Impactiviti recently interviewed David Currier, Director, Professional Education, Endius, Inc (Endius is a medical device company located in Massachusetts). The topic of this Impact Interview is Training in Pharma, Biotech, and Devices – Dave has experience in all three areas, and can uniquely shed light on the similarities and differences.
Dave currently leads the company’s sales training, and surgeon training programs. He has over 15 years experience in field sales, sales training, and organizational development for for pharma, biotech, and medical device companies. Over 15 years experience in field sales, sales training and organizational development for (big) pharma, biotech and medical device.
Q1: What made you decide to focus in on training as a career path?
After 5 years of sales as a territory representative and a hospital representative I was promoted into my company’s training department. I joined a wonderful team of professionals and we instructed, guided and coached hundreds of new and experienced representatives.
Do you know that “high” you feel when you have a really great interaction with a physician or have a great day in the field when everything went well? Well, training gave me that feeling on a regular basis.
I also enjoyed collaborating with other training managers and had a lot of fun designing curriculum and being creative implementing it. As my career progressed I realized that I had reached a fork in the road. One direction meant that my brief experience in training was to be treated as a stepping stone toward another discipline within commercial operations. The other direction meant that I would make training a long-term career.
Many individuals who arrive at this situation decide to move into field sales management. Those who choose to stay the training route then hone their craft by obtaining professional training certifications. I am happy that I set off in this later direction because as my training career has evolved I have found that my business acumen has evolved as well. As a Director of Training you take a seat at the table with other Directors of the commercial operations of a company such as Sales, Marketing, Regulatory, Medical and Managed care. Now I enjoy being able to make an impact on a company on a strategic level and also to continue making an impact on people’s skills and knowledge at an individual level.
Q2: Did you find much difference in the learning/training needs between pharma and biotech field forces?
Yes and No. I have always been a strong proponent of the fundamentals of selling to the medical community. Irrespective of whether you are Big Pharma or specialized biotech you still have to understand anatomy, pathology, treatment options, your product and competitor products. Both groups still need to know how to utilize sound principles of selling such as questioning, listening and handling questions and concerns.
One difference that I have found is that the expectations for the specialty rep are higher for the application of the fundamentals. Specialty reps are expected to possess a higher level of proficiency in clinical understanding by their physician customers, and are expected to maintain a higher level of adeptness in selling and key account management skills.
Not to say that the Big Pharma reps don’t attain these levels…many do, and those reps are very successful. I have always found that representatives who invest in the skills of their craft by continuously learning tend to perform at high levels in the long run. Successful reps want to constantly be better. I have found that many specialty reps have chosen their career paths to remain in field sales… the vast majority of them view their professional development as very important.
Q3: What are the unique training challenges in the medical device field?
Representatives need to know the company’s instrumentation extremely well so that they can effectively support their customers intra-operatively. Needless to say, device representatives need to know anatomy, pathology and the techniques for implanting devices extremely well also. It is quite common for surgeon customers to ask representatives technical questions during a case – they must not only anticipate these questions, but also must be very confident in their responses.
Of course the company must also train the physicians in how to use the devices, instruments and implants. Very often this involves the implementation of “surgical skills” or “bioskills” programs. These are programs that allow surgeon customers to practice using the company’s products in cadavers and are taught by surgeon faculty with extensive clinical experience.
One of the biggest challenges is the frequency in which new products hit the market in device. Instruments and implants are modified quite often and there are always line extensions to deal with.
Q4: Are there major differences, or mainly common ground, in the compliance issues among the three industry sectors?
Mostly common ground. All training curriculum that is produced and implemented must also be reviewed in the same fashion you find in all medical companies…medical, marketing, sales and regulatory. Ensuring that the company is marketing to FDA “clearances” for the devices is always a priority (“clearance” is the term typically used in device world, wherein for pharma it is “indications”).
In the medical device field there is ADVAMED which is an organization comprised of all the leading device manufacturers. They also provide an ethical code of conduct for sales and marketing that is quite similar to Pharma Code.
Q5: What made you feel strongly enough about sales training to write a book about it?
I was involved in a meeting one day brainstorming ideas for a product launch and we were discussing all the important factors that need to be considered in successfully selling the product before, during, and after the launch. A colleague of mine, Jay Frost, who is a professional writer said to me…”you know all this stuff so well you should write a book.”
We discussed the idea and concluded that there were a lot of people who we believed would benefit from a book that gave an accurate accounting of what successful pharmaceutical selling was all about…the good, the bad and the ugly. Such a book would be great for people interested in a career as well as those who were just hired into the position of sales representative. I believe in selling products in a way that involves integrity and respect for the customer and this was a great vehicle to get the word out.
I just wrote and wrote. When I was done I handed over my resulting manuscript to Jay. He then turned the text into a professional and polished product…also adding terrific information on subjects that he knew quite well. I was lucky to have Jay prod me along to do this and since its publication the reviews have been terrific and it has been consistently the best selling book in its category (note: review of Be Brief – Be Bright – Be Gone here).