Unsplash: CalebWoods

Joanna Piazza, Health System Account Manager with Sysmex America, didn’t start her career with an MBA. Actually, she was a successful medical sales rep for 10 years before deciding to go back to school. But now that she’s earned those three important letters, Piazza wouldn’t go back to working in medical sales without it.

In a recent interview, Piazza told me her decision to enter an MBA program after a decade in sales resulted from one simple question: “How do I approach the C-suite?”

“I wanted to know what their interests were, their pain points, etc. My female COO at the time said to truly understand the business aspect and have credibility with executives, I should go back to school and get my MBA,” Piazza shared with me.

She jumped in head-first, ready to take on unknown territory and become the best sales rep possible. Of course, it wasn’t easy. With a full-time job, a full-time MBA program, and a full-time family, Piazza’s plate was overflowing.

Piazza’s determination and perseverance gave her the power graduate while balancing her dedication to her career and caring for her family. Now that she better understands the business side of sales, she has more confidence and insider knowledge to effectively connect with company leaders and, as a result, improve her sales numbers.

No matter where you are in your sales career, you also have the power to change your future. Getting an MBA is a significant challenge, but Piazza is proof it can happen as you continue pushing forward with your career and personal life.

Here’s what you need to do:

Be honest with yourself

A positive and idealistic attitude will be necessary as you go through this new journey. First, though, you need to be completely open and honest with yourself.

To do that, start by answering these questions:

    • Can I handle a full course load and my full-time job?
    • Will the courses interrupt my ability to stay in frequent contact with customers?
    • What am I willing to sacrifice to make this happen?
    • What am I not willing to sacrifice?
    • Can I remain mentally and physically well throughout this journey?
    • How can I ensure I prioritize my wellness?

As you consider the answers to these questions, look well in advance on your calendar. Your personal and professional life may be able to accommodate an MBA program now, but six months down the road, things could be too hectic.

Being honest with yourself before you commit to the program will make you better prepared to handle any challenges that lay up ahead. This lessens your chances of becoming overwhelmed and unable to remain productive in both your job and MBA program.

Set expectations with your boss

Now that you’ve laid out expectations for yourself, it’s time to approach your boss with the reality of your future. Taking on a heavy MBA courseload will change a few things at work, and you’ll need support.

Go to your boss and make a case for your MBA program. Show them how earning an MBA will help you connect more authentically with various decisionmakers, in turn, improving your reputation and sales numbers. These temporary changes will be worth the end result.

Let them know you’re not asking them to accept lowered expectations or performance. Instead, you simply need flexibility that allows you to remain successful in your job while also taking classes. If possible, ask to start a few days a week from your home office. This will give you time to work on classes first thing in the morning and allow you to use the time you would’ve spent traveling to connect with customers.

Find a professional support system

This isn’t something you should do alone — and you don’t have to. Joanna Piazza had a professional mentor who suggested she enter an MBA program and encouraged her through the process. Encouragement like this makes a world of difference when you have upcoming tests and orders to fill.

Find your own support system in a fellow medical sales pro who has been through an MBA program. Ask them for advice to help you with the complicated challenges of hitting sales goals and doing well with classes.

Design a schedule for when you can meet in-person or chat on the phone to keep consistent contact with this mentor. Even as your schedule fills-up, this is one of those critical elements you don’t want to sacrifice. Remember, the more support and guidance you have, the fewer mistakes you have to worry about making by trying to learn the ropes on your own.

Separate your goals

Sales goals and MBA milestones — that’s an immense amount of pressure. You can handle it, but these goals will be more manageable as two separate ideas. Dividing them in your mind and into two physical lists will help you distinguish necessary steps to accomplish both.

Not to mention, your less-overwhelmed brain will thank you in the long run.

Create a separate task list for your sales goals and MBA goals. Outline the estimated time you’ll need to accomplish each, important deadlines, and the order of priorities. Breaking down each list like this gives you smaller, more manageable steps to achieve.

What intimidates you when it comes to getting an MBA? Let us know!

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