From Pills to Probes: Why Selling Medical Devices Might Be Tougher Than You Think

A group of lab technicians working with their medical devices

Remember those tips I shared about making your medical sales devices training more productive? Hopefully, they've helped you navigate the multi-layered world of medical devices.

But today, I want to talk about this industry from a different angle. One that might surprise you: selling medical devices can be tougher than selling drugs.

Now, this is based on my personal experience, and things might vary depending on your specific role and company.

But just hear me out for a second…

Having jumped from the pharmaceutical side to medical devices once upon a time ago, I've noticed some key differences that make this field a bit more demanding.

1. Serviceman Meets Dispatcher: A Double Duty Deal

You can forget focusing on selling ONLY.

In this world, you're part service technician, part emergency dispatcher. When a machine malfunctions, customers often call you first, bypassing the ‘prescribe’ channels.

You become their troubleshooting hero, and when they're facing expiring reagents or disposable items shortages, expect panic calls and high-pressure situations, especially for critical accounts. If you thought it was just about selling, prepare to roll up your sleeves.


2. Customers: Always Right, Even When They're Not

In medical devices, the end-user is king (or queen). Even when resource management isn't their strong suit, guess who cleans up the mess?

Yep. YOU.

Be prepared for situations where explaining logic takes a backseat to keeping the customer happy.


3. The Agent Factor: Navigating the Maze

In some regions, direct sales aren't an option.

You work through agents, and choosing the wrong one can be a recipe for headaches. Conflicts between the company, the agent, and the end-user can arise, and you're often caught in the crossfire. Not a comfortable place to be in, I might add.


4. The Payout Puzzle: Balancing Pressure with Reward

I’ll be honest…

The pressure and expectations in this industry are high. But the compensation?

Not always on par. This is a common reason people leave, especially when they compare it to the (sometimes) easier world of pharmaceutical sales. It's a tough balance, and I understand why some feel undervalued.


Why Do People Leave Medical Sales? Lessons Learned

It's no secret that medical sales can be a revolving door. The long hours, demanding targets, and constant pressure can wear even the most resilient salesperson thin.

But beyond the general hustle, there are specific factors that push people out of the industry.

Burnout: The constant pressure to perform, coupled with the emotional toll of dealing with critical situations and demanding customers, can lead to burnout. If the workload feels overwhelming and the rewards don't seem to match the effort, it's easy to lose motivation and seek a more sustainable career path.

Compensation Concerns: While medical sales can offer lucrative payouts, the base salaries and commission structures may not always reflect the demands of the job. This disconnect between effort and reward can be a major demotivator, especially when compared to other sales opportunities.

Career Growth: The industry's focus on sales targets can sometimes overshadow opportunities for professional development and skill diversification. If individuals feel their growth is stagnant and their career path limited, they might explore other avenues that offer more learning and advancement potential.

Work-Life Balance: The demanding nature of medical sales often comes at the expense of personal life. Long hours, travel, and unpredictable schedules can make it difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance. This can lead to personal strain and ultimately, a desire for a more manageable schedule and better overall well-being.

So what can we learn from this?

For companies, it's crucial to address these concerns proactively. Offering competitive compensation, promoting work-life balance, and investing in employee development can go a long way in retaining talent.

For individuals considering medical sales, understanding these challenges can help them make informed decisions and find a role that aligns with their needs and expectations.

The way I see it, a thriving medical sales environment requires a balance between performance expectations and employee well-being, ensuring the industry retains its brightest minds and continues to innovate and serve patients effectively.

So, why stay?

Well, you might find the challenge itself can be rewarding. Helping diagnose and treat patients with cutting-edge technology is a fulfilling experience.

Plus, the industry is constantly evolving, offering opportunities for growth and learning.

Which brings me to the time when I was going through the interview for a position in a Multinational Medical Devices company as its salesperson.

I remember the GM's question: "How long are you going to stay?"

I answered: It depends.

This industry is demanding, but also dynamic and impactful. If you're up for a challenge and passionate about healthcare innovation and being in the middle of it all, it might just be the perfect fit.

Considered you’ve been warned …

So, what do you think? Is selling medical devices tougher than selling drugs? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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