"Every problem is a gift. Without problems, we would not grow."
Anthony robbins

Four Strategies for Breaking Into Medical Sales...

"What is the the best way to get into medical sales?"... a question we get all the time. The truth is, there is no simple answer. Industry changes and the economy have certainly made it more challenging. Generally speaking, there are a few pathways that most people follow to break into the industry.

The PROS and CONS of each are listed below…

1) Start in business-to-business sales and migrate over after 1-3 years – Most young people don’t like this answer because it takes some time, but it is probably the BEST route for your career (long term). Twenty years ago, recent college grads were told to “Go sell copiers at Xerox for 2 years and then you will be ready”. Well, the company names have changed a bit, but the principles still apply. My suggestion for most people right out of college is to gain experience in one of the following industries/companies…

  • HR Solutions / Payroll – ADP, Paychex, Paylocity, Paycom
  • Uniform / facility services – Cintas, Aramark, Unifirst
  • Printer/Copiers – Ricoh, Canon, Konica Minolta, Lanier, Xerox, Sharp
  • Food & Beverage – Gallo Wine, Southern Glazers, Frito Lay (Pepsi), Hershey
  • Home improvement - Sherwin-Williams, Pella Windows/Doors
  • Business services – Staples Business Advantage
  • Enterprise Rent a Car

Whether it is these exact companies (or something similar), the goal here is to get multiple years of sales training in Outside Sales with a reputable company. Medical companies tend to “mine talent” from these organizations, so there is a clear pathway to get interviewed/hired.

  • PROS: When it comes to sales training and the actual “blocking and tackling” of building sales skills, the B2B companies are still the best. Sales skills learned here can be applied to multiple industries.
  • CONS: It takes time. You need to plan to go somewhere and STAY for at least 18-24 months. Bouncing around from one B2B company to the next might hurt your chances of getting hired.

2) Find a “junior” position with small local medical distributor – While this appears to be a shortcut into the medical sales world, most of these positions are not true sales jobs. They are often “tray runner” roles which include delivering supplies. Yes, you are getting some exposure into the hospital and/or the operating room, but usually these positions involve running a lot of errands (not really selling anything). There is often high turnover with these companies.

  • PROS: Gaining some exposure, learning the landscape and basics of medical equipment.
  • CONS: Low Compensation, No real sales training or development. Limited opportunities for promotion.

3) Attend Medical Sales College – This is an 8–12 week training program that teaches anatomy, surgical techniques, operating room protocol, and specifics of some surgical procedures. Although the curriculum has been slightly altered in recent years, most of the training revolves around Orthopedics, Spine, and Trauma. A student wishing to go into other specialties (Gyn, Urology, CV, GI, Plastics, ENT, General Surgery, etc) should fully understand these limitations.

There is NO shortage of differing opinions on the value of medical sales college. There are employers that love their graduates (because someone else has paid to train them). On the other hand, there are companies that simply aren’t interested. The knock on these candidates is that they don't understand outside sales... they only have basic clinical training.

  • PROS: Advertised 84% placement rate into a job upon graduating from the program. Solid foundation of knowledge for Ortho or Spine roles.
  • CONS: Cost is between $15,000 - $18,000. Most graduates only land junior level roles, many of which often fall into the “tray runner” category mentioned in the previous paragraph. Attendees should NOT expect a 6-figure territory manager role to be offered upon graduation.

4) Working in a doctor’s office or hospital - Although there are situations where this can certainly help, it is NOT a strategy that can stand on its own. There are 14 million healthcare workers in the United States, and most of them are NOT being recruited for medical sales jobs.

For this plan to work, a person should be actively seeking ways to get involved in sales related activities. For example, I spoke to a candidate recently who volunteered to do referral marketing (in her off hours) to promote the practice she worked for. Over the course of a year, she had conducted over 75 marketing lunches, giving her some sales experience to discuss in interviews.

  • PROS: Working in the medical field should provide a lot of networking opportunities. A savvy jobseeker can build knowledge while creating contacts with prospective employers (ie. schmoozing every rep that walks in).
  • CONS: This might take some time. Need to find ways to differentiate yourself from others. Staying in a role like this for too long (more than 3 years) can sometimes become a disadvantage.

In conclusion, all of these pathways will require some hustle and networking. There is NO SHORTCUT into a top tier medical sales role. The person who opens the most doors is the person who continues to build contacts and relationships. Great networkers often find themselves in the right place at the right time.

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