As leader of the Medical Devices Group, I get asked multiple times per week by medical device sales candidates how they can break in to the medical device sales industry.
I wish I had an easy answer, definitive resource, or job for them. I don’t.
But I do have a collection of insights from members of the Medical Devices Group about this question, starting with mine: I have a list of medical device recruiters available but few, if any, find it worthwhile to recruit for entry-level talent. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand, and the economics of recruiting.
I believe your best bets for a medical device sales job as an entry-level person (or career changer) are:
(a) apply at the biggest firms who may have training programs,
(b) work your network as best as you can (you’re probably already doing that) – remember to contact alumni,
(c) intern or shadow a sales rep for free,
(d) go to trade shows and meetings and ask for complimentary admission,
(e) work solely on commission for companies seeking medical device reps. They have little to lose if you “don’t work out.”
(f) set about getting a business-to-business sales job that demonstrates your selling ability and transition into medical device sales later.
As originally written on LinkedIn (clickable)
Dionna Hofbauer: I’m an educator by trade and have a few years of sales experience but would like to venture into medical sales. Feeling frustrated that no one seems to be giving me a chance to show exactly what I’m capable of! Any advice for a newbie?
Jerrold Shapiro: Dionna, depending on who you are selling to and what the product is, medical device sales can require knowledge ranging from why your widget is better that the dozen other ones like it to scrubbing into the OR and teaching a surgeon how to use your new medical device. A tremendous in-depth medical education in the areas where your product has impact is required to sell to physicians who own their own practices, as they liked to grill me to be sure I knew what I was talking about before they would let me inquire about their needs and begin the sales process. You may want to take some college courses and get certified in an aspect of medical devices before you apply for sales jobs.
Joseph C Grover: Dionne, the medical field is vast. Any area in particular seem more interesting than another to help us help you? Hospitals and medical facilities have many areas that have needs (digital imaging, pathology, central sterile, operating room (tables/booms/lights), exam, emergency/urgent care & ICU, kitchen/nutrition, (Telecomm, IT/Data- a hot market now) and hospital beds Hill-Rom type & furniture (FF&E). Also other areas like move management and warehousing are worth looking into. Sales of products across all of these lines and more. Someone somewhere will hire you just based on your strong desire to get in the industry but to get into operating room environments as Mr. Shapiro was referring to it is a bit more complicated. It can be done with dedication on your part. Look at it another way. Not at what “qualifications fits” but what “you” want to do. You’re not cast in stone. Reinvent, target ultrasound or mammography (if that suits you) either equipment sales or services that supports those lines. Don’t give up. Both are expanding markets. Go to a near by hospital and ask who they use or recommend or they can refer you to. Box of donuts never goes to waste.
Additional LinkedIn Discussions
Kyle Nevala: Here’s a few suggestions: No Fear. With no direct experience, I suggest working your way in the same way you would do as a saleswoman. Your target is regional manager, sales manager, VP sales, CEO (depending on size of company). I feel an application would be a formal process only at the direction of the hiring manager…as in, you are hired, but you still have to go through HR procedure. As an educator, try applying for a different role in Learning and Development. You will get the know the sales group in this role and can work your way in. This path may also give you some of the education others have suggested. I hate to phrase it this way, but I’ve known several salespeople take this path: apply to small, low brand name, medical device companies to get the 2 years experience to launch you to the next phase. FDA.gov has “registered medical device company”(s) that you can download and look at in Excel. Some online research will give you their product lines and management’s names.
Greg Switzer: Downward price pressure, consolidation and uncertainty… why would you want to break into that? If you can answer that question for yourself, then you can find a way in. Alternatively, you could follow Liz Ryan, Josh Luke, and Dave Chase on LinkedIn and see if you can identify some better opportunities in healthcare. Then write your future boss directly and explain how you’ll eliminate some pain by leveraging your experience. Be bold and good luck!
Carroll Cobb: Yes I have an extensive science/biochemistry and anatomy and physiology background from teaching it for years and I’ve been a very successful coach and personal trainer. Still Hard to get an interview, but I’m very optimistic so far and I know I can be an asset to a sales team. Stay in the fight and continue to sell yourself because ultimately that’s you will be doing!
Julia Nisbet-Fahy: Hi Dionne, A few thoughts: Have you thought about clinical nutrition? By that I mean hospital tube, sip and supplemental feeds. This can also involve feeding pumps so may be a more straightforward way into medical. You don’t need the be a dietitian….or you didn’t use to be. The bigger companies in healthcare tend to be most likely to take on a wide range of people and in my experience offer great training. The final bit of advice is look out for congresses in your area and look on line for free passes to the exhibition. Sales managers and sales people man the booths. Go talk to them and understand what you are getting into. The best way into any job is through the people you meet. Best of luck.
David Lorenzi: You might want to consider looking at the Medical Sales College – they have a great track record for training , and then placing sales representatives with quality medical device companies.
Jeffrey Kurtzer: 1. Start with B2B sales and become a sales star within 2-3 years. Maybe Med device companies will hire proven B2B reps. 2. Look for sales opportunity selling products where healthcare is one of the targets, not the target, focus in healthcare market for personal growth then make the move when experience is achieved. It is not an easy market to jump right into especially without sales record.
Tim Richards: Some thoughts about getting into medical sales…. One can’t do enough networking both with your target company or healthcare professionals that you know that will help open doors with the local sales organization.. Also, industry associations (national and local).. Finally, many companies have development programs that pick people out of their customer/technical service teams. Depending on where you are in your career, this is also an option… Good luck.
Michael Waskovich: +1 for Medical Sales College. I have a Masters Degree in Exercise Science, 15 years of successful B2B sales and business ownership experience and taught medical science disciplines at a junior college. Still, I could not get a peep from multiple applications to Med Device sales job postings. I completed the 10 week academy program this past September. I had a good experience there and learned a lot. The academy program is a general survey of orthopaedic A&P, biologics, implants/techniques, and dynamic consultative sales training. You’ll also get recruiter services (EliteMed Recruiting) after graduating. Since Sept., I have been on a handful of interviews and had a job offer. It’s a good option for you, IMO. Best of luck!
Alex Guizzotti: Not a very simple statement to answer. Your passion must first showcase medicine; yield towards helping patients. Your past business has no meaning when it comes to never working inside a hospital, managing doctors, B2B sales with tremendous increase in brand equity, client retention percentage and an ability to upsell existing accounts without sounding like a professional of sales. Harvard, Dartmouth, Boston College, Yale school of business and Wharton are your competitors before B2B sales are calculated. Medical sales is one of the most recession proof careers you can work in. Even when margins are down, medical staff will have patients who require treatment and diagnostic testing to ensure quality of life is at its highest. Put in 2 years at a hospital in the OR setting, learn the environment or work 2 years for ADP and sell better than anyone in the company history has ever and all medical companies will call on you. If you want Conmed, Depuy or Stryker, attend every medical seminar you can get your hands on. Network. Network. Network. This is not for the lazy, but for the persistent lover of medicine.
Alex Guizzotti: Companies have personalities like individuals do. Many require intensive experience in the medical sector before you are offered any real interviews. You can become a 1099 on the Independent medical circuit averaging 80k if you’re average and top with relationships extended breach 250k. Medical sales is one of the most challenging fields to walk in to because it is recession proof. Put in 2 hard years at a hospital learning the trade in the OR or work floor role supervising medical professionals or work 2 years ADP like B2B sales. You have to understand you are competing with the highest collaborative groups amongst the world. Graduates from Dartmouth, Harvard, Wharton, Yale school of business etc. Or those that have produced 2M and counting with a 50 to 70 practice Rolodex. My advice, get to work and show you belong and recruiters will call you.
Richard Weitzel: Target several companies that interest you. Determine the knowledge or background you would need to give you credibility. Get that knowledge. Then, contact those companies and give them a short presentation of the value you bring, and why you have the Rolodex of key decision makers in their area, credibility, etc. When I hire medical device sales people, I want to know who they know, and can influence. I transitioned from a Navy medical technologist into device clinical support, then sales, marketing, and eventually top management. The alternative is to sell them on why you are a “hunter.” I have encountered one young man recently who would stop at nothing to find the decision maker, and prove to me he was indeed a “hunter.” He had no medical device sales experience, but he was indeed a “hunter” and proved it by his actions.
Peter Samargedlis: Taking a job on straight commission with a medical sales/marketing group that has a training program for entry level salespeople is something to consider. You would receive and build your resume. Plus you can work another job seeing as you are working independently.
Greg Switzer: If by “medical sales” you mean medical device sales, I’m not surprised you are finding it tough. With consistent downward price pressure, consolidation and uncertainty of payment models, even industry sales veterans are scrambling for jobs. I encourage you to follow Josh Luke, Dave Chase and Roy Smythe on LinkedIn and try to get a feel for what some really smart people are saying about the future of healthcare. You should be able to identify some unique opportunities. Think like this…. necessity is the mother of all invention. Also follow Liz Ryan and get some ideas on bypassing the 23 year old HR rep using a software program to manage your potential candidacy, and write a ‘pain letter’ directly to your future manager. Be bold, and stay encouraged.
David L. Brucker: Be open to any sales job in Medical; pharma, clinical sales support, device, distributor….. This will give you an IN into the market and once you get some experience/success, then you can be more specific and direct into what you want and who you would like to work for.