Forbes Interviews Ra Medical Systems EVP Melissa Burstein

Melissa Burstein, EVP at Ra Medical Systems

Demonstrate Your Innovation To Make The Sale

Ra Medical Systems, a medical device company, makes excimer lasers and catheters to treat debilitating dermatological and cardiovascular diseases. It was founded in 2002 by Dean Irwin — an innovator, inventor and serial entrepreneur — and Melissa Burstein — a 27-year-old MBA with sales and marketing experience at Eli Lilly, Kellogg’s and Sprint.

Rather than raise outside money, Ra Medical bootstrapped it; they self-fund the company during its early days. “[It takes] serious creativity in bartering, trading, getting resources on credit and networking to bring in others to compensate for your weaknesses,” writes Burstein in Women 2.0.

Strategically, the cofounders brought to market the lower cost dermatological devices. The profits from those devices were plowed back into the company so the more costly to develop and manufacture cardiovascular devices could be produced.

Lack of funding was only one obstacle. It had a ripple effect.

For Burstein, one of those obstacles was a personal challenge. She was the sales force. “There was no well-known brand name and marketing budget to pave the way for sales,” she said. Instead, Burstein went door to door, talking with doctors. She was a young woman without a medical degree, asking doctors to try something new. Doctors were resistant, to say the least.

She got past the doctors’ reluctance to listen by believing strongly that Ra Medical was bringing to market safer, easier-to-use, lower cost devices that could make healthcare more accessible whether you lived in the rural south or urban north east. This sense of purpose gave her the determination to persist.

Burstein also needed to be creative. While Ra Medical’s devices were about half the size of its competitors, they still weighed about 100 pounds and were as big as an airline food cart. “The device was far too heavy for me to lift on my own, especially in a dress and high heels,” said Burstein. But allowing doctors to use the laser on patients was key to making the sale.

“Figuring out how to bring our lasers around the country on my own – cheaply, in rental cars, was challenging,” said Burstein. A local welder helped her customize a motorcycle ramp to use with the discounted mini-vans she rented. Together, they created a transport system that every sales manager — female and male — has used ever since.

Burstein would either ship or take the laser and ramp to a city, then drive from doctor’s office to doctor’s office. The ability to demonstrate the laser on patients frequently made the sale on the spot.

Product demonstration can make the sale in many industries.

How will you creatively overcome obstacles that stand in your way demonstrating your product?

[This article was originally posted on Forbes.]