A career sales professional since his days at Saint Rose, where he was a baseball player and business administration and management major, Tony Paratore ’79 was instrumental in designing and launching the new sales major at the Huether School of Business recently. Passionate about the complex and rewarding field of sales, he is devoted to introducing students to the opportunities afforded by a sales career.
Describe your typical day.
I typically get up early and usually jog, I start about 6:30. I’m in my office no later than 8.
I’m the upstate New York district manager for Medtronic. They hired me 30 years ago. I manage 20 people: 8 salespeople and 12 clinical specialists. The product line includes pacemakers, internal defibrillators, and implantable monitors.
These products are implanted in the body, and a Medtronic employee is required to be in the operating room at the time of implant.
Say a patient shows up in the emergency room because they fainted. They get a workup, including an electrocardiogram. The doctor says they need a pacemaker. They stay in the emergency room until there’s a room ready upstairs. That’s when we get a phone call, and we’re there.
It’s a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week, high-value job. We get to know the patient, doctors, and staff. We’re pretty much a part of the hospital team. Sometimes we’re walking around in scrubs and nobody knows if we’re with the hospital or with Medtronic.
How did you find your career?
In my senior year at Saint Rose, I was home for a weekend, and my next-door neighbor was dating a guy who was driving a white Mercedes.
I went over thinking, “I have to meet this guy.” He was with Johnson & Johnson, selling birth-control pills.
I said, “I can do this.”
I attended a career interview fair at Saint Rose, and I interviewed with J&J. They selected me out of 300 candidates to be their Rochester, New York, representative. I started with a company car, and my starting salary was $13,500. That was in 1979.
If I didn’t get that job, I would never be where I am today. The three and a half years at J&J was an amazing training ground to get into the medical-device business.
In 1982, I got my first job with American Hospital Supply Corporation as their Albany representative, and that’s when I was introduced to the operating room, at age 22.
Medtronic would never have hired me if I didn’t have documented success. When you have documented success, you build confidence, and your communication skills, your ability to take risks. You’ve got to be able to have the confidence to engage in conversation with doctors and discuss patients. You have to know when to speak, when to ask a question. Those come with time.
Sales is a wonderful profession if you love to measure yourself every day. In some jobs, it’s hard to tell if you’re doing a good job. In sales, it’s: What did I sell? How much did I sell? Where am I according to the target established by the company?
Did you know that 10% of every organization in the country is salespeople? That’s why I felt it was important we started a sales major at Saint Rose. People don’t realize what sales is. A typical conversation with your parents goes: “I want you to be a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. You have a great personality, so if you don’t get any of those, maybe you should get a sales job.”
That’s a farce. We have a lot of introverted people who are incredibly successful. They succeed because they know how to build relationships and trust. They establish a culture of taking care of the patient (customer) first and the company second.
How can young professionals get started in sales?
Companies will post if they’re looking for people. They have sales recruiters and use agencies. Go and meet with the agents in your area. Some agents are national and can query the company names you’re interested in.
Find the sales recruiters. Get on their radar. Get the resume out there. They’ll tell you what you have to do to get a job at Pfizer or Merck.
I would highly recommend getting a ride in the field with someone who sells. See what it’s like to call on a doctor or pharmacist, or a purchasing agent in a hospital. I did a ride along with J&J when they were serious about me. If I didn’t get the job, I would have died – I loved it so much.
A lot of companies hire athletes, because athletes keep score. In sales, you get immediate feedback every morning at how you’re doing. They also like people in the military who are incredibly organized. People who like to plan something and execute it, follow up.
What do you do for fun?
I play golf, and I belong to Wolfert’s Roost Country Club in Albany. Sometimes I run 5Ks.
I just started a perennial garden with salvia, I have Shasta daisies (my favorite) four feet high, and also I grow hydrangeas. In Cape Cod, where I am right now, the hydrangeas are growing like weeds out here.
I’m on the board of Hospice in Albany, it’s keeping me busy!
What did you like about Saint Rose?
I wasn’t aware at the time, but when I started my career, subconsciously I was seeking to be on a team, in an organization or company, that provided the same culture as Saint Rose.
At Saint Rose, I had a lot of friends, we were close, authentic. We would say what was on our mind, communicated all the time. It’s such a small, loving, supportive environment.
I was fortunate enough to be seeking that when I left Saint Rose, though I didn’t know it. I was 21. That first team, the feeling I had at J&J, the team I created here in Albany, mimics how I felt at Saint Rose.
Saint Rose is one of those schools where you get real camaraderie. I had a good experience all the way around.
Why should alums stay involved with their alma mater?
If you care about your history in life, you have to preserve that history. One of those pieces is your college. And if you want the same people that were ahead of you that provided funding for your education, you are creating these young people to go out and do the same thing so you can benefit some day.
Supporting the College is a must. We want more educated people out there. Educated people make better decisions.
By Irene Kim