The Best Way to Break into Medical Device Sales
Posted on November 06, 2019 by Medtech[y] Staff
I was asked by the editors at Medtechy to share my path from business to business sales to the world of medical device sales. There is no magic path as there are several ways to get into the medical device industry. However, there are a few very defined ways that have helped myself and others break into a very exciting and challenging industry.
This is the path I took when getting into the industry and I will also share the steps I would take today if I was just trying to get started as a medical device sales rep.
First, before you consider a career in medical device sales, as yourself why you want to get into the industry?
For me, it was a simple decision as I couldn't stand selling copiers every single day. While some of the newer technology I was selling was cool, I asked myself if I enjoyed getting out of bed everyday and the answer was an unequivocal no. I also wanted to sell something that was making a difference in someone's life, and even with the biggest reach, I couldn't convince myself a multifunction printer/copier was making the world a better place.
Selling a medical device that is used to help patients lives? Yes! I knew for sure that was something that could get me out of bed everyday and give me the motivation and hustle it would require to succeed in medical device sales.
Where to Start
Every path into medical device sales will be different but there are a couple of well-defined paths that have help many people reach their goal of being a medical sales representative.
One of the paths to medical device sales is starting in business to business sales like Xerox or ADP.
I didn't know where to start when I first heard about the industry but I started to hear stories from a colleague I used to work with who was hired by Boston Scientific. He told me he was going into surgery and talking to the surgeons about products and giving them tips and advice during surgeries. It seemed wild to me that a surgeon who is so educated would listen to some guy who literally finished a month of product training and had no surgical experience in his life. I mean, three months ago he was selling copiers.
I quickly found out though, medical device companies are good with that. In fact, many prefer it.
Well, they like hiring medical device reps from outside the industry as those reps haven't formed bad habits in the operating room like reps from other medical device companies may have. They can train those reps the way they want and the way they believe is best.
Additionally, companies like Boston Scientific prefer hiring strong business to business reps as they understand many business to business companies like Xerox, ADP, and E & J Gallo have strong sales training programs. At the end of the day, sales is sales and being able to understand territory management, account management and pre-call planning are the same across industries. The difference is the product you are selling.
While it may seem off track to start your career in medical sales by selling for a company like Xerox, the long-term benefits from a sales experience and resume perspective are unquestionable.
If you aren't so sure about getting a business to business sales job and want to get right into medical device sales, you can always get a job as an entry level medical device representative for a orthopedic distributor. Many of these jobs won't pay all that well and may not come with benefits but you can build up a network of surgeon customers and go work for a better orthopedic company after a couple of years. Some of the companies who are always hiring entry level sales reps are Arthrex and Smith & Nephew.
Where to Start
Now that you know a couple of different paths people have taken to get into medical device sales, how do you go about finding a job and start interviewing?
LinkedIn was created yet when I was looking for a position in medical device sales so the options I had were through networking and recruiters.
As mentioned above, my colleague from selling copiers went on to work for Boston Scientific so I reached out to him to see if his company was hiring locally (no open territories) and to help with the interview process. The help he provided with recruiters and interview tips were invaluable as he was the first person to help me understand how great the sales training was selling copiers.
He put together plans showing how to break down his account management and territory management as well as a great 30/60/90 plan for once he got the job. If you are trying to get into medical device sales from outside the industry, do everything you can to separate yourself and highlight the great sales training you've received and the skills you've learned along the way.
Medical Device Recruiters
As there were no territories open with my friend's division at Boston Scientific, he pointed me in the direction of a couple of recruiters who were very helpful to him during his path to medical device sales from selling copiers.
While everyone has heard all the negative stories about recruiters, the good ones don't get enough credit. With that, talk to friends and do your research as there are some bad medical device recruiters and there are some good ones.
The nice thing is that once you find a really good one, you will be able to work with them for the rest of your career. The bad ones will eventually get pushed out and the good ones will stick around as more and more companies will continue working with them.
I am not going to give the names of any specific recruiters but these days a simple LinkedIn search should point you in the right direction of a quality medical device recruiter.
I would recommend that you have your resume prepped and ready and even a sample brag book put together so you can send it to the recruiter once you are ready to start your search. Recruiters need to sell you and in order for them to feel comfortable putting you in front of a hiring manager, you need to bring your A game to them first. It's a game that needs to be played when you are working to get your foot in the door.
A quick search on LinkedIn in my area produced thousands of openings for medical device sales. I'm not sure if it makes it more confusing or easier with all of the places candidates can search these days.
From what I've heard, since companies post almost all of their openings on LinkedIn, they are often overwhelmed with resumes from candidates, with most of the candidates not even being remotely qualified for the position they applied for.
The "pray and spray" approach doesn't do anyone any good, even qualified candidates as they can get lost in the shuffle. That's why it is important to maximize your search through multiple approaches.
LinkedIn can be a great way for networking as there is likely someone you went to high school or college with who is in the industry.
The site can also be very helpful once you start landing interviews with Medical Device companies as you can connect with the hiring managers you are interviewing with and look at their background to see if there are any commonalities between you. From a research perspective, there isn't a better place to do due diligence when preparing for an interview than LinkedIn.
I've personally never used MedReps so I can't speak to the quality of the positions or if it is worth the money to join. However, the site has been around a while and I know there are people who use it during their job search. From my perspective, I would only pay for a site like this as a last resort as there are so many other options out there, with most of them being free.
If LinkedIn and medical device recruiters aren't working out then maybe give them a chance. You can always cancel after a month if it isn't producing the results you are looking for.
Medtechy is a newer site compared to MedReps but has been significantly growing over the last three years. The site is a mix of medical device and biotech news along with anonymous forums for companies in the healthcare industry to discuss the latest rumors.
Their job board was just launched late last year and candidates can search for jobs free of charge. Recruiters and employers can also post jobs for a nominal fee, which gives them access to the greater than 30k visitors Medtechy receives each month.
Most of the advice so far has focused on how to get in medical device sales. This next bit of advice is how to best position yourself once you are in the medical device industry. You may not have the option to be strategic until you've already landed your first job but it will be very important on where you decide your next moves comes from.
Who knows, you may end up loving your job and company and stay there for years. I don't see that too much anymore except for companies like Stryker where they do a great job training and retaining their sales reps. Most reps, myself included, take a job they aren't in love with just to break into the industry. After a couple of years of learning, the goal is to move on to a bigger and better job.
I had a friend tell me to only take positions where the surgeon and staff need you in the operating room. I've lived by that for each job I moved to after my first medical device sales job. You can't expect a job like this in your first position as your goal there is to focus on getting into the industry. However, your ultimate goal should be the type of rep that's an asset and not selling a commoditized product.
With the way the industry is going, those jobs are becoming harder to come by but they are still out there. The point is, you don't want to be selling a commoditized product as anyone can sell those products and those jobs are always the first to be eliminated in tough times.
Alternative Paths to Medical Device Sales
Medical Sales College
I don't have experience with Medical Sales College (MSC) but I will say they seem to be doing a good job placing candidates with solid companies. Their focus seems to be on Orthopedic and Trauma sales and they state on their website that they've places over 1,400 candidates with companies, or over 80% of their students. Companies such as Stryker, Depuy Synthes, and Zimmer Biomet hire from Medical Sales College so they have to be doing something right.
They have 8 or 12 week programs and have seven different campuses to choose from.
If none of the options above work out, maybe Medical Sales College is a good path for you.
I was always told that if you want to get into medical device sales that you should never take a pharmaceutical job as you'll never get hired by a medical device company in the future. Maybe that is true for some companies but at the end of the day, sales is sales and if you have a solid training base and are sharp, you should be able to make the move if you work hard and are smart about it.
One of the most successful medical device reps I've worked with came from pharmaceutical sales and he has consistently been ranked in the top 10 in every company where we've worked together. The point is, it can be done. I don't know if I would do it unless I didn't have any other options but you aren't eliminating yourself from medical device sales if you go that route.
Dental sales is another one where people are told to stay away unless you want to get pigeon holed. I agree to an extent but there are dental jobs where you call on surgeons and are in the operating room so you will get experience in those types of settings. With that said, aside from dental implant jobs, I would probably stay away and go with one of the paths listed above.
Have a Great Career
As you can see, there is no set path or predefined path that you have to take when trying to break into medical device sales. At the end of the day, you will have to forge your own path, make mistakes along the way, and find the best option for you.
While the medical device industry has changed in the last twenty years, it is still an exciting career with higher than average earnings potential, especially if you focus on finding a job where you are an asset.
Good luck finding the job that will help you get out of your bed every morning and make a difference in patients lives.