Student designs sales tool to help boost Stryker profits

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Photo of Sara .

Simic

KALAMAZOO—A Western Michigan University business student working as an intern at Stryker Instruments has designed a website and mobile application that is helping the company's national sales force close deals across the country and overseas.

Sara Simic, a senior form Lake Orion, Mich., pursuing a double major in food and consumer package goods marketing and integrated supply management, was fortunate to land a coveted internship with Stryker. But it's what she did with that rare opportunity that set her apart. Her determination earned her unexpected recognition when she developed a sales enablement tool for the company's neuro, spine, ears, nose and throat division.

Simic, who graduates in spring 2014, was asked to design a tool to be used by the company's 150 sales reps. She did a crash course on Stryker's products and interviewed about 20 employees about what they would like to see in the tool.

Simic worked closely with Chicago-based software company SAVO and painstakingly designed the product from the ground up. Her ideas first materialized as sketches on paper of what a home page would look like. Menus appeared; tabs took form.

"I presented that to a few people and they liked it," says Simic in her customary rapid-fire speaking style. "So I went to SAVO headquarters and told them, this is what I want. And a few months later, after a lot of hard work, I made it come to life. It came to life exactly how I drew it."

Laying the groundwork

However, Simic had to lay the groundwork first. To test her ideas, she presented her plans in August to sales reps from across the country at Styker's mid-year meeting, the halfway point before the company's national sales meeting. She gave reps a teaser of what was to come. They were excited.

From there, she formed a smaller "beta" group to gather constructive feedback to improve her design before launching the tool. About 30 people in the sales force volunteered, helping Simic fine tune her ideas over the next four months.

"I really worked closely with them," she says. "They gave me good feedback on what I needed to add, certain types of videos and other suggestions."

Simic also had to work with regulatory compliance to make sure everything met the letter of the law. Each sales representative needed their own user name and unhampered access in time for the company's national sales meeting in January in Scottsdale, Ariz., so they could follow along on their iPads during her presentation.

"It's just been great," Simic says. "I had vice presidents and managers come and sit in on my presentation, and they said that they've never seen an intern do so much work and have such an impact on a company. So that was really great to hear. I couldn't be more happy with my experience at Stryker."

Simic started the project in May when she began what started as a full-time, three-month internship. She wasn't close to completing the project when the three months were up, so the company let her stay on as a part-time contractor and see her project through to launch. She's continued to work on it 20 hours a week, making it the best it can be, while also going to school full time.

The site provides a one-stop shop for pretty much everything a sales rep might need. They can search for a brochure, look up information, create a presentation kit for a particular client or brush up on their anatomy or clinical knowledge.

"It's basically everything they need to help them better their sale," Simic says.

Simic will continue working at Stryker until May 1, when she will start a co-op position at Johnson & Johnson in Los Angeles, where she will work for six months in the supply chain field.

"I did this completely by myself," says Simic. "It was quite a challenge at first, because I didn't know anything about the business to begin with. So it was a big learning experience."

Making a difference

Stryker has a long-standing relationship with the Haworth College of Business and has always been a career destination for engaged, passionate and talented students from the college, says Dr. Sime Curkovic, director of the integrated supply management program.

"Sara fits that profile exactly," he says. "She has already built strong and lasting relationships with her Stryker colleagues and works with people who, like her, are driven to make a difference."