If you want to take your career into your own hands and get your foot in the door with your first medical sales job, then take a serious look at the tips I outline below.
And these tips are not coming from a place of theory where they are untested and only sound like a good idea.
I have been hired multiple times for medical sales positions using these tactics and you can use them too.
Before getting too far into the weeds on what you should actually be doing to get your first medical sales job, I think it’s important to point out that medical sales is not a career for everyone. Sales is not a career for everyone.
If you are not somebody who is fully committed to carrying the title of a sales rep, regardless of the clinical aspect that medical sales jobs can have, this is likely not the industry or position for you. This is a high-turnover industry where performance is important, hours are inconsistent, stress can be high and competition is never lacking.
Many people I talk with who are on the outside looking in at a medical sales job expect that the job is much more clinical than it actually is and isn’t a “Sales” job as typically thought of.
When in reality, it’s much more of a sales job than a clinical job in many (probably most) positions. This does not mean that there isn’t a clinical component to it, but that the clinical component is likely less than expected.
Therefore, most medical sales positions are looking for high-performing sales people first, and strong clinical people second.
I bring this up at the very beginning because I want to set the expectations ahead of time and I don’t want you to be pursuing something of a mirage – i.e. it’s not what you expected it to be.
With that said, if you want to be in a highly competitive sales position, selling some of the coolest and best products in the world, then these tips will help you get there.
1. APPROACH THE HIRING PROCESS THE SAME WAY YOU APPROACH THE SALES PROCESS
What I have seen talking with literally hundreds of people who are interested in a career in medical sales is that most of these people are approaching the hiring process with an incorrect estimation of effort. In person, they communicate that they know how competitive the industry is and the difficulty most people have getting their foot in the door.
Yet, the quantity of contacts they have made, the number of jobs they have applied for and the relatively few interviews they have had seem to run counter to the general understanding of the competitiveness of the field.
It’s true that some candidates have been hired the first or second time they have interviewed, but by the numbers, those people are few and far between. They either had fortunate timing, strong connections within the industry or within the company, or were outstanding in the interview process.
While it’s certainly important to expand connections within the industry (which I’ll get to later in this blog post) and prepare well for the interview process (which I’ll also get to later), the first – and most important thing – is to approach the hiring process the same way you would approach the sales process.
See, if you were to be hired for a sales position tomorrow, you would never expect to make one sales call, which would automatically land an appointment with that physician, which would get you a trial of your product, which would get you the business. We all know that sales is a numbers game and it requires a lot of volume of sales calls to find the right customers for our products.
In the same way, you getting hired in the industry is going to require a high volume of contacts, phone calls, messages, interviews, connections, etc.
I often get people messaging me asking for advice on how to get into the industry because they are frustrated and cannot seem to get their foot in the door.
When I get these questions, my first response back to them is, “How many interviews have you had?”
And the most common response I get is between 1-3 interviews.
And my simple response to them is that they haven’t even started trying to get into the industry if they have only tried up to 3 times.
Getting a job in medical sales needs to be approached the same way as a salesperson trying to grow their business. No salesperson would expect they could make 1-3 sales calls and reach ANY goals or targets they have.
The goals, expectations and targets you must have if you want to get a job in medical sales is that instead of aiming for 1 interview, aim for 10.
Instead of aiming for 10 contacts in the industry, aim for 100.
This is a volume game and as long as you approach getting hired in medical sales the same way you would approach growing your business as a salesperson, your chances of success are significantly higher.
At the same time, if you have a tendency to give up after 3 tries at anything, this probably isn’t the right industry for you anyway. There are plenty of other career paths to take that do not have the level of rejection that sales brings with it.
2. IDENTIFY WHICH AREA OF MEDICAL SALES YOU WANT TO BE IN
Medical sales is a very broad term that includes many versions of “Medical Sales” that are unlike each other. For example, you could sell:
- Diagnostic products to a hospital
- Testing products to the hospital laboratory
- Surgical saws and drills
- Post-operative rehabilitation equipment
- Surgical implants
- Hospital Beds
…and the list goes on and on.
Now, this is somewhat of an unfair question to ask because it’s hard to know which area of Medical Sales you would want to be in prior to getting into the industry and understanding the pros and cons of each position.
However, it’s useful for narrowing down your search for the companies to work for, the people to connect with, the fine-tuning of your resume and the interview preparation you will have to do.
Some of the questions that will help you narrow down your search and pick which area of medical sales you want to be in are:
- Do you want to sell products used in surgery?
- Go into the operating room?
- Start early and finish early, or start late and finish late?
- Want patient interaction?
- Want to sell a highly clinical product or sell products that require less clinical aptitude?
These questions, and others like them, will help you determine which area of medical sales you want to be in and that fits your personality and interests.
3. PICK THE TOP COMPANIES YOU WANT TO TARGET
The previous tip was important, not only for identifying which area of medical sales you want to be in, but also gives you some clarity as to which companies you should be targeting to work for.
There is no single company that sells medical devices for every area of medical sales, which is why targeting the companies you want to work for starts with identifying which companies manufacture and sell products within the area of medical sales you want to be in.
For example, if you think you would like selling the sterile gowns, drapes, gloves, masks, etc that are used in the operating room, there are only a handful of companies you should be targeting.
And if you want to sell surgical implants, like total joint replacement products, the companies manufacturing the gowns and drapes are not the same companies manufacturing the total joint replacement implants.
Now, let’s say you have identified which area of medical sales you want to be in but you don’t know which companies manufacture those types of products – i.e. which companies you should be targeting – your next step is to do research to find that out.
If you don’t have connections in the industry who could tell you which companies are the ones to target for the area of medical sales you want to be in, then you’ll have to use Google or another search engine to get started.
And the easiest way to start is to type in the product you want to sell into Google and find out who is manufacturing them.
For example, let’s say you are interested in selling the surgical drapes used in the operating room. You would type into Google “surgical drapes”:
And this would bring up the top performing search for that name.
Scrolling down you will see the top-ranking link for those keywords is from Cardinal Health:
This is how you can identify which companies manufacture the sterile drapes or any other product category you are interested in.
Now, you’ll obviously want to create a list of companies, so don’t simply start and stop with the first one you see.
But this is how you will begin narrowing down the companies you should be targeting for getting your first medical sales job.
4. CONNECT WITH PEOPLE WHO WORK FOR THE COMPANIES YOU WANT TO WORK FOR - WHO COULD HIRE YOU
It’s no surprise to anyone, at this point, that the connections you have are likely the best way for you to get a job. Multiple studies have shown that the vast majority of jobs are filled through networking.
Gina Belli at PayScale, wrote this article a few years back saying between 70-85% of jobs are filled through networking.
And Lou Adler published this article on Linkedin, saying that 85% of jobs were filled through networking according to a survey of around 3,000 people.
Now, these were posted a few years ago but my assumption and my experience with medical sales is that in any given job opening, there will be many qualified candidates for the job. Therefore, networking ahead of time and creating relationships with people who could hire you will be even more important than it has been previously.
Just imagine. If you’re the one doing the hiring and you have multiple qualified people for the position, who are you going to select? If everyone is qualified and seems like they would be a good fit, how do you make that decision?
And if you’re the one interviewing for the position (unless you are a significantly better candidate than everyone else), if the other people you’re interviewing against have connections within the company or to the person doing the interviewing, those candidates are going to get the jobs over you.
So, your next step is to start building out your network with people who work for the companies you identified in Tip #3. And to do this, your best option is to use LinkedIn to search and find the people who work for those companies.
In the search bar, click on “People”:
Then you can select by current company:
And you can narrow down from there based on location if you are only looking in a specific area of the country, state, city, etc.
This is how you can identify which people you want to be connecting with.
And having those connections will likely be the difference maker in you getting the job.
5. INTERVIEW PREPARATION
As I said in Tip #1, this is a numbers game for most people, but it’s also about getting better at the interview itself. Just like in sales, you need to start with a high volume of potential customers that you’re calling on and when you get an opportunity to present your product, a small percentage of them will give you a chance with your product.
Once you’re making a high volume of calls, the level up from there is to get better at presenting your product so that the likelihood of them saying yes to your product will go up.
The same applies to the interview process. You need your volume to be high -first. But you also need to get better at the interview so that it takes less interviews for somebody to select you as the person to hire.
Interview preparation comes down to a number of factors that require a significant amount of time and preparation. And some of the important things to focus on are:
- Background on the company
- Background on the interviewer
- Building your personal story
- Building your pitch on why they should hire you
- Coming up with ways to validate why you’re a great candidate
- Your questions to the interviewer
- Closing the interview
These are some of the biggest ones I think are important for you to prepare for, but there are others as well.
Interview preparation ultimately comes down to the effort you put in and the creativity you have to craft the message you want to get across. Like I said in the earlier points, there will be plenty of qualified candidates for these positions, so it’s vitally important for you to figure out how you can differentiate yourself in the interview process.
Imagine you’re the one doing the interviewing again. If you have a number of qualified candidates that you’re interviewing, how do you pick which one to hire?
- Connections to you or somebody else within the company or industry
- They differentiated themselves far beyond the other candidates
- You began identifying weaknesses and reasons NOT to hire a candidate instead of why you SHOULD hire that candidate
Which leads me to the bonus tip…
BONUS TIP: IDENTIFY ALL THE POTENTIAL REASONS WHY THEY SHOULD NOT HIRE YOU
This may seem like a counter intuitive thing to focus on, but I assure you it is the best thing you can do to prepare for the interview.
It comes down to appreciating and understanding that the decision on who to hire has two components to it:
- Why SHOULD we hire this person?
- Why should we NOT hire this person?
And it’s your job to give them the answers to both of those questions.
It’s not the responsibility of the interviewer to come up with the answers to these questions. You as the candidate must be the one giving them answers to those two questions.
If you can’t clearly communicate why they should be hiring you, then they simply won’t.
And if you can’t give sufficient answers to the tough questions they have about why you would NOT be the right candidate to hire, then the interview is over for you.
I recommend you spend 25% of your time preparing your answers for why they should hire you and 75% of your time preparing answers for all the potential reasons you can think of about why they should NOT hire you. Like I said earlier, if they have a number of qualified candidates, the easiest way to determine who to hire is by figuring out who not to hire.
If there are things about you personally, your background, your work experience (or lack thereof), your education, etc, that you can’t justify with good answers, that’s the easiest way to eliminate you from the list of candidates. Your job is to give them sufficient answers for these tough questions and why it’s not the reason they shouldn’t hire you.
For example, let’s say you have switched jobs a lot in the past and haven’t been at any one job for more than a year or two.
One of the tough questions you’ll have to answer for is, “Why should we hire you for this position when your track record shows that you have switched jobs a lot in the past? It doesn’t give us confidence that we should make the investment in you if you’re going to leave us in a year or two.”
It’s now your job to give them a sufficient answer as to why you have switched jobs a lot in the past and give them confidence that you’re committed to this one and that you won’t be leaving any time soon.
These difficult questions are the Achilles heel for you if you cannot answer them sufficiently.
And that’s why they require the most amount of preparation ahead of time.
The formula for getting your foot in the door with your first job in medical sales is actually not that complicated. It is, however, difficult.
The tips I listed above can be done by anyone, but that doesn’t mean they are easy to do.
However, if you are the ambitious type and you want to get into a high paying job and control the trajectory of your career, you can use these steps to get your foot in the door.