This week’s spotlight is on Preston Collins, a physical therapist who is now Strategic Account Manager for Medtronic’s GI division!
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What is your full name, title, and company name for your current, primary role?
Preston Collins PT, DPT – Strategic Account Manager, Medtronic, Gastrointestinal division
Where are you located?
Where did you go to PT school, and what year did you graduate?
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, 2012 DPT
What did you do when you first finished school, and for how long?
I worked as a staff PT at a privately-owned outpatient orthopedic clinic in Littleton, CO treating an athletic and active population.
In what setting(s) did you work, and what types of patients did you treat?
Outpatient orthopedics (2 years): I treated athletes and active older adults for general ortho issues and post-op recovery.
Home health (7+ years): I treated adults of all ages and a large proportion of post-op orthopedics.
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What did you enjoy about your early roles? What didn’t you enjoy?
I loved building relationships with my clients and helping them to achieve their goals.
My ideal patient was not always the “easiest” clinical case, but rather the individual most determined to succeed.
However, I did not enjoy the burden of paperwork, the always-increasing caseload volume, and the lack of professional growth opportunities. I always felt like I had “reached my ceiling” as I was uninterested in becoming a clinic director or director of rehab.
What else have you done since then, prior to your current role?
I worked as a staff PT for two years in outpatient orthopedics and for the next seven years in home health.
When and why did you decide to do something non-clinical?
I had a brutally honest conversation with myself after being in PT practice for about eight years, and I realized a few things:
- I did not want to own my own practice.
- I did not feel that there were means of professional growth which would allow me to do other things.
- I was losing the engagement and the passion that I entered the field of PT with.
I told myself for years that I would be “throwing away my degree” if I didn’t remain a treating physical therapist for 30 years.
Ultimately, I decided that while I couldn’t guarantee I would be happier committing my energy to something else, I would always regret it if I never tried! Once I had that epiphany, I fully committed to finding an opportunity that better suited me.
A quote that has served me well: “What regret do you fear the most?”
What are you doing these days?
I currently work for one of the largest medical device and technology companies in the world—Medtronic—and I’m a strategic account manager (i.e., sales rep) in their gastrointestinal division.
Are you still treating patients, or are you solely non-clinical?
I am no longer treating patients, but remain licensed because… why wouldn’t I?!
How long have you been in your current role?
About two years.
How did you find the strategic account manager job?
I made contacts via LinkedIn, and heard about the open position from those contacts.
Did you do anything special to your resume and cover letter to land the job?
I completely revamped my resume and CV. Then, I went a step above and beyond, and created a “brag book”, which basically outlined why I was the best candidate for the job and how I met all the criteria.
Want to know how to revamp your own resume for a non-clinical role, and much more?
What was the interview like for the strategic account manager role?
It was a lengthy process (about three months), which included multiple interviews via phone and Zoom, along with a field ride with one of the current team members.
How have people reacted to you leaving patient care?
Initially, my PT colleagues were supportive, but skeptical that it “could work”. They didn’t question my abilities but rather if it would be a good fit.
My wife, who is a PA-C, asked me if I “really wanted to be a salesman”. After just six months, she better understood that very little of what I do is “selling”, at least in the traditional sense.
What’s a typical day or week in the life like for you as a strategic account manager?
Every day is different, and that is one of the things I love! I have days that are heavy in observing procedural cases, and others where I work from home and communicate with clients via email, watch webinars, join meetings, and more.
Some days are spent in-servicing and educating a hospital staff on a product or procedure in the morning, followed by a meeting in the afternoon with a physician that is interested in one of our products. It changes by the hour and is a great change of pace.
What are some of the rewards of your role? What are the biggest challenges?
The biggest rewards are feeling a greater sense of self-worth and having a tangible metric to determine “success”.
It’s no longer about productivity or patient surveys/reviews, but instead about objective numbers which reflect the strength of the relationships I build and the support I provide.
The biggest challenge was learning a completely different niche of industry that I had ZERO background in.
I have never taken business classes. I don’t have an MBA. I have never done “sales” in the traditional sense. Yet, despite these challenges, I am still able to be successful with the clinical skills and communication skills I have through my time as a PT.
How did your clinical background prepare you for this role? Which skills transferred?
The sales world is all about transferrable skills. I focused heavily on this in my interview.
- Keeping a schedule.
- Prioritizing tasks.
- Providing an excellent customer experience.
- Being accountable and trustworthy.
I honed many of these skills in my time treating patients as a PT. Keeping on-time with a busy clinic schedule, ensuring that each patient received the best treatment and attention I could provide, and always doing what was right by each patient. These things go a long way in shaping who you are, regardless of the environment you work in.
Roughly speaking, how are the hours and pay compared to patient care?
Most days, I work typical business hours. I do not take calls and do not work weekends, and I travel out of state only for meetings or training.
My base pay is similar to that of many staff PTs. I have the ability to earn significantly more than my PT salary if I achieve the metrics expected of me. This past year, I earned nearly 2.5x the yearly PT salary during my last year of practice in home health.
Pay scales differ amongst all divisions of medical sales, and generally speaking I am in one of the lower paying specialties (GI). The higher paying specialties tend to be: ortho, trauma, and cardiac, among others.
Smaller startup companies typically offer the ability to earn a higher wage (with success), but also come with higher risk, as there may not be much of a guaranteed salary. Such roles rely heavily on a commission pay structure.
What type of person do you think would do well in your role?
An individual who excels in their organizational skills, inter-professional communication skills, and has a very high emotional IQ. What I mean by this final point is that to be successful you not only need to be able to “read a room”, but also to change your demeanor and approach based upon the environment you are in. Similar to treating patients, what works with one may not work with another—and it’s YOUR job to adapt to get the outcome you are hoping for.
I have already seen folks in this industry who don’t do enough of the “little things” to be as successful as they could otherwise. Not answering the phone, not returning emails/phone calls promptly, not being efficient with their time, and not providing value to their clients outside of being a “rep”.
Do you work remotely or onsite?
Does your organization hire PT, OT, or SLP professionals into non-clinical roles? If so, what type of roles?
Yes, many medical device companies hire clinical professionals. Many of these individuals fit well into the “product specialist” category, as this is a role which doesn’t require much, or any ‘sales’ but instead focuses on mastering products and providing high-level support for the customers—both in procedures and otherwise.
Others, like me, can be hired on the sales team as either a junior/associate sales rep or a full-line sales rep (often times called an account manager).
It varies widely on what types of positions clinical professionals are able to hold. Some companies/divisions/managers want all sales reps to first have associate experience. Others want clinical folks in the product specialist roles, but not sales roles.
Did you read any books, take any courses, or do anything special overall to get you where you are today?
There was virtually NO resource which helped me land this position and transition outside of clinical practice. I relied heavily on LinkedIn and making connections within the medical sales world to help me gain opportunities.
Here is the sad truth that I need people to know: You will NOT get hired in medical sales by simply submitting your resume. It’s harsh but it’s true. No one cares (on paper!) that you have a clinical degree. They don’t care… until you explain WHY that degree is going to make you an excellent candidate for the role. This isn’t done during applying. This is done during networking.
And it’s this exact premise as to why I am now so passionate about helping others have access to the resources on how to best navigate this process, given that it wasn’t available to me when I was going through it!
What is a typical career path for someone in your role?
Most of the medical sales reps I know came from a B2B (Business to Business) sales position, or had a connection within the industry. Most have bachelor’s degrees, and some have MBAs.
What is next for you? What are your high-level career aspirations?
I want to see what the future holds. One of the things I am most excited about is the room for growth in such a large industry, and within such a large organization. The opportunities are truly endless.
I felt so trapped in my time as a PT and I couldn’t feel more opposite at this juncture.
Do you have any special words of wisdom for the readers?
I have explained this above, but the #1 key is to NETWORK.
You need to network more than you think you need to network. If you reach out to 100 people on LinkedIn, you can expect that 50 will accept your connection, 25 will read your message, 10 will respond to you, and 1-2 will offer to speak with you via chat/email/phone. You cannot be content with only reaching out to a few people and continuously submitting resumes. That is not a good recipe for success!
What career advice would you give yourself that you wish you had during school?
I wish that I would have been more open to entrepreneurship and having a business mindset. If I had the opportunity to decrease my clinical/patient-care load earlier in my career, it may have allowed me to be fulfilled with more aspects of business, and prevented me from clinical burnout.
Do you have any special advice for others who want to follow in your footsteps?
My number one piece of advice is: don’t doubt yourself. You are your own worst critic.
It’s important to do your due diligence to ensure the medical sales world (or any other industry) is a good fit for you, but after that, don’t let your own self-doubt be the reason you don’t give it a shot.
The price you paid for your education doesn’t matter after you have it. It definitely shouldn’t stop you from attempting something different if you are not truly passionate about your current position.
And remember, there’s no better time than today.
5 thoughts on “Strategic Account Manager — Preston Collins”
This read was great timing! I am on my 5th interview for an international medical device company and loved hearing about your success in stepping out of the clinical PT setting! I could not agree more with so many points made in this spotlight read. Thanks!
Glad it resonated with you Kealan, and congrats on your journey thus far. Let me know if I can be of any help!
Thank you for sharing, Preston! It’s very encouraging to hear your story. I have a question regarding the networking end. I can appreciate making LinkedIn connections and performing informational interviews, but how did this translate into the connections aiding in securing an interview? I know Medtronic employees can send you a job posting for application as an employee referral, but were you able to find a way to secure a more personal referral for a job posting (rather than be 1 out of 200 applicants)?
I have 30 years of outpatient orthopedic experience. I really want to get into a non-clinical role as my body is exhausted from manual techniques, etc. Can you tell me how you revamped your resume? Thanks! Julie Scarpace, PT, MSPT
Great name 🙂
Can you describe what is in your “brag book” as a PT translating skills to sales? I’ve had an interview or two without much luck – looking for any leg up I can get.