The term "medical sales" covers a lot of area: medical device sales, laboratory sales, clinical diagnostics sales, biotechnology sales, imaging sales, pathology sales, pharmaceutical sales, and tons of other niche areas of health care sales. Even though there are strong differences in style (capital vs. consumable sales, for instance), there are several basic, bedrock things you need to know if you're going to land a job in one of these areas. They all have to do with background, experience, and candidate preparation.


Ideally, you need a science degree. There are people who will tell you that you don't need a science degree to be successful in medical sales, but that's only partially true. In some cases, candidates with very strong sales backgrounds have gotten by with it, but they almost always have science classes under their belts (beyond just the minimum they needed to graduate). You have to know what you're talking about in order to sell with credibility and confidence-so if you want to be successful selling medicine, science, and technology, you have to know medicine, science, and technology. Medical sales training programs can be helpful (in the way that all training is valuable), but won't help an otherwise bad candidate.


* You need sales experience and sales skills in order to land a job in medical sales. However, you don't necessarily have to have medical sales experience. What you must be able to do is demonstrate how the sales process you're good at will translate into your desired area of health care sales.

* Complete a field preceptorship (job shadowing). It shows that you're willing to do something that you won't get paid for in order to land this job. It demonstrates your initiative, determination, and strategic thinking. If you're short on experience, it helps fill in some of the weak areas. It's great for your resume, because it furnishes you with handy keywords that will get your resume noticed.

* Read sales books and get sales training. These will help you in the interview, and if you can communicate that you've done these things, it will highlight your commitment to getting into medical sales.

* Find medical sales reps or managers who will give you an informational interview. It's a fine line to walk, because you don't want to take advantage and turn it into asking for a job, but a good informational interview will give you tremendous insight into the field.

Presenting yourself as a top-quality candidate

* Use your network. Work the network you already have, and establish a profile on LinkedIn. Join groups that are relevant to the medical sales areas you're interested in, and participate. Follow influential recruiters on Twitter.

* Pay attention to your resume. Go beyond the basics of having an attractive, easy-to-read, professional resume. You must have the right keywords on your resume (that will get picked up by the Applicant Tracking Systems of medical sales recruiters), as well as a strong resume objective. Highlight your technical degree, if you have one.

* Improve your interview skills. Polish your interview skills. Be ready for behavioral interview questions by having stories ready that highlight your skills. Do your homework before the interview so that you have questions of your own to ask, dress appropriately and watch your body language, and use your sales skills to close the interview for the job.

* Write a 30/60/90-Day Plan. Prepare a 30/60/90-Day Plan to show your interviewer that you know what it takes to be successful at this job. A 30/60/90-Day plan requires that you analyze the job as well as the company, and set goals for success. Its an outline for what you will do when you start the job. This kind of effort before you even get the job impresses hiring managers. You become less of a risk to hire, because they can see that you will be able to hit the ground running as an asset to the company.

* Consider hiring a medical sales recruiter for custom consulting. It's the quickest way available for you to find out what it is that you need to do to land a medical sales job. This kind of career coaching will also show you how to highlight your best assets, and how to deal with potential drawbacks (or even turn them into an advantage).

Author's Bio: 

Peggy McKee is the owner and chief recruiter for PHC Consulting, an executive search firm that specializes in finding top sales, sales management, technical support and marketing talent for the medical and healthcare industries. We specialize in laboratory, medical device, healthcare IT, health care and hospital administration, and health care supply. Our clients include companies that are on the Fortune 5, 50, and 500 list, as well as Fortune 100 Fastest-Growing companies. Our clients' call points are the pharmacy, hospital administration, laboratory (both clinical and research), and the physician or surgeon. Our clients say that we provide the most pre-screened, pre-qualified candidates and talent that they receive. Our candidates say that we listen to what they are looking for in a career--that we help them find the best positions that are truly a long-term fit, and that we help make a stressful job search a little easier.

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