Pharmaceutical sales vs. medical device sales

If you’re at the PHC Consulting website or blog, you’re either looking for a new opportunity in your area of medical sales (pharma or medical device or laboratory sales), or maybe you’re looking to transition from one area to another.  Maybe you’re unsure about the differences between them, and don’t know how to tell which would be the best fit for you.  Vincent Ma, the author of Non Sterile (a blog focused on medical device sales) wrote an extremely informative guest column on that outlines the differences between pharma sales and medical device sales , sprinkled with examples from his own experiences, that you should read now.  I can’t post the entire thing here, but here are some excerpts:

There are several similarities between pharmaceutical sales and medical device sales. In both professions, we are trying to educate doctors and other medical staff that the features and benefits of the products that we represent are better than that of our competitors. Both types of sales representatives provide lunches, samples, marketing tchotchkes and other forms of entertainment.

In both areas, you will be concerned with repeat business and purchasing groups, which Vincent covers.  It gets more interesting when you start considering the differences:

The goal in pharmaceutical sales is to increase the number of prescriptions (”scripts”) written by physicians in your assigned geographical area. In medical devices sales, the goal is get the purchase order. In pharmaceutical sales, the results of your efforts are rarely instantaneous; weeks may pass before you know if the lunch you provided increased the writing habits for your drug at that particular office. With medical devices sales, you know at the end of the day if you did a good job, because you either got the purchase order or you didn’t. You don’t have to wait a month to see if your numbers go up.

Whereas pharmaceutical companies may provide their representatives with a targeted list of physicians, medical device representatives will spend much of their time prospecting for new hospitals, medical offices and clinics within their territory. With prospecting, there is a lot of cold calling. It is critical to network and ask for referrals in medical devices sales. The sales cycle is usually longer, and device representatives have to work harder to maintain relationships. Once a purchase is completed, a hospital may go five or ten years before they need to replace the equipment. This is especially true of capital equipment purchases. In pharmaceutical sales you follow a routing schedule and see many of the same physicians again and again. In device sales, you will usually cover a larger territory, but the bigger the territory, the greater the opportunity.

The differences are in selling styles and processes and in what your own personal risk/reward factors are.  Vincent has a list of questions to ask yourself to help you pinpoint which area would be the best for you.

Whatever you decide, you need a plan of attack.  Come to my free webinar, The Fastest Way to Get a Job.

Written by Peggy McKee - the medical sales recruiter
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4 Responses to “Pharmaceutical sales vs. medical device sales”

  1. […] Vincent Ma, the author of Non Sterile (a blog focused on medical device sales) wrote an extremely informative guest column on that outlines the differences between pharma sales and medical device sales … by the medical sales recruiter at 8:02 PM […]

  2. Medical Rep on August 12th, 2007 11:44 pm

    I would completely disagree with the similarities mentioned. Although both groups seek to educate doctors and staff, the environment in which they do is completely different. Medical Sales Reps are looked to as value added resources whereas Pharm Reps are seen as caterers and knicknack deliverers.

    This is why many job listings for device positions specifically state something to the effect of Pharm reps need not apply…

    They are very different.

  3. the medical sales recruiter on August 13th, 2007 11:22 am

    Surely, you have to agree that there are similarities given that both call on doctors and their staff. I do agree that the level of salesmanship and rigor of the sale is different. But I do believe in “hiring by exception” and there are some exceptional individuals in the pharma arena. The trick is to tell the good apples from the less-than-good apples. That’s why hiring is so tough.

  4. […] Outside Sales Jobs – These are usually field-based career opportunities.  They require someone with a lot of self-discipline and of course, that “sales personality.”   These career opportunities can be extremely lucrative and have a lot of flexibility.  Depending on the size of the opportunity, the travel can be daunting.  You should consider going on a ride along if this is interesting to you – see this video for more info….  While I’m at it, I have 3 posts that explain different types of medical sales– Part I, Part II, and Part III, as well as posts on pathology sales vs. medical device sales, and how medical revenue compares. […]