Women are outnumbered in medical sales. In fact, in the 2019 Medical Sales Salary Report, 67% of the respondents were men. In addition, the report found that women earn just 83% of what men do and make up only 33% of the respondents.
While, at first glance, this may seem discouraging, there is a multitude of highly successful women in medical sales. We’re talking to these professionals to find out what it means to be a woman in the field and what it takes to be successful.
Colleen Huffman spent the early years of her career climbing the medical sales ladder, consistently earning the highest sales awards. She worked for large companies, such as Becton Dickinson, Novartis, and Johnson and Johnson, rising to become one of the top women in medical sales.
Huffman’s passion for medical sales came from the love of helping others and exhilaration from charting her own course and exceeding her own goals.
“I always set my sights on being in the top 10%. I wanted to win the trip, the next award — I constantly ran after that carrot,” she shared. “I learned early on to set goals, set my intentions, voice my goals, and held myself accountable.”
Today, she is the owner and president at Management Recruiters of Treasure Valley.
We sat down with Huffman to find out more about those motivators and how she left positive impressions customers remembered, even after she walked out their doors:
Choose the right people to hold you accountable
Sales is a cut-throat industry and Huffman knew she couldn’t do it alone, especially with the ratio of male reps to females. For her, it wasn’t about getting as many people to back her up as possible. Instead, it was about getting the right people behind her.
I typically had at least three people holding me accountable to my goals. First, my managers. They were always positive and motivational because they regarded my efforts and recognized me — that’s all I ever really wanted.
My husband served — and still does — as my sounding board. I’d come home and assess my day with him. What did I do today? How did I achieve my goal?
He also knew what to say to motivate me. I was selling hematology chemistry analyzers in the midwest. The boxes I’d take out every day were about 45 pounds and he’d, jokingly say, as he helped me load my SUV, “Don’t come back until you sell them all.” I took that as a challenge. It motivated me to set out into the unpredictable Midwestern weather, and I don’t think I came back with any unsold.
The third person was my dad. He was a retired president of Wells Fargo and constantly ask how my sales were. He’d come right out and ask me how much I made in a month. How many dads ask their kids that? It was intimidating — yet incredibly motivating — to tell him I made my goal.
Stay positive and welcome failure
Failure is a given in any career. When you spend hours on the road, the fear of failure can take over your thoughts. Huffman believes in filling those hours with nothing but positivity and motivation.
Having a positive attitude helped me get through my sales career. Also, those who influence a positive attitude, like managers and mentors. I was always looking at the women in power. Throughout most of my career, there have been about three women out of every 10 sales reps. But I knew I could succeed because I had female leaders to look up to.
For example, when I decided to join a startup, I knew there was a risk. I wasn’t afraid, though, because when I met the female president and trainer, they gave me the confidence and power to feel I could do this.
Don’t be afraid of failure. Make sure you’re filling your head with that positivity and advice constantly.
Give customers a reason to remember you
When a customer pulls out a prescription pad or gets ready to place an order, what makes them remember you? According to Huffman, it’s those unique, little creative touches that really set you above the competition and leave a lasting impression.
Sales always came down to marketing for me. It was never ‘just selling.’ I had to keep the branding of myself and my company in front of these doctors, especially the technicians. I’d always be thinking, “What do they need?” “What do they want?” “How do they feel?” “What message will stick with them when I leave and they’re pulling out their prescription pad?”
I’d leave funny little trinkets to make them laugh and other homemade creative branding materials. Even though HIPPA states you can’t do this anymore, there are other personable ways to leave a positive message, such as being there in person to follow-up — not just via email or phone call.
If you keep trying, eventually they’ll remember to keep giving out the sample or script of your client.