Types Of Medical Device Sales Rep Jobs
Let’s get started by reviewing a few of the different types of medical device sales rep jobs. It is helpful to understand the differences as you engage in the interview process. The predominant sales style favored in each of these subtypes also varies.
Surgical Device Sales
This is what most people think of before they get into the industry. Either you know someone or heard of someone that dresses up in scrubs and joins surgeons in the operating room to support their company’s medical device. These medical device sales reps know their product in and out (things that can go wrong with the device, how to setup the device, etc.) The companies do a good job of creating a reason for reps to be there and add value, so the companies can continue to have access to the physicians, and charge a premium for the products.
*There is speculative discussion on large healthcare organizations hiring well trained surgical techs, and trying to keep reps out. But for the time being reps are utilized and needed.
In one of these roles you will spend most of your time in the OR of a hospital, or in ambulatory surgery center where outpatient procedures are performed. The goal is keep current users of the product happy, get clients using more of the company’s products, and getting additional physicians to use the device. In this job you will join surgeons for their cases, and be there to support them with the medical device. After a customer is familiar with a product you will most likely be needed less, and spend more time with new and prospective customers.
A few of the large surgical device companies include Johnson & Johnson, Stryker, Medtronic, and Smith & Nephew. These companies have different segments that create products pertaining to different medical specialty markets (orthopedic, trauma, pain, spine, etc).
Imaging Equipment Sales
These folks sell capital equipment that is used most commonly in diagnostic imaging departments to image patients (MRI’s, Ultrasounds, etc.). The type of sales style in this job is sometimes less relationship based than surgical sales, because customers purchase infrequently (for example maybe every five years for an ultrasound). It is a very intimate sales encounter during the time the customer is evaluating new equipment, but less so in between purchases.
A day in the life of a medical device sales rep like this involves spending time with potential customers demonstrating the benefits of the equipment by working with the clinicians that utilize the product clinically. This includes both technologists and clinicians. The weekly schedule for these jobs can differ significantly from a surgical sales role. Instead of waking up early everyday to join surgeons for their cases, you may only have a few meetings each week. But since these are larger sales with a longer sales cycle, there are many stakeholders and aspects to consider for each customer engagement. It can take a lot of work and coordination to build a solution that wins a single deal. A few of the major players in this sector of the industry include Philips, General Electric, Siemens, Canon, and Mindray.
Medical Equipment Vs. Medical Consumables
It is important to distinguish between capital equipment and consumable products. Significant resources are spent to acquire capital equipment that is used for an extended period of time. It purchased strategically with an anticipated ROI based on the equipment’s application.
Laboratory Equipment Sales
The representatives in these roles sell capital equipment used in the laboratory. This includes equipment such as analyzers, microscopes, or chromatography equipment. The sales process involves interacting with laboratory personnel, the laboratory administration, and purchasing agents. Since these products are also capital equipment, many of the same principles from above apply. The difference is that the end users of this equipment are lab personnel, rather than imaging users like a MRI technologist for example. A few of the large companies in this space include Becton Dickinson & Company, Cepheid, Roche, and Bio-Rad.
Laboratory equipment can be very specialized. So as a rep you may not “call” on every single lab, but only specific types of labs that have a need for your solution. This specialization leads to sales reps having large geographic territories, that cover numerous states, which means frequent travel (Click here to view my article on sales territories).
Medical Supply Distributors
Distributor reps work at companies like Mckesson, Cardinal Health, and Medline. These medical device sales reps focus on consumable products like band-aids and needles. Typically these roles are a more relationship based sale. The items sold are low dollar amount, high margin products. Hospitals and clinics utilize distributors so they do not have to work with many individual companies to acquire basic supplies such as needles, band-aids, gauge, etc. Distributors are a jack of all trades, but a master of none. The large distribution organizations can also work with healthcare facilities to optimize inventory. Distributors have access to local warehouses and can get products out to customers quickly. The types of items sold by distributors are healthcare consumable items which need to be frequently purchased. Therefore distributor reps spend a lot of time in front of customers and are able to develop strong relationships with their accounts.
Equipment Service Sales
Things go wrong with large capital equipment purchases and the product have to be serviced. Who services the equipment? Usually the the OEM (original company equipment manufacturer). In these roles you sale service contracts that cover the costs to service the equipment for an agreed upon amount of time. For many types of equipment and devices the cost of upkeep and service is a large component in the overall cost of ownership of the product. At larger companies folks in these positions work alongside the medical device sales rep selling the equipment to close the service contract at the time the equipment is purchased. One of these roles can be a challenging first job in the industry!
Pharmaceutical sales is the first thing that comes to mind for the layperson hearing the phrase “medical sales” There are numerous examples in popular movies and TV shows in which the sales rep character stops in at a doctor’s office to peddle the most recent drug to the market. In reality, pharmaceutical roles are typically considering a “softer” sale and much different than selling devices or equipment. Why you ask? The reason is because these reps are creating awareness for a drug and offering themselves as a resource, but not necessarily asking for an order. In other words, no true closing for the business is involved. Don’t get me wrong, there are metrics involved to evaluate performance. These include measuring the number of prescriptions written, the number of calls per day, etc.
Life Science Sales
These sales jobs are not really medical sales, but closely related, and worth mentioning. In one of these roles you will sell equipment or supplies to research laboratories, such as in the University setting. In some of these jobs you may work directly for the manufacturer but there are also many distributor roles in this space. A rep spends time stopping in at at the numerous laboratories on University campuses interacting with the Principal Investigator (PI) of the lab, along with the research personnel. Two of the large distributors that sell into these markets include VWR and Thermo Fisher Scientific. Again, a distributor is a company that sales a product manufactured by another company with a markup.
How to Break into Medical Device Sales
So what is the value in reading through the nuances of each role? The purpose is to understand the different types of positions out there. If you end up interviewing, you need to understand where the prospective position fits in and what sales style is desired.
Click here to read my article on how to break into medical device sales.