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The Five Attributes that Make a Great Medical Sales Manager

Over the course of the last decade, the managerial role within companies has come under scrutiny for effectiveness and necessity. Google’s Project Oxygen (2008) sought to prove that the role didn’t matter — that it was an unneeded layer in overly bureaucratic organizations.

They were surprised when they found the opposite.

Not only did they uncover evidence that managers matter, but they realized that the teams with the best leaders were happier and more productive.

Now, more than ten years later, managerial research continues to dig into what exactly makes a manager great. It’s not a role everyone is naturally fit for. A recent Gallup study found that only one in ten people have the innate talent to manage. 

Developing yourself as a medical sales manager takes intentional practice and focus on growing specific skill sets. If you want to improve, understanding the five key attributes that predict managerial success is key.

1. Motivate employees with a common goal.

Focusing on a common goal keeps teams rowing in the same direction. It’s more than a shiny slogan to make your customers feel good or a statement to try to recruit new talent — it’s the driving force behind your actions each day.

The medical sales field is unique in that the company mission is normally very closely tied to the overall well-being of the general public. While you’re working to grow the company, you’re also working to help people live healthier, happier lives.

Keep the company mission and vision present for your team. Weave it into motivational emails. Encourage your reps to use it as the focal point when setting customer objectives. Remind them how their work, specifically, is contributing to the successful accomplishment of the company’s mission. When they’re constantly reminded of the bigger picture, they’ll feel motivated to contribute to the progress.

2. Assert yourself in the face of conflict.

All medical sales managers will come up against adversity and resistance. While innate leaders have the ability to swoop in and resolve conflict without much thought, most people are uncomfortable taking ownership and asserting themselves in tense or volatile situations.

Take a step back to collect your thoughts and focus on creating an outcome that is in line with your team’s mission. When you approach your team with a resolution, bring it forward with composure, confidence, and a matter-of-fact attitude that pulls everyone onto the same page. Be firm with your action plan and set the expectation of forward motion.

3.  Create a culture of accountability.

Accountability is one of the most important facets of a medical sales rep. Meeting benchmark goals, achieving objectives, and reporting progress is what will make them succeed.

Create a team culture that sets clear expectations and holds your reps accountable. They must be on time, persistent, and able to move past missteps quickly. Whether through team meetings or report submittal, create a system that requires them to prove their productivity and progress.

Using your own personal experiences can help grow the accountability culture that will make you effective. Share illustrations of times when you were held accountable and how it made you more productive. And don’t shy away from sharing about when not being held accountable affected your work. This transparency serves as proof for why your processes are so important.

4. Build real relationships with your team.

Mutual respect is one of the most important factors of a successful medical sales manager and rep relationship. It’s a foundation that is rooted in trust and transparency. But it doesn’t happen without effort.

Work intentionally to connect with your team through open dialogue and genuine care. Learn about who they are outside of their job and understand their goals, aspirations, and fears. You don’t have to sit in a circle singing Kum-by-Yah – you just need to connect on a human level with respect for each other’s position.

Create an environment on your team where new ideas are welcome, thought-sharing is celebrated, and criticisms are positioned to foster growth and development.

5. Make decisions based on productivity, not politics

Medical sales managers often find themselves in the position to make tough decisions, and some of them impact your team in very significant ways. If the team feels you’re not acting in their best interest, you jeopardize their trust in and respect for you. Many employees already have the opinion that leadership is driven by politics — prove to them that you have their back.

As a medical sales manager, you’re in the unique position of taking direction from executive leadership while trying to keep their team on task and feeling positive. When facing productivity decisions, keep the best interest of you team at the forefront. If possible, ask for their opinion and create discussions around potential outcomes that will contribute to their productivity.


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