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Adapting and evolving as a sales and marketing manager

“Learning agility and adaptability are very important. The society changes rapidly, and to a large extent. Many jobs have appeared and disappeared over a course of 5 years.” In this rapidly changing society, it becomes increasingly important to adapt to it. 

Mr. Kenneth Li

Sales & Marketing Manager 

Zimmer Biomet

When setting to work in an industry, it is important for university to prepare themselves with the skills, knowledge and mindset in order to thrive in the industry. As the market continues to change at an alarming rate, in order to give more insight on how to adapt to the medical devices industry market which continues to change in an alarming rate, we interviewed Mr. Kenneth Li, who graduated from PolyU BME in 2009 and works as a sales and marketing manager in Zimmer Biomet today.

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Mr. Kenneth Li, Sales & Marketing Manager, Zimmer Biomet

Path to becoming a Sales Representative

Upon graduation, he joined Johnson & Johnson, and worked there for 10 years. He worked in sales and marketing, business development and other sectors. During his time at johnson & Johnson, he worked to provide medical equipment for different field and specialties, such as general surgery, neurosurgery, and orthopedics and traumatology. In 2019, he joined Zimmer Biomet as a sales and marketing manager, where he oversees the business, such as sales, marketing.

Skills attained in PolyU BME

Many foundations required for work are often laid in the knowledge gained in university. When asked about how his skills attained in PolyU BME has helped him, Li claimed “BME has helped a lot in my career such as you learn a lot of basic science. Especially, for the medical device sectors, having basic knowledge will help immensely. This is because it will make it easier to understand what the product does, how it is used, and how it is able to help patients. For example, learning the anatomy has helped me a lot in my career for orthopedics and traumatology. Furthermore, physiology will be used a lot. In the medical device industry, a lot of basic science will be used. This may not be noticed at first, but once you start to work, you will realize that you will learn a lot of the theory faster than your other counterparts, which is a major advantage.” He continues about his time in university where he focused a lot of time in investigating about the medical device industry, and participating in start-up competitions in which he earned awards in. He believed that within PolyU BME, couses such as “Biomedical engineering in society” was very helpful for his career planning as it gave him insights to the products in BME, and the BME industry.  He says that BME is an incredibly broad field, and not just limited to EMSD and prosthetics and orthotics. He stated  “In this course (Biomedical engineering in society), one of the lecturers told me that which companies in medical devices and medicine has a large market value, which really inspired me and I remember being  looking for a job through that direction.”

"However, people nowadays may want a better working environment, or more of a work life balance."

Vital skills graduates should have when they work

To gain more insight on what skills Mr. Li perceives to be integral in working in this industry, he stated that “Learning agility, adaptability, learning are very important. The society changes rapidly, and to a large extent. Many jobs have appeared and disappeared over a course of 5 years. Furthermore, the content in the modules in university may not be able to keep up-to-date with the new technological advancement in the industry.” Mr. Li continues,

“One has to always stay learning, and “evolve”. But how do you evolve? I think through doing projects, friendly rivalry with your peers, you will always be enticed to continue to learn. Traditional teaching and learning methods may not be wrong, but the difference in society is too alarming. Being a sales representative 10 years ago and being a sales representative now is completely different. For example, 10 years ago, we would not demonstrate our products through the use of videos or show mini-presentations through using electronic tablets. Maybe we would just bring a couple of catalogues on paper and discuss with the doctors and nurses. But now, it may only take 1-2 minutes to do a presentation. Thus, it is important to catch a key message. In the modern era of social media, people require information given to them in a fast and efficient manner. People may not have the attention span for a ten minute video, and you will have to catch their attention and talk about all your key points in a matter of 2-3 minutes.” Therefore, when looking to work in sales and marketing related jobs, the ability to evolve and adapt is vital to survive.


Duties of a sales representative

Providing more insight to what a sales and marketing would do on a daily basis, as a sales and marketing representative, the whole operation of the company is related to him. Li is responsible for profit and loss, which is quite similar to operating a small company. Imports, exports, how to sell, how to make a profit, all the expense are to be managed. Li states “In the sales department, we think about how to sell more products, which is done by managing my team to ensure that we provide a good service to the customers, thereby being able to attract more customers. In marketing it is more strategic, where we think of ideas to make more customers be intrigued to use more of our products through promotional and education events.” Ultimately, as an operation manager, your goal is to maximize the profits at the lowest cost.

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As with a bouquet of flowers, the flowers are organised in order to become more attractive, thus highlighting the importance of presentation.

Adapting to the external dynamic market

As discussed above, the ability to adapt to the market is a vital skill to possess. With the prosperity of media in the modern day, the amount of transparency within the field has increased drastically, which allows for more competition within the field. Hence, you may have to make the decisions of do we continuously lower the price in order to attract customers? How do we give the customers a sense of trust when using our products? Li believes that the most challenging part of his job is to adapt to the market, as he claims that the change in the healthcare sector has changed immensely. He states that, within the healthcare market, there are “5 P’s” to consider. The “P’s” stand for patients, policies, payers (insurance companies or government), practitioners (medical workers such as doctors and nurses), and providers (medical device companies). The market has changed so that the patients have increased power and are able to choose the service and the practitioners they want. For payers, the integration of big data and artificial intelligence has allowed them to identify and compare the price of medical operations, thereby reducing the cost that they need to reimburse back to their clients. This indirectly causes the healthcare industry to gain less money, which means they have less money to invest to providers. Many practitioners and hospitals may opt to bulk order from the providers to buy cheaper, and ultimately increasing the market competition. Hence, it is clear that companies will always have to adapt to the changing environment to ensure that they are still able to entice and keep their customers.

Adapting to the internal dynamic market

Aside from having to adapt to the changing external market, a sales and marketing representative will have to adapt to the internal dynamic market as well. The internal dynamic market refers to the company structure itself. “In every market, every company wishes to maximize profits in the lowest cost. Hence, employees will have to take on more responsibility for their jobs.” Mr. Li continues, “For example, a sales representative may not just be responsible for selling products, but will also have to be involved with management, or perform a variety of different jobs and task individually. Furthermore, companies could rotate your position at any time, meaning that today you may be a sales and marketing manager, the next day you might be a regional marketing manager, and the next you might be a professional education manager. Hence, the ability to adapt and be versatile within the company is very important.”

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Similar to how other animals have to adapt to their surroundings to survive, humans also have to adapt to different social and economic situations

Adapting to different styles of management

As society and education changes, the mindset of people also changes as well. Mr. Li discusses having to adapt to different styles of management over the years. He stated that with people management, there may be different views and values in life for different employees. Back in the day, the average employee would often just be told what to do from the boss, and their goal in life is to climb the corporate ladder. However, people nowadays may want a better working environment, or more of a work life balance. Hence, a lot more communication is required between the boss and the subordinates. Mr. Li says that he would often ask his team about whether they have any complaints or suggestions for the company to further improve. If an issue is brought up, are there any evidence to solidify the claim? Hence, he stated that the modern-day management style requires a lot more effort and time for communication and maintain a happy morale.


Advice for current BME undergraduate students

As a final advice, Mr. Li believes that presentation and language is very important in regard to work relating to the commercial side. Having good soft skills are also vital as well. He believes that students can practice such skills by presenting more, reflecting upon what they can do better in each presentation, and continuously polishing their communication and presentation skills.

Credit by Orion KEUNG (Year 2 -Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Biomedical Engineering)



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