designed to help you get into the medical sales space or position that you want to get into. When I say medical sales, I’m referring to medical device sales, pharmaceutical sales, biotech sales or any sales field that’s related to healthcare in this space. Come check us out or you can find me on LinkedIn under Samuel Adeyinka. You can reach out to us with a message and one of our client specialists will get back to you and teach you how you can get that much closer to getting the position of your dreams.
You might be somebody that’s in the field and you’re looking for a way to step up your leadership. You’re thinking to yourself, “I want to make different moves in my career.” Again, visit EvolveYourSuccess.com and select Improve Sales Performance and allow us to speak with you about a program that could completely transform a trajectory in your career right now. Get you to that top 10% or 5% or it’s that you want to get a new promotion or you want to establish your presence on LinkedIn, become an influencer and be a thought leader in your space. As always, we do our best to bring you guests that have had fascinating careers, have done amazing things in the med sales space, and want to share that knowledge with you. Make sure you tune in for another episode.
Director of Clinical Sales for TELA Bio
I am a mediocrity disruptor with over 20 years of top-performing success in both the established and startup medical device industries.
As a leader, I am fiercely committed to guide individuals towards the realization of their highest performance capacities and the production of masterful work which, ultimately, empowers them to meaningfully dominate and impact their field.
I am passionate about revolutionizing the future of the medical device industry and healthcare. It is an honor to help preeminent medical device organizations orchestrate their business from concept to market and beyond.
As a Regional Sales Manager for TELA Bio, I embraced an entrepreneurial approach and built and led a high-performing sales team in driving our disruptive technology into various markets and in seizing revenue opportunities in uncharted territories.
In my new role as Director of Clinical Sales, I am impacting our entire organization with my leadership, coaching and untethered mindset. My mission is to lead the development of a patient-centric sales force. This will define a new paradigm of the “sales process” and engineer more of a “customer experience” that will help redefine the future of healthcare.
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