All the best job search advice talks about the significance of who you know. After all, great referrals from trusted employees dazzle employers and cut down on the work medical sales recruiters do to find someone just like you to fill a position.
Better yet, offers made as a result of a referral from a business connection are as much as $6,000 higher according to September 2020 Floodgate Research on the State of the Medical Device Industry.
But how do you, a job seeker, get referrals? Who do you go to to get your foot in the door, and how do you ask without putting current sales reps in an awkward position?
Here are a few important steps you need to take along the way to earning high-quality referrals:
Show your value
This is different than proving your worth. You know you have what it takes to be a top seller at your dream company. But you need to show your value to the team and company if you want current employees to provide an honest and enthusiastic referral.
Before you send your sales numbers off to some unsuspecting medical sales representative, consider the ways you build relationships in your network.
- Are you sharing useful trends and tips?
- Are you engaging in others’ content?
- Are you congratulating contacts for reaching significant milestones?
- Are you updating your certifications and skills?
- Are you sharing volunteer experiences or ways you make an impact in the community?
According to the previously mentioned Floodgate research, 80% of professionals agree networking is critical to professional growth. Think of the numerous ways you can show that you are on a course to better yourself and reach your goals for the greater good.
Demonstrating shared values and your culture fit are great ways to catch the attention of current sales reps. By providing tips and industry trends and offering celebration and support, you create meaningful connections in the process.
When you reach the stage you feel confident in sending messages to medical sales reps to ask for referrals, you need to be perceived as authentic. If you’ve networked effectively to this point, this person likely has a feel for your personality.
You want to be viewed as a professional deserving of being their peer, but you don’t want to shift gears toward awkward interactions if you’ve typically been casual. Likewise, if you’ve hardly engaged with someone in your network, coming off as too conversational may seem like you’re not being upfront about what you want from them.
This is a good exercise in reading the room, which is an invaluable sales skill. Work up to direct communication with sales reps in your network and be your genuine self when you connect. If they are going to make a referral, they need to trust you are going to be who they say you are and uphold their reputation on their team. So, don’t overthink the interaction or put up a front.
Your subject line of an email can be a great way to communicate your reason for reaching out. You’re not selling yourself, though. At this stage, just try to be open about your intentions and invite them to talk about themselves, their career, and their company. Think of your initial connection as an informal interview to learn more about your contact and feel out whether a referral is even the right step right now.
Learn from rejection
Just like a recruiter may pass your resume to the no pile, you may get one rejection after another when looking for employee referrals. There are plenty of reasons this could be the case. So prepare to learn from them and move on.
If you find your messages are not being responded to, take a look at the format. Create a template you can easily customize and trial to get the best response rate. You want your emails to be informative but not too direct. And you don’t want them to be too long. Your ideal format should include:
- A personal greeting
- One or two lines with warm wishes and/or relevant/timely references
- A few lines offering information about your current job search/wishes
- Your referral request (this language will depend on the relationship you have with this connection)
- A statement letting this person know you’ve attached (or offer to provide) your resume and cover letter. This makes it easier for them to refer you!
If your request is rejected, make sure to thank them for their time reviewing your message. If they are willing to offer you more insight into why they do not want to refer you, this is a great opportunity to get feedback to improve your referral strategy. After all, the Floodgate research found 75%-80% of jobs are filled through networking. And you’ve only just begun to tap your network.
Follow through and follow up
This is basic common sense and courtesy. If your connection agrees to refer you to their employer, make sure you follow through with your interview process. And check back in to let them know how everything goes.
In many cases, companies offer their employees referral incentives. If you ask for a referral but find another opportunity, you may ruin their chances of earning their bonus. You also blemish their reputation for making quality referrals. They at least deserve the courtesy of knowing you’ve moved on.
Not following through or following up with employees who refer you will also hurt your reputation in the industry. Word travels fast among networks and not everyone in these networks is a medical sales rep. It’s possible if you gain the reputation of someone who flakes out or is dishonest, this information could spread to potential employers and clients.
Ultimately, gaining an employee referral says a lot about your image in the industry. It speaks margins of your ability to be an asset to others and build valuable relationships in medical sales. While getting referred isn’t a guarantee you’ll get the medical sales job you’re vying for, earning high-quality referrals and learning from the process will expand your network and establish your position in medical sales.
PS…when you get the job, be sure you thank your referrer generously. You worked hard for this opportunity but you should never forget the people who help you along the way.