Things You Need To Know Before You Build Your Medical Device Sales Career
You have discovered the opportunity offered by building your career in pharmaceutical sales. You now know that there are more than just a sales rep job there. What you're going to discover next contains it owns excitement. You're still going to sell something for Pharma Industry, but the products you're going to sell is world differently than medicines.
You're going to discover medical devices sale ...
Do you have any idea what medical device sales career is?
When I asked this question to a few people who are also sales rep themselves, I got replies like, “It is just another sales careers.” Since I had started this career in April 2008, there are a few points which I hope to get across, and by doing so, I expect NOT to get the same answer.
What is Medical Device?
Typically the medical device is used to diagnose a specific medical condition. Let me use my father as an example.
My father is about 60 years old, weigh 70 kg and retired 5 years ago. He went to a public screening one day and did blood glucose check using a Glucometer. When they found out that his glucose level is on the high side, they asked him to do a follow up at the hospital.
This time my father had to do ‘fasting blood glucose’ test…
The test is done on a different machine and requires more sample blood. Maybe after that, he needs to do other tests as well for example ‘renal profile’, ‘liver function,’ and urine test. If they want to exclude him from the possibility of having ‘cardiac diseases,’ there are also devices for that.
So basically, what I am driving at here is medical devices are used to detect medical conditions either to measure, to confirm or to exclude.
Who Develop the Devices?
Even though I am working for a Diagnostic company currently, I have not met any developer yet. I have heard stories that they reside somewhere in German, and they work in a team.
But that is just my company…
In fact, there are product developers from all over the place – Asia, Europe, America. The devices require a mix of developers’ backgrounds because they combine hardware and software. You could be one too if you got what it takes.
Who Use Them?
Healthcare providers use them to diagnose. Patients or consumers use them to do self-monitoring. Some devices like those found in big hospitals require individual operators who have undergone specialized training. These devices need to be maintained and serviced regularly.
Other than that, simple devices can be operated right after you finished reading the users’ manual.
Training and Skill Needed For Selling Medical Devices
I started my career, not with medical devices. I promoted prescription items when I started out. When I jump into medical device sales, I basically began at ground zero for product knowledge and skills.
But not selling skills of course…
I had to speed up my learning curve (and had to do so on my own) because I do not want to look stupid in front of the customers. The thing about skills with devices is you need to put in enough ‘hours’ of operating to be familiar with the machine in reasonable condition and more hours for the abnormal conditions.
I had to find a way to speed that up also…
The point I want to stress is you acquire the skills for selling medical devices after you join a company. If you are in luck (and I mean this), your company will provide you with enough training resources and let you put in the hours for training with the machine.
Otherwise, you are on your own…
What About Selling Skills?
You will pick that up also. The strategy to speed thing up is to ally with competent, experience and influential personnel who could provide you or at least point you to the right resources.
As far as my 2 years experience is a concern, the selling point of any medical devices is after sales services. Let me add to that: speedy and competent after-sales services. You can slave hours after hours learning the instruments’ in and out but if you got no support from the people who handle software and people who take care of the logistics, you can get into trouble sooner than later.
Your job as a sales force is to sell to the company and sell to the customers, and you get good at it in due time.
Related reading: Sales tips for medical sales reps
How Do You Progress in Your Career in Medical Device Sales
There are only two ways to do these the way I see it.
The first way is to progress internally. That means you make progress with the same company over the years. Naturally, you will move to a different experience level, you can move to a separate division, and you get promoted (if you are in luck – again!). The thing about ‘lateral progress’ is your remuneration package might not differ much. It comes with the territory.
The second way to make progress is to move out of the company. Mr. R, an ex-service engineer for my current company resigned his post 2 years back and started his own company. What exactly his company does? Servicing his previous employer machines! How is that for a career change?
The Differences Between Medical Devices and Non-Devices Medical Sales
I can speak on behalf of pharmaceutical, medical sales. I have been doing that for slightly over 10 years. The main difference is in the product itself. Yes, I know it is obvious but what it entails is an array of knowledge and skills which totally world apart of each other.
For example, during my years of selling prescription items, I never had to fix the thing up if something goes wrong. The user, i.e., doctors or pharmacists do that. I mean, what can go wrong with medicine? Except for malpractice of course, but for medical devices, I am the front line if anything goes wrong.
It is not easy especially if your customers live 4 hours away from your base and they call you right after dinner…
I frequently heard my friends in pharma complain about having to change new batch or help their customers move some stocks. I told them, “Try joining medical device sales – all that is nothing compared to your daily routine over here!” and I mean every word.
They do not argue with me because I knew where they come from…
Is This a Career For You?
Up to this point of my career, I believe medical device sales career has the potential to provide you with stable, long term income because the development in this area is a lot and there is always new thing coming out every year.
It is the opposite of drugs where development for some portfolios has stalled. No new entity, for example, cholesterol-lowering drugs for a specific company but next year alone, the company I am with now planned 2 new analyzers to market. So if you just started, maybe it is wise to think long term.
These Might Be The Reasons Why Medical Device Sales Careers Will Outperform Pharma Sales Careers
You now know things about medical device sales careers that only a few others know. What you know can be used to your advantage when applying for medical device sales job.
Another great news is that you're going to discover a few more things that could make this particular sales career outshine its pharma sales counterpart.
Let's get on with discovering what they are ...
How is the Medical Devices Sales Careers Prospect?
I came from medicine or drug-related sales rep background. I started working for a medical device company in April 2008, and with my nearly 2 years selling experience here is what I think about careers prospect for medical devices sales:
More Patients Prefer Self-Monitoring
Medical condition like Diabetes Mellitus (DM) and hypercholesterolemia are all too common these days. A few friends of mine already got into these conditions. The sad thing is, we are considered too young (those days) to get them!
So what is the challenge with such conditions?
Monitoring is one. Why? Because people with DM or high cholesterol continuously need to monitor their sugar and blood level to make sure they are control level. An increase in any may result in other debilitating medical condition for example atherosclerosis which could lead to high blood pressure which in turn could cause a stroke.
It is a vicious cycle, I know. Even these people know how vital monitoring is; they somehow are very successful in ‘failing’ to comply with it. Why? There are thousands of reasons for this (I am sure you can come up with one if you were in the same position), but the common one is time limitation.
They said they cannot spend an hour on the hour monitoring blood sugar levels…
And you know what? That ‘used’ to be the case. Today, fancy gadgets that take the form of hand-phones, walkman, and other Hi-Tech stuff are abundant. Just go over to Amazon.com to see for yourself. Last time, they have to line up at the nearest GPs or Pharmacists to get the blood check.
This development goes to prove one important point – people WANT to do their own monitoring and the need the right medical devices for that purpose.
Now, getting the device online is not the only way. Some tools need initial guidance from experts before patients can operate them on their own. This is when the Medical Device Company comes in.
And this is when you come in; as their representative.
More Pharma Drug Companies Facing Patent Expiry
There are 2 ways to view patent expiry:
1) It is suitable for generics drug companies because they can start marketing their products ‘legally.’ That means there are careers opportunities as the pharmaceutical generics company’s representatives. That also means patients have the alternatives to purchase (most of the time) cheaper medicines. Sounds good right?
But you know what? Expired drug patent also invites competition, and this time the number is more! I remember when Norvasc faced patent expiry not long ago, locally, 7 manufacturers already lined up to go in. Imagine the global scenario. Not too bright ey?
2) When a drug patent expires, and the ‘ethical’ pharmaceutical company did not come up with the next product line to replace it, many jobs are at stake. I had seen this happen once when Rochepin, antibiotics, the patent expired. Many found themselves without a paycheck the following month (and months to come) including the sales representatives. Who says medical sales careers do not suffer recession?
Patent expiry is bound to happen. There is nothing anyone can do about it. What companies usually do is to use the window period of at least 10 years, and if they are lucky, 5 years extension, to really go all out to profit from a brand of medicine. After that, if there were no replacement, they better look elsewhere.
Now compare that scenario with medical devices:
Gene therapy is taking center stage slowly but surely. Experts believe that the next generation of treatment will take a much deeper molecular level. To be able to achieve this, industry players need to conduct research.
After the research, they will need the means to deliver the result to the end users. The ‘means’ I refer to is medical devices.
Right now, experts barely touch the surface of this matter. In due time, I have the fact to believe that the trend will become rampant and it will be accepted as the mainstream medical treatment (if it is not already). Big pharmaceutical companies are gearing up towards this. Last year, Roche acquired Genentech for more than USD 46 billion to fill in the gap.
And there are more to come.
The point that I am trying to drive home is simply this – drug patent going down but medical devices are on the rise.
This was when I supposed to tell you to pursue medical device sales careers by all means. I have brought forward the argument why you want to do it, and I have spilled what I observe from within the ‘playing field,’ so to speak but in the end, whether this type of careers suit you to boot or otherwise, only you can tell. You might like the prospect for next year, but the requirements might scare you away. You decide.
Essential Lessons For You About Jobs Selling Medical Equipment
Some of you reading this will be able to relate to these lessons I'm about to share regarding a job selling medical equipment. Some of you reading this have probably build your career around medical device sales. You still want to give this article a quick read no matter if you're new or veteran in this particular sales.
You'll learn why soon enough. If you're a glucometer rep right now, or you are a rep selling industrial size analyzers, these lessons will reveal what you'll come face-to-face to in this industry if you stay long enough.
My personal aim is to share and prepare you for what to comes when you've served the industry for some times. The wise have said before us, "Better work with the devil you know than the devil you don't." We're going more buried under the medical sales surface so get ready to discover the lessons.
(I'm going to rant about the lesson learned from medical equipment sales job which I got involved for less than 3 years; and which job contract is about to 'expire' in a few short days. I knew this day would come and I already 'see' me jotting down what others who interested to join can use as a guideline)
First: Setting The Background
There are a few BIG names in Medical devices industry which you probably heard of or familiar with which includes: Siemens, Roche, Abbott, Beckman--just to name a few. Some are based in Europe, and some originated from the 'Land of Opportunity'--USA. Regardless of the origin, the business concept for this industry are the same:
'Get Customers to Purchase or Rent Medical Equipment and Grow From There'
That's the basic, and how companies go about doing that is totally up to their creativity. Since I can't talk of behalf of other medical equipment companies, I would only touch on one company that I knew of--the one that I am working right now; a European based company in South East Asia.
The Job Description in Laymen Term
Basically, I got to 'run' 3 crucial tasks in my current 'executive' position:
A Sales job (obviously)
A Courier job (occasionally)
A Mechanic/Technician job (most of the time!)
I'm not kidding with #3--I did more 'troubleshooting' job on customers' site than I did selling them face to face so if you are interested in taking this career path, be warned: You might have to travel far and wide with little time-bound to service your company's equipment (I'm serious!)
That 'invariably' happen because of thing--lack of manpower, especially in Application and Engineering Department. But why this happens? Even for a company which has a business presence for more than 20 years, the lesson they fail to learn is...
The Backbone of the Medical Equipment Industry is After Sales Service
No matter how you twist and turn the issue around after sales service is what matters MOST to customers. In fact, many customers work in a high-demand area, i.e., the lab which requires short 'turn around time' and high output (due to high input of course).
The 'end user'--patients need answers, and they will get it from Doctors who have other essential things to take care of than waiting for test result all day long. Yes, lab people don't have to deal with patients directly, but they have to deal with doctors who can be driven by emotion (more than rationale) at times...
But sure (the one I'm working now in particular) medical devices companies didn't get this when the obvious 'solution' is right in front of them (and in abundance)...
Outsourcing: Simple Solution For Complex Problem
We got a local competitor here, and they are slowly gaining ground with the customers. How they do that? They outsource most of their PPM--preventive parts maintenance and troubleshooting.
Why that works?
It provides a short turnaround time and a faster response rate. Imagine as a customer, who would you prefer to deal with--a company that response within 24 hours after a problem report lodge or a company that response almost immediately after you lodge the report? Obvious right?
In today's medical equipment competitive environment, 24 hours is no longer fast (it used to be). Immediately is...
...and companies can do that by OUTSOURCING.
That's is one big lesson I gather and also this one:
Business Versus Selling Mindset
You might have not read it, but there is a book written a long time ago by Larry Wilson (just Google for this guy) with the title: Stop Selling and Start Partnering. Now, this book is significant because it brings forward an idea which was 'revolutionary' back then (even now I guess).
And the idea was distilled from numerous observation on Wilson's successful sales representative at that time--and one of the ideas is 'Partner with your client/customers/users.'
You can call this 'soft sell,' 'relationship selling,' 'consultative selling' or what have you but the concept is just taking a position as partners in your customers current business venture; and in this case for medical devices industry.
Let me illustrate with my own 'partnering' case example:
Last year (2009), I close about 1.7 mils worth of sales. My counterpart in the east coast area close about 1.5 mils. He got 2 states, and I cover one state.
Now, last year my colleague really expand his user base with several new site equipment evaluation more than me. I did none previous year, and in fact, I shrink my user base due to service and other related problems. In other words, I have less user than I used to have the year before (2008).
But my sales GROW, and my area showed an increase in revenue (single digit percentage point growth but it's growth nonetheless--considering the economic turmoil we had last year!)
And all I did was spending more time with my key customers and paying more attention to sites which our company already have our equipment in. I did just that all year long.
And that's basically what partner does...
...Partners are not putting his quota first, and customers need a second (or third place). Is it clear to you? Is it clear how powerful this simple mindset shift is? If my customers stick with me through the thick and thin of the economic condition, don't you think it's more profitable if we keep it that way?
Plus, I believe those 'smart blonds' who plan our strategic business move have never come across this maxim, "It costs less to MAINTAIN a customer than it is to GAIN a customer."
Let that be your mantra (immortal lesson) for your medical equipment sales job life.
Medical device sales job is a part of medical sales job
I want to try a medical equipment sales job...
Sales job openings
It was not that hard for me to find medical device sales job openings. I have buddies who already involve with medical device companies, so I find few opportunities through them. I know for freshers, who are not in my position, it would be hard for them to see job openings, so I had come up with some useful tips here:
4 tips for job search
Getting into medical device job
I've mentioned earlier that medical device sales job is a part of a medical sales job. I have tasted the pharmaceutical sales job and to have a complete sales experience in the medical field, I need to get into medical device selling. If I get a job promoting medical devices, my sales experience in the pharmaceutical industry is almost complete. I have had experience with prescription items, I had experience promoting consumer health products, I had covered hospital market segments and General Practitioner (GP) market.
I did all that within 12 years…
I am proud of myself, to say the least, but that is not important. The important thing is, with this experience marketing devices for medical use, I have ‘strategically’ increase my VALUE for any future employment.
I recalled wise man advice on this, “Dig your well before you got thirsty!” I dug one already…
Medical device sales difference
By ‘pharmaceutical products’ what I meant is drugs or medicines.
Here are some of the core differences:
1) The customers:
Obviously, I am dealing with a different market segment. I am targeting more of the end users who find their locus in the laboratory and some peripheral areas outside town. Honestly, these people are more approachable but what they expect from you varies greatly.
I got a customer who currently uses our company brand ‘bench-top’ Clinical Chemistry analyzer because I was the only rep ever to cover the area but another customer from a different peripheral area ‘de-install’ the same device because of our company’s service sucks!
Looks like they have different definitions for the term ‘service’ here…
2) The entire sales process differs:
I remember during my tenure with 2 Multinational Pharmaceutical Companies (MNC), it was easy for me to monitor, track and tweak my sales. The process was a simple ‘promote and profit’ process.
But that is not the case with company marketing medical devices…
In this company, when you see a sale is made, the amount that you get is not ‘Net’ amount. Basically, it is a ‘gross sale.’ I often have to minus that with the commission to the agents (starting at 3%), loan amount if any (even if it was 2 years ago) or whether it is a director tender sales.
I can never get the exact figure (and nor can my boss)…
…which bring me to the next point of differences…
3) Medical device sales job salary difference:
Now, let me tell you that this job is more than just salary and claim. What makes sales task irresistible is the INCENTIVE. If a salesperson had difficulties in enjoying the full amount or at least a consistent incentive, he or she gets discouraged quite easily. Believe me, I have ‘been there, done that.’
For a veteran soul like me who like to play this game by the number, not having the ability to monitor the exact sales spells complete disaster. I do not know how much I had done ‘exactly,’ how much I still lack ‘exactly’ and what ‘exactly’ I need to focus on. These cause me to feel ‘exhausted’ quickly.
In layman term what I am saying is; I had to slaughter myself just to keep afloat!
I have never experience that in Pharma.
4) Medical device sales role:
In a typical pharmaceutical company, the part of its sales representative is to sell. What entails may be a mix of sales job and marketing jobs but that is all to it. I can tell you, in a typical company that sells medical devices, you have a third (maybe fourth) role which what I like to call ‘repairman’ and ‘courier man’ character.
A sale made is not bliss, not until you know your customer can take care of themselves and not calling you because they cannot find the ‘Start’ button!
Medical device sales job requirements
Let me walk you through a simple analogy.
Imagine you just got hired as a medical device salesperson. After 3 days in the company, you will follow one of your colleagues to the field and make a site visit, typically the department that handles diagnosis or ‘near patient testing.’
Let’s just say they never use your device before. Obviously, the next step is you introduce what you have but not before you assess their ‘load.’ Once the assessment is made, you will draw up a proposal. You will include at least 2 suggestions depending on their need and see how they respond.
Now, your prospect will respond, and the next step is to go through an evaluation. You give them a period at least 3 months to evaluate your medical devices, and if it fulfills their stipulation, you got it!
But like I said, this is just the beginning…
You now need to arrange for training and collaborating which includes comparing your medical device results with another method or another medical device (usually belong to your competitors) in a process called ‘validation.’
Then come service and maintenance…
You are in luck if your customers or the machine itself can do ‘troubleshooting,’ but the initial stage often requires your presence. Again, you are in luck if the medical device company has an army of support staffs. Otherwise, you are on your own! I remember my third day on the job when I was on the field trying to figure out what is wrong with a Urine analyzer, and I have not even finished reading the whole manual yet!
I hope I have made it clear so far on what is required from you in your job as a medical device sales rep.
Should you get into medical equipment sales job?
I'm offering 2 things for you to consider whether you should, or you should not get a job in medical device sales:
- i) If you are looking for a base to taste the Healthcare Industry, you enjoy working hard and not worry about having too little to do then this job suits you ‘nicely.’ It is, in my opinion, a solid base to build your career and you can branch out to more than just a typical sales job. I know a guy who was our company Service Engineer who quit and open up his own servicing company.
- ii) If you are in Pharma, and you thought, “Hey, I hate my boss, my lousy pay, and my ailing product portfolio,” and thought of jumping into a job in medical device sales, my personal ‘honest to goodness’ opinion, forget about it! The sweet memory with the pharmaceutical company often ‘kills you softly,’ if you get my drift…
To sum this all up, I hope I have fed you with enough information for you to consider before getting into a medical device sales job. It might not be a job to die for, but on the other hand, it is a job you can seriously think about to start a career with.
Why It's Better For Fresh Grads To Go For Medical Device Sales Job?
... Just one good reason to go for it.
Back in 2002, I made a jump to a new pharma employer.
Not only that, I made the jump to a different sector.
I was a medical sales representative in the public hospital sector. I promote multiple products at that time, covering various disciplines and specialties.
I promote antibiotics, antidepressant and antiparkinson drug. I see customers in the Medical Department, Neuro department, Psychiatric, Paeds, Ong, Anaesthetic, and Geriatrics.
I'm sure you can see that it's already a lot!
After being on the field and in the market for some times, I trained myself to see trends and spot areas where I can find better opportunities to earn more ...
... After all, the reason why I want to be in sales is to earn more.
So, in the mid of 2002, I can see that critical trend moving towards Cardio drugs and Private sector, and I made a decision back then:
I want to promote Cardio related drugs and covering the private industry - General Practitioners and consultants in private hospitals.
But I had to jump to another company. There are no two ways about it.
And I started to look around ...
... And I found one.
To cut a long story short, I made good money by riding the trend of promoting cardiovascular medicines and selling them to GPs and private consultants.
As of right now, the same thing is happening in medical devices sales ...
... It's showing double-digit growth despite the current economic condition.
You don't have to experience the market to be able to spot profitable trends and growth sectors. I'm merely laying it out to you.
If you just graduated, will be graduating, or only looking for better income with a different job, then, have a go at medical devices sales.
Really, give it a go.