What a Medical Sales Representative Does
Medical sales is a diverse field with lots of opportunities for those who enjoy networking, helping others, and have a great deal of tenacity. Most people only think about medical devices when it comes to sales careers within the niche, but it also reaches into medical equipment and services the medical industry leverages, such as technology, billing, human resources/ recruitment or marketing.
A medical sales associate may work individually or with a team of sales professionals. In more transactional-type sales, such as where the salesperson is offering a one-time-use product or something inexpensive, it’s common to work alone while leveraging software to track clients through the sales funnel or buying process, as they move from being a prospect to a customer. With larger-ticket items, such as medical equipment or services, there is typically a team of specialists who help nurture leads until they’re ready for the salesperson.
It’s also worth noting that there are both inside and outside sales reps. Inside reps work inside their company and typically nurture leads via phone, email, and similar channels. Sometimes inside reps are even allowed to work from home, depending on the employer. Outside reps visit the prospects wherever they may be, so they frequent clinics, hospitals, and other venues.
Who would enjoy a career in Medical Sales?
Historically, sales jobs have been ideal for extroverted people who enjoy making connections and helping people find the right products for their needs. This is still true, but there’s also a science to it today, as representatives must be familiar with the sales funnel, methods to carry people through each phase, and various forms of technology that can be used to track, nurture, and convert leads.
Who mightn't like the career?
There are always ethical considerations when it comes to sales positions, considering most roles are largely commission-based. In the medical industry, it’s even more important to have strong moral fortitude because it’s not only money at stake, but the health, wellbeing, and often personal data of patients at risk. A thick skin is necessary too, as medical salespeople will be frequently rejected or declined. Lastly, commission-based pay can lead to a feast or famine environment, as a myriad of things outside the professional’s control, such as economic turns, can make sales more difficult. For this reason, the field isn’t ideal for those who can’t save and budget for the lean times.
While no degree is formally required to work in medical sales, employers will typically give preferential treatment to candidates with a degree in sales or marketing and those who have worked within the niche before. There are also training programs, certifications, and medical sales-specific schools one may choose to attend to gain an edge. It’s worth noting that, although pharmaceutical sales is usually considered separate from medical sales, those following the path will generally require licensure depending on the jurisdiction.
Those without experience may have better luck starting in an entry-level role supporting the sales associates. Those interviewing for a formal medical sales role should be well versed with all the terminology related to the niche, be familiar with the clients and company, be able to demonstrate knowledge of the sales funnel and CRMs, plus have evidence of a proven track record with sales.
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Moving into Medical Sales from another career
Transitioning is easier when moving from a general sales role or from a related medical position. For example, a medical assistant would likely be an appealing candidate to a company which markets gloves to medical offices. A doctor or nurse would likely do well applying for a medical device or equipment sales role. Those who have worked in marketing and advertising can usually make the switch with comparative ease too.
Role: Sales representatives, which include sales development reps (SDRs), business development reps (BDRs), account executives, inside sales reps, and outside sales reps, follow leads or prospects through the sales funnel until they become a customer. With larger companies, these jobs will be defined more. Those employed by smaller companies may be responsible for all the duties.
No one group is more important than the other, though SDRs and BDRs work more as lead gatherers and warmers. They find prospects and uncover ways to nudge them along until they’re ready for the sales pitch. The pitch comes from an account executive, inside sales rep, or outside sales rep.
Hours: 40+ per week
Role: High-performing salespeople who want to climb the ladder typically move into a sales manager role, though many choose not to move up, simply because they enjoy the thrill of the sale and the commissions. Managers hire and train all personnel below them. They may create and monitor goals, then provide guidance for those who aren’t making their goals. Managers are also usually the go-between for the sales team and the executive team. They’ll report findings to the execs and take action when execs pass directives down.
Hours: 40+ per week
Most medical sales professionals do not travel for work. The exception to this is those who work in outside sales. The degree of travel necessary varies by position. For example, a small start-up selling software may have their salesperson travel around the country or globe giving demos, while another role may simply require travel to local hospitals and medical offices.
Sales Rep Average: According to PayScale, the base salary for medical device sales representatives averages USD$62,000 per year in the United States. In the United Kingdom, the average is £35,000, whereas salaries are CAD$61,000, and AU$80,000, in Canada and Australia, respectively.
It’s also worth noting that those with specific skills tend to earn more than others. For example, those who work in field sales earn about 6% more than their counterparts, while those who handle operating room devices earn about 35% more.
Entry-Level Sales Rep (0-5 years): USD$61,000, £27,000, CAD$59,000, AU$66,000
Mid-Career Sales Rep (5-10 years): USD$97,000, £43,000, CAD$83,000, AU$86,000
Experienced Sales Rep (10-20 years): USD $115,000, £50,000, CAD$97,000, AU$93,000
Later-Career Sales Rep (20+ years): USD $109,000, £44,000, CAD$52,000 (AU salary not available)
General Sales Manager: USD$73,000, £33,000, CAD$73,000, AU$100,000
Bonuses, profit sharing, and commission are a major component of take-home pay for medical sales professionals. Generally speaking, these things combined are greater than the base salary, meaning an average salesperson should be able to gauge salaries modestly by doubling the base salaries above.
Why a Medical Sales Representative moves on
While some do stay happy in their careers for many years or even a lifetime, the daily grind can be a bit much for others. Many report putting in excessive and unpredictable hours. Those in outside sales also sometimes feel they’re spending too much time away from home. Some cannot make their sales goals, while others become disenchanted by the fact that their goals are increased each time they’re met. Regardless of the reasons for leaving, sales professionals have a myriad of options for new starts.