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At EliteMed Recruiting, we work with candidates who come from many different backgrounds and who have many different experiences. The common thread is that each of them is prepared to assume responsibility for a new territory. They are ready to grow business, drive revenue, and provide professional representation of their company’s product line.
In our experience, the best candidates come from one of two sources. The first is the experienced medical sales representative. Candidates who have been successful in medical sales are more likely to have continued success in a similar role or capacity. These reps understand the products they sell, the hospital and operating room environment that they’re selling in, and have already established relationships with surgeon customers in the territory. This group is attractive to hiring managers because they do not require a lot of attention and they can frequently “flip” business.
The second source of candidates come from the Medical Sales College – the only approved and regulated college in the U.S. providing specialized training to sales reps in the medical device industry. Medical Sales College (MSC) graduates have excelled in the field over the past three years and, as a result, more and more hiring managers are specifically requesting MSC students to fill their open sales positions.
Like experienced reps, MSC graduates are provided with the specific tools and training that are necessary to excel in medical sales. They are prepared to make an immediate contribution to their new territory and have a much shorter learning curve as compared to sales reps who are unfamiliar with the products, procedures, and selling environment unique to medical sales.
The Medical Sales College offers comprehensive 8-week programs in: Spine, Orthopaedic Reconstruction & Trauma, Sports Medicine, Orthopaedic Extremities, Foot & Ankle, and Orthopaedic Biologics. They also have specialty programs for recent college graduates (Academy) and an accelerated 5-week program in orthobiologics (Core5 Orthopaedic Biologics).
We encourage any candidate who is seriously interested in device sales to consider one of these programs, as we know they are much more marketable and much more likely to succeed in their territory when offered a position.
If you are a sales professional looking to transition into device sales, here are some of the many reasons why a training program may be advantageous to consider…
- Pharmaceutical Rep
- Healthcare Professional
- B2B Professional
- Recent College Grad
- Medical Sales Rep
- Competitive Rep
We regularly receive resumes from successful pharmaceutical sales reps who are looking to transition into device sales. Pharma reps can often be a good fit because they are accustomed to speaking with physicians and other medical professionals, they understand the necessity of managing a territory in an outside sales capacity, and they understand the need to drive business and be accountable for sales activity. It is especially important for pharma reps to have solid history of sales success. Your resume must demonstrate that success with specific numbers, percentages, awards, etc. If you’ve got it, flaunt it!
The device industry, in general, does have some “preconceived notions” about the ability of pharma reps to make a successful transition into device sales. The main reason for this is that the sales process is perceived to be considerably different. The kinds of relationships that are developed with surgeon customers and the conversations that lead to those relationships are unlike anything that is expected from a pharmaceutical rep. Furthermore, pharma reps typically have no experience in the operating room (or sometimes even the hospital environment) and are unfamiliar with orthopaedic products and procedures, in their entirety. Finally, mediocre performance as a pharmaceutical rep may hinder your ability to be considered for device sales. Hiring managers in the device industry are looking for people who perform.
Many successful medical sales reps come from clinical backgrounds. You may be a scrub tech or nurse who is familiar with the operating room environment and who is accustomed to interacting with surgeons in a professional capacity. Perhaps you have a degree in biology or kinesiology, have chiropractic training, or have been involved in other medical specialties. Your knowledge and understanding of human anatomy and physiology will be especially relevant in a medical sales career. Any experience you may have had in the operating room is also appealing.
Many clinicians easily comprehend the purpose of a surgical procedure and how a particular device or implant will affect the patient’s symptoms and biomechanics. Understanding how to sell is another thing entirely. In a medical sales capacity, you must be able to converse with surgeon customers and relate to them on a different level. The best sales reps not only have a technical understanding of their products, but are also able to build rapport with surgeons and establish a consultative relationship with those surgeons. In the end, you must be able to demonstrate that you have the drive and motivation to build business in your territory and an aptitude for selling, in general.
B2B (business-to-business) sales professionals are particularly well received in the medical device industry. In fact, there are certain companies and industries that are almost considered “farms” for hiring managers in the device industry (i.e. companies like Xerox, ADP, Pitney Bowes, Cintas, Merrill Lynch, Yellow Book, and wine/beverage distributors). These sales professionals know how to prospect, how to cold call, how to engage people in conversation, and how to operate independently in their territory. Future performance is likely to be similar to past performance, so it’s important that you be able to demonstrate and detail your skills and successes.
The challenge for B2B sales professionals is often the sheer number of candidates you are competing against. Recruiters and hiring managers receive hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes on a regular basis – most of which come from people who have demonstrated success in one sales capacity or another. How do you set yourself apart? Like pharmaceutical reps, there is still a lot of investment of time and attention that is required on the part of hiring managers to help you understand the products, procedures, and hospital environment. While a hiring manager might be interested in you, you may be a “luxury” they just can’t afford.
Recent college graduates are also very well received by medical device distributors and hiring managers. They like to bring fresh, young talent into their organizations who they can “mold” into the kind of sales representatives they want. Recent college graduates are often more affordable than experienced reps, more flexible than experienced reps, and are eager to earn their way. Because you haven’t yet established your sales habits, you don’t have bad habits to break.
The challenge for the recent college graduate is that you are, as of yet, untested. You may be great in a sales capacity and you might not. Ultimately, you represent a big risk. Also, without a certain level of maturity and professionalism, it will be difficult for you to build rapport with your surgeon customer. You must be able to demonstrate professionalism, commitment, and integrity for a hiring manager to take a serious look at you.
Athletes who have competed at high levels are often of interest to medical device hiring managers and distributors. They appreciate the competitive attitude and spirit of teamwork that an athlete brings to the table. Sales, like sports, is often about winning. It’s about bringing your “A Game”, knowing what it feels like to be “in the zone”, and not taking second place. As an athlete, you likely know how to operate independently and use your skills in a specific capacity, but also understand the “big picture” and how important it is for a team to be focused on a common goal.
As an athlete, you have attributes that are attractive, but not necessarily the appropriate skill sets. It’s not enough to be interested in winning. You also have to invest time and effort in training – in developing the specific skills you need to succeed. Without those skills, a hiring manager may go with another applicant (your competition) who is more prepared for a role in orthopaedic sales.
Much like the pharmaceutical or B2B sales rep, a sales professional who has been selling other medical products may be a good fit for a “step up” into device sales. You might be selling durable medical goods, instrumentation, or capital equipment. In this capacity, it is more likely that you are familiar with the hospital environment and understand the implications of selling in that environment. You know how to manage your territory and how to interact with all kinds of medical professionals. Having excelled in your current capacity, you may be ready for a more challenging product and sales role.
The challenges for a medical sales rep (as compared to a medical device sales rep) is that you have not had any exposure to orthopaedic implants (the products you will be selling) or to the surgical procedures where your value as a rep is often determined. Most medical sales reps have not been in surgery and do not understand the importance of the sterile field. In summary, while you understand the medical sale you do not have the specific skill set that will make you valuable to hiring managers.
If you have been selling orthopaedic implants to surgeon customers, you are one step ahead of the game (as you well know). You understand the products, you understand the procedures those products are used in, and you know how to perform in the operating room environment. If you have had success in your territory selling implants, you represent a low risk for the hiring manager.
One of your biggest challenges may be the non-compete agreement. If you intend to stay in your current territory, you may be limited in the kinds of products you are able to sell. Even if you think your non-compete is unenforceable, a hiring manager with a competitive company may not be interested in taking a risk. Also, perception plays a big role in how a hiring manager might see you. If you have been successful in building your territory and selling your current product, why would you be interested in making a change? If you have not been so successful, then that lack of success raises a “red flag” for hiring managers. What are you going to do differently? Finally, even though you believe you can convert all of your surgeon customers, the likelihood is that you will not. A hiring manager will consider your relationships, but not all of those relationships represent sales revenue that can be depended on.