Medical Sales Career Transitions:  Medical Sales Jobs

Are you having a career crisis and now you are thinking about transitioning to a career in medical sales or pharmaceutical sales?  Don’t laugh.  Everybody thinks about changing their career path at some point.  For some, it is early in their career for others around mid-life.  Sooner or later you will begin wondering why you are where you are, how you got there and if the grass is greener somewhere else.

I have experience in another industry and want to transfer my skills to medical sales or pharmaceutical sales.  Is this possible?

First of all, keep in mind the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence.  Most pharmaceutical or medical sales representatives will tell you that the job is harder than it looks.  As a pharmaceutical sales representative, you will be faced with tests online, tons of study and memorization, reports and various other tasks that all add up to one thing…accountability for sales numbers.   Often medical sales professionals  can find themselves selling a “me too” product or one that does not present them with a challenge.  The medical sales industry is also changing rapidly.  Medical and pharmaceutical companies are frequently merging together and products can be taken-off the market by the FDA.  This can lead to job instability.

A four-year college degree plus at least two years of outside sales experience is required for most job opportunities in this industry. Typically, outside sales experience means selling in a business to business environment (such as copiers, payroll services, telecommunications or consumer products). The key is having sold some type of tangible product. If you do not possess these basic qualifications, it will be much more difficult to transition to a pharmaceutical or medical sales career.

While it may be possible to change your career to medical sales, changes should only be made if they make sense.  You may be a great salesperson having learned various sales skills including prospecting, hunting, relationship building, closing, but you will have to prove that you can do it all over again in another field. There is more to being successful than knowing the sales process.  Although the sales process is extremely important, time and experience within a field helps you know what makes your buyers tick and how to get them to sign the deal.  These skills are part of what makes you successful.  Knowledge within your industry is power.  You may want to consider working your way into another product line that compliments your sales background.   Build on your past client relationships with your next career move so that you will continue to be successful.

If you have a strong sales background and a strong desire to change careers, nothing is impossible.  Start by creating a resume that sells you and your abilities in a matter of seconds.  If you don’t bring direct experience, bring great experience!  Sell the hiring company on your sales process and results.  No manager can resist hiring a super star!

Throughout your career, you will make many transitions.   Whether or not these transitions are upward or lateral career movements depends upon your career planning.

There are several transitions often seen in within the field of medical sales and pharmaceutical sales.  Some of these include the following:

  • Moving from a career in pharmaceutical sales to selling medical devices or products
  • Moving from a clinical role to a sales role
  • Forced transitions, i.e., layoffs, downsizing
How easy is it to switch from pharmaceutical sales to medical device sales or vice versa?

Companies are now realizing that there are countless individuals that have spent a tremendous amount time and effort training and educating themselves for the  sales environment. How did they do it? By putting their time in selling in the b2b environment promoting copiers, cell phones, rental cars and a host of other “tough sales” products. Selling pharmaceuticals isn’t always a picnic, there are a multiple responsibilities and a pharmaceutical rep must quickly learn the ability to get past “gatekeepers.”

As we are all intimately aware, many of our friends and colleagues have either lost their jobs or are threatened with this potential reality. These folks deserve our respect and have earned a shot at their next sales gig based on what they can and have produced.  Yes, the stereotypical model of a pharmaceutical sales rep is changing and still needs to change. However, hiring managers must realize that every person is an individual and as such has his or her own unique talents and abilities.  Pharmaceutical candidates today need to prove their abilities in today’s job market with proven sales achievements just like they’ve done in the past to get beyond stereotypes.

The key to getting the job of your dreams is simple.  Make yourself valuable.  If you have sold a cardiovascular drug and achieved excellent sales numbers, consider applying to a cardiovascular device company.  If you have sold medical disposable products to hospitals consider transitioning to surgical sales or consider becoming a specialty pharmaceutical sales representative selling to the hospital environment.

The typical medical sales position requires more of a traditional business to business sales approach. More one on one customer time is allowed in the medical device industry, so the successful representative must have an understanding of good probing skills. The ability to use probing questions and move the customer quickly to a closed sale is what will define you as a good candidate. To make the switch to selling medical products and devices, the successful candidate will need a proven track record of success, strong hunter traits and strong closing skills. Your resume should showcase your sales skills within a matter of seconds.

The good news is that the old way of thinking that a pharmaceutical person sells differently than a medical device representative is changing.  While some companies continue to post on their job advertisements, ” no pharma reps”, remember not to get discouraged. Nearly every company is seeking “winners”- show them you are one with your past accomplishment, well written resume and by using great follow-up skills.   Just show them you are a super star in whatever you are selling now.

How easy is it to switch from a clinical role to a position in medical sales or pharmaceutical sales?

The medical and pharmaceutical sales industry is constantly changing.  As an executive search firm specializing in medical sales and pharmaceutical sales, we have recently seen a shift in the type of candidate some of our clients are seeking.  Many pharmaceutical and medical device companies are moving to a more clinical sales approach.   To accomplish this, some companies have shifted from hiring those with business to business sales experience to hiring sales representatives who can not only sell; but may also be able to provide value to the client through their clinical knowledge.

Medical products such as laboratory equipment, radiological or surgical products can often involve hands-on demonstration of the equipment.  Because of this, adding an employee with clinical skills makes sense. Adding a sales representative with clinical background helps to establish product credibility and customer trust.

If you have a four-year degree in a clinical science, such as nursing, medical technology, surgical technology, radiology etc. you could be next in line for a medical sales position.  Review your resume.  Make sure this document sells you and your abilities for the position.  If you have direct clinical experience with their products or you have strong relationships with physicians in the territory, some companies may overlook your lack of sales experience.

Consider interviewing for clinical support positions within medical device companies.  These positions often lead to future sales roles.  In the interim, broaden your skills by learning more about sales.  There are various sales training classes and books that will help you learn more about this occupation.

Remember, true selling involves more than some innate personality trait.  Sales is a profession.  Sales techniques can only be learned by experience and education.  Bottom line….don’t assume you can sell a medical device just because you know what it does for the patient.   To transition from being a clinician to sales professional, start by learning some basic sales skills.   Then use these skills to “close” the deal and get the medical sales job of your dreams.