Junior rep programs are gaining traction in U.S. medical products companies. A recent Alexander Group study found these important support roles increased 38 percent in medical sales coverage models over the past five years. Why are winning medical companies increasingly employing these programs? And how do they ensure a higher productivity payoff vs. simply investing in additional core territory sellers? The key lies in the proper training, support and oversight of the junior rep role.
Junior Rep – Defined
Most companies think of a “junior rep” as some combination of the following characteristics: lower paid, entry-level, college grad, inexperienced, “hungry,” mobile and ambitious. A true definition may be hard to pin down, but for the purposes of this article, we will define a junior rep as a field-based, entry-level, customer-facing sales support role. Furthermore, junior reps are sales roles with a direct career path into a full field sales position.
Junior Rep Program Integration Into Existing Sales Model
Balancing the typical tenured, higher-paid sales force with a junior rep’s “new blood” requires training, support and oversight to be successful. The existing sales force has a key role to play in making a junior rep program work. Tenured sellers provide critical on-boarding, training and knowledge to junior reps to mold them into capable reps of the future.
Key Roles of a Junior Rep
Increase Account Manager Sales Time: Junior reps can handle specific time-consuming customer maintenance and administrative tasks/issues to free up the account manager’s time for high-value selling activities. While this typically is not all that the junior rep does, it certainly helps drive more coverage efficiency. More importantly, this responsibility provides a learning pathway for the junior rep to build knowledge, understand the sales process and build the sales talent funnel. In smaller accounts within a region, junior reps can manage simple selling activities and support tasks, thereby freeing up a tenured rep to focus on strategic accounts and large opportunities.
Provide Cost-Effective Coverage for Simpler Products: In some models, the role of a junior rep is to sell the simpler or lower-complexity products within a company’s portfolio. Because this model ramps up knowledge and selling skills, tenured reps can spend time on more complex products and solutions. Because customers perceive these interactions as higher value, this allows for deeper customer relationships. In parallel, junior reps typically partner with senior reps (especially when covering the same accounts and customers) to accelerate their learning and obtain guidance.
Expand Sales Coverage of Smaller Accounts: Another potential role for junior reps is to own entire small account responsibility within a given territory or region, with a focus on account retention and product penetration. This model results in cost-effective and improved coverage for smaller accounts, which are likely under-covered by tenured reps who tend to focus on larger accounts within their territories.
Create Talent Bench for Field Sales: Open or uncovered territories are major drivers of missed sales goals. At the same time, sales leaders make significant time and financial investments to recruit, hire and on-board new reps when a tenured rep leaves. Junior reps offer a solution to both of these problems. There are many benefits to building a pipeline of in-house junior reps that stand ready to take over a territory when attrition occurs–immediately fill the open position, avoid time-consuming new hire on-boarding and transition pipeline opportunities efficiently and effectively. By creating a training program and career pathway for junior reps to move up, companies that create a strong bench of junior reps reap a sales model advantage over competitors. As an additional benefit, this approach potentially lowers sales compensation costs over time because tenured reps typically have materially higher pay levels than junior reps.
Contemplating how to design and implement a junior rep program at your company? Contact Alexander Group to learn more about realizing the benefits that junior reps can provide to your sales model.
Co-author: Alex Tolmasoff is a manager in Alexander Group’s San Francisco office.