Hiring Sales Reps? Why You Should Use a Strong Third-Party Recruiter

At AACC, I had the pleasure of a long conversation with a national sales manager of a $30M company (10 sales reps and 10 technical support folks) where I discovered his opinion that “sales reps these days just aren’t as strong as they used to be.”  I said, “Really?  I’ve found that sales reps are just as good as the ones from the ‘good old days.'”  So, naturally, I asked him about his hiring practices.  He said that they hire their own people with no outside help (no recruiters) through ads, sales rep referrals, and a Rolodex.  I asked him who screens the resumes and he told me that the regional manager handles that.  I said, “Wow, that’s a lot of time.”  And he responded, “Yes, but we don’t have the money for a recruiter.”

Really?  Let’s break that down:

1.  How much do you spend on ads?  Monster.com costs about $395 per ad.  A client came to me last spring who had placed 4 ads on Monster.com for a total of $1600 and ended up with a big bag of nothing.  Her HR department ran ads in other places (she didn’t know where), and four weeks later, she was back at square one. 

2.  The regional sales manager (in this instance) costs between $100-$120K, which is around $2000/week.  With each hire, you lose at least one week of time ($2000) to that effort.  The more money the regional manager makes, the more it costs you in terms of their time.  What about the manager who travels with her team?  Deals get made in the field.  With, say, asp (average selling price) ranges of $3000 up to $30000 and more, that adds up.  If the sales manager isn’t there, how much is lost in potential sales?  Not to mention the training and education lost for members of the current team. 

3.  Relying on ads and referrals seriously limits your recruiting efforts.  If recruiting isn’t your business, you can’t possibly have access to the kind of pool a seasoned recruiting firm has–which means you’ll never have several great-quality candidates to choose from.  Therefore (although there can be exceptions), you won’t hire the same caliber of candidates.  (Given that this manager is displeased with his sales force, that would suggest that I am absolutely correct.)

So:  Once this manager adds up (1) money spent on ads, (2) the lost time of his Regional Sales Manager, (3) lost sales/team-building/training time,(4) lost sales resulting from a lesser-quality sales force, and (5) the significant chance for hiring errors, working with a third-party recruiter becomes a reasonable and cost-effective option.

A good recruiting team is an asset to their clients in time and money savings, productivity, efficiency, and sales-force-effectiveness.  They can help management identify what is working and then retool recruiting to address those key points.  For example, one management team in Tucson could find candidates, but was struggling with getting them to accept offers.  When we retooled their process to include a mandatory “plant town,” acceptances went up.  They were just too close to the problem to see the solution.  And they didn’t have the experience they needed.  I know “best practices.”  I can help!!

A recruiter can help when you’re considering promoting internally by giving you a barometer of talent, availability, and salary that will help you feel better about giving the internal candidate a shot (or not).  Knowing what your options are results in a better decision.

Bottom line–it’s a “cost vs. price” argument in which you have to consider all the factors:

Recruiter Costs vs. Manager Time

Limited candidate pool


Top-performing Reps

Time lost to hiring process

Missed opportunities in sales

Missed opportunities in building teams/territories

Cost vs. Price

Have you evaluated yours?

AACC Review – Companies like Abbott, Beckman, Roche, Thermo, and Ortho Clinical were there….

AACC was in Chicago this year….I always like Chicago as a trade show location.  The AACC usually draws 20k + visitors, but I thought there were fewer attendees than usual.

I agree with Robert at the Dark Report – the mood was somber.  I saw unemployed candidates looking for jobs who said that they weren’t seeing the jobs they would have expected.  And I spoke with employees of these clinical diagnostic companies and even if they are dissatisfied with where they are, they aren’t moving (it’s a case of “the devil you know vs. the devil you don’t”).

As for business and sales, they said that the hospitals had very little capital available for purchases.  The capital they do have they are reluctant to spend because they are concerned something will break and they won’t have the funds to replace it….which means jobs selling capital equipment are more difficult than ever.  And small startups whose business models are based on capital sales are in deep trouble.

The big guys of the AACC sell the laboratory systems for testing urine, blood, tissue and stool samples.  Typically, tests that the physician orders are sent to the lab (sometimes in the basement of the hospital).  The medical technologists, histotechs, cytotechs, etc are the unsung heroes of the medical arena.  Companies differentiate testing systems through these benefits:

  • Ease of use
  • Training
  • Service
  • Space required
  • Labor required
  • Cost of product

The biggest booths were Abbott, Beckman, Roche, Thermo and Ortho Clinical. 

Usually, I am “wowed” by at least one exhibitor who has come up with a good idea.  Not so much this year.  The Siemens booth was pretty modern and white, Abbot had the cheesy “tear down the walls”, OCD (Ortho Clinical) had a new blonde chick giving their little “speeches” about their products…(I always want to ask them questions, but they are just models.  Why can’t they use a real expert instead of the bobbing head?  And did the blonde lady that had done this for the last 10 years just get too old?  There was one manufacturing booth in the back that had a racing theme – guess what?  Only men were interested…I wonder what percentage of the decision-makers are women?  Are these calculated marketing decisions or just stupid?)

Anyway, I saw a lot of friends, chatted with customers and got to know new candidates, so it was good.

Call me if you need a great laboratory sales rep – I know them.


Medical Sales Jobs: Salary and Commission Packages

Here’s an interesting article from The Ladders on Negotiating a Bigger Sales Package.  It includes definitions of eight types of sales and/or commission packages, discussions of the pros and cons of each, and negotiating tips for improving your deal:

Straight commission – just like it sounds…you get paid for what you sell

Variable commission – commission varies according to size of sale, new accounts, or other circumstances

Draw against commission – sort of a loan that you might utilize in the beginning of your position or sales cycle

Advance against commission – like a draw, but more of an occasional event

Base plus commission – base salary that doesn’t change, plus commissions off your sales

Salary – straight pay, no matter how much you sell

Salary plus bonus – salary plus one-time bonuses, as you meet certain requirements or at the company’s discretion

Residual commission – keeps paying even after you move on

Sales jobs include as wide a variety of pay structures as there are things to sell, and knowing how to navigate and negotiate your way through will benefit you in the long run.  Medical sales (including laboratory sales, biotechnology sales, clinical diagnostics sales, imaging sales, pathology sales, medical device sales, hospital equipment sales, and pharmaceutical sales), however, don’t have a lot of wiggle room in pay structure.  Base plus commission is standard, and desirable.  Straight commission is not as good (I think) because that means that the company isn’t investing in you–it’s more of a sink-or-swim situation.  There are never residual commissions.  Base pay plus bonuses are more often found in marketing arenas.

You can’t negotiate commissions in medical sales.  More common areas to maneuver in would be in company cars, trips, and other extras, sometimes in one-off deals.  Your recruiter can help smooth those kinds of discussions with the hiring company, giving you advice, feedback, and a realistic idea of what you can expect.  If you’re not working with one, I hope you take time to learn how to be a top-level candidate–both to attract the best jobs and work with the hiring company to get the best deal possible.

How to Prepare for a Medical Sales Job Interview

Jobs in medical sales, laboratory sales, biotechnology sales, clinical diagnostics sales, medical device sales, imaging sales, hospital equipment sales, pathology sales, and other healthcare sales are fairly competitive to get into (you’re going to have to put some effort into it), but worth it in terms of compensation, commissions, and extras.  Plus, it’s an exciting place to be if you have an interest in science or medicine (but not blood), technology, business, and helping people.

You’re going to have to go the extra mile (especially in this economy!) to land a position in healthcare sales, but there are several great ways to set yourself apart from the competition.  Doing all of them will definitely make you a standout candidate!  Here’s how to prepare for a sales job interview:

1.  Research the company.  There is no substitute for doing your homework.  Know what the company does, what its current issues are, and what the future plans include.  Your job is to find out what you can do for them.  Your research gives you material to talk about during the interview and a way to custom-fit your answers to their specific questions.

2.  Build a brag book.  Click the link for the video and more explanation, but basically it’s a collection of awards, sales rankings, successful projects, letters from happy customers or managers, and so on.  When you present it during the interview, it showcases your presentation skills as well as your accomplishments.  Here’s a link to a podcast if you need it.

3.  Create a 30/60/90-day plan.  This kind of plan is a written demonstration of what you will do for the company in your first 3 months on the job–how you will get your training, how you will transition into being a contributing member of the sales team, and so on.  Here’s a link to a video and a blog post that explains them in more detail, but if you need more help, you can download samples and a template with audio coaching from the Sales Recruiter.  This kind of plan will definitely get the attention of the hiring manager.

4.  Read my Tips on How to Ace Your Medical Sales Interview.   Also, here’s an article on Sales Interview Questions for you.  Think of your interview as a sales call, and act accordingly.

5.  Consider custom coaching from the Medical Sales Recruiter.  Most people need no more than an hour.  Ask the questions you need in a private, one-on-one conversation to improve your personal situation.  I’ve been a medical sales recruiter for over 10 years now, and I was in the medical sales area before that as a sales rep, regional manager, and national accounts manager.  I can go over your resume with you, critique your answers to interview questions and prepare you for the interview, give you insider tips on the industry, help you get into medical sales if you’re new to it, teach you how to negotiate and recognize a fair offer, build your personal brand, or even decide between job offers.  Career coaching works.

How to Prepare for a Behavioral Job Interview in Medical Sales

A behavioral job interview is a popular interview tactic in the medical sales arena.  It focuses on finding out how the candidate handled (behaved in) specific job-realted situations.  In healthcare sales, laboratory sales, clinical diagnostics sales, medical device sales, biotech sales, pathology sales, imaging sales, or pharmaceutical sales, customer interaction is key—so how you handle people in a wide variety of situations, under pressure, in different circumstances, becomes a critical factor to hiring managers.

To help you, here’s a link to a video that I made about how to handle behavioral interviews.  Some of the main things to keep in mind are to have lots of stories ready that highlight how skilled you are, and it’s important that you are able to quantify your examples whenever possible.  (What happened when you had an unhappy customer?  How did you increase sales and by how much?  How did you save the company X amount of dollars?)  I’ve also provided a link to How to Survive a Behavioral Interview for more tips, and a lengthy list of possible behavioral interview questions for you to think about.

Important tip: make sure you have a brag book and a 30/60/90-day plan ready to go. A brag book will demonstrate how you handled particular situations, since you’ll hopefully include letters or e-mails from satisfied customers or happy managers, successfully completed projects, and lists/charts of how much money you’ve saved or made for the company.  A brag book covers what you’ve done in the past…a 30/60/90-day plan covers what you’ll do in the (immediate) future. It’s a list, segmented in 30-day time spans, of what you’ll do to get trained and up-to-speed in your new company so that you can be a successful hire for them as fast as possible.  For more information, click here. For a template of exactly how to do one, click here.

Good luck.

Hiring Medical Sales Reps? First–Review Your Current Team

Are you hiring sales reps for medical sales, laboratory sales, clinical diagnostics, imaging sales, medical device sales, biotech sales, pathology sales, surgical supplies sales, hospital equipment sales, pharmaceutical sales, or other healthcare sales?  Your first step should be to review your current team:  What works in your sales reps and what doesn’t?  Then you can make a hiring decision that’s based on past results of what works in your company and be more confident in your choice.

Let’s be honest:  Most sales managers are so busy that they hire on auto pilot.  (Not that it doesn’t sometimes work for you.)  But if you’re the kind of manager who makes decisions based on what has yielded the best results (and in this case, that means hiring candidates who are similar to your best-performing salespeople), then you need to review your team.  You can do this as an overview, or you can use formal assessments.  What do you look for?   Experience, tenure, degree, personality profile, sales productivity, or other qualities important to the success of your team. 

For example, one of my clients just had a rep leave in Philly, so he calls me:  “Please provide me candidates for the Philly position.” 

My next question:  “Based on your experience, what would you say your ‘best fit’ best performer background is?”

After some thought, he gives me this information:

  1. Ex-pharma with strong b2b exp, bus degree
  2. Ex-pharma with business degree
  3. Medical supply distributor with psych degree
  4. MS/Molecular Biology/No sales experience/Sales personality

All four profiles have performed at or above plan for the client.

When I pressed the manager for further insights, he said “You know, in the past we haven’t been able to get much sales experience in a range of 50-60K base plus 30 comp.  And the technical person (#4) who wanted to make a transition did do very well, but the ones with sales experience ramped up faster by at least 3 months.” 

I have found similar patterns in other managers who ask for candidates like #4, but who always move forward with candidates who have sales experience.  (With new clients, I start out sending both.)  When I discover this pattern, I point it out to the manager and then stop sending those candidates–in this case, the technical sales rep wannabes who aren’t making the cut. 

See?  My recruiting was based on past results.  Once you’ve narrowed your search criteria, the whole process becomes faster, more efficient, and more productive.

Just some food for thought…

Top 20 Pharmaceutical Company Changes Over the Last 18 Months: How They Affect Pharma Sales Reps

In 2008, these were the Top 20 pharmaceutical companies:

Top 20 Pharmaceutical Companies
01 Pfizer $44,424
02 GlaxoSmithKline $38,501
03 Sanofi-Aventis $38,452
04 AstraZeneca $28,713
05 Merck $26,532
06 Novartis $25,477
07 Johnson & Johnson $24,866
08 Roche $21,998
09 Eli Lilly & Co. $17,638
10 Wyeth $17,179
11 Bristol-Myers Squibb $15,622
12 Abbott Laboratories $14,632
13 Schering-Plough $12,773
14 Bayer Schering $12,294
15 Boehringer Ingelheim $11,103
16 Takeda $10,626
17 Astellas* $8,530
18 Daiichi-Sankyo* $7,382
19 Eisai* $6,250
20 UCB Group* $4,370

The list looks a little different these days.  For instance, Pfizer purchased Wyeth in January 2009, Merck purchased Schering in March 2009, and Roche signed a major deal with Genentech…confirming for many a trend toward consolidation in big pharma.  Which means that there are almost certainly more changes to come.

My take:  With many block-buster products losing patent privileges, weak future product pipelines, slow market growth, tremendous litigation issues, an ever-increasing regulatory environment, and continued formulary tightening by insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies are being battered and forced into mergers, buyouts, and massive layoffs in order to stay afloat.  All that shifting and adjusting throws many sales reps right off the boat.

We’ve seen thousands of resumes from pharma sales reps who were already in pods calling on the same market area…so competition was already fierce when the market was good.  Mergers cause even more duplication in sales territories, so pharma reps get laid off–the lucky ones get generous severance packages, but many get nothing.  Trying to get another pharmaceutical sales job in this set of circumstances is the definition of insanity– doing the same thing, but expecting to get different results.  Because of the tremendous glut of these kinds of candidates searching for a job in a market that isn’t hiring because of the weak economy and other contributing factors (already noted), these candidates are not only out of a job, but they are really out of a career.

The answer is for the former pharmaceutical sales rep to evaluate, retool, and readjust to this new reality.  Pharma sales reps often discover obstacles when attempting to branch out into other areas of medical sales, but I have placed many pharma reps into other healthcare sales areas.  The catch:  they must accept that their skills may only get them into an entry-level sales position. That’s a little difficult to swallow for some reps who’ve been around for a while.  It’s not all negative–most of my client companies pay more in total compensation than the traditional pharmaceutical pay structure. But they also require strong skill sets, more technical skills, and very often more good old-fashioned elbow grease.  Other areas of medical sales (laboratory sales, medical device sales, clinical diagnostics, imaging sales, pathology sales, hospital equipment sales, biotech sales, etc.,) are a little harder to get into, but the results are worth it in compensation, respect, and job stability.

If you’re an out-of-work pharmaceutical sales rep ready to start your career in a medical or healthcare-related company that requires real sales closers and pays for performance, then learn what you need to know for this job search.  I would like to invite you to my free webinar, The Fastest Way to Get a Job.  It will teach you how to stand out and be aggressive in your search so you can find the job you want much faster. 

Shape yourself into the ideal medical sales candidate with the How to Get Into Medical Sales kit.  It’s a step-by-step guide to getting a medical sales job–whether you have experience or not.

If you need personal assistance in your medical sales job search, try career coaching.

So Your Sales Manager is Younger Than You…

Used to be, seniority counted.  For a lot.  It was an orderly progression up the career ladder, many times within a single company, and if you were good at your job, you’d likely get your turn in management.  Not anymore.  For one thing, career paths are not what they once were–it’s more common to not only job-hop, but to career-hop.  In addition, technology is advancing exponentially, and the one with the latest knowledge is going to have the jump on promotions.  None of this is big news.  However, because of all this flux, many older workers are finding themselves working for a manager/supervisor/boss who is younger than they are, and not all of them deal with that very well, and it can be a major stumbling block for older job candidates. 

Here’s a great article (Help! Save My Career!  My New Boss is Just a Kid!) that offers some really good advice for someone in that situation, including ways to position yourself for a promotion.   Of course, the main point is “Get over yourself!”, which I whole-heartedly agree with.  Don’t think some young whippersnapper can’t teach you a thing or two just because you have a lot of experience.  There’s a reason that young person got the job.  Find out what it is and see what you can learn from it, so that you can advance your career, too.

Podcast: Brag Books Are a Unique Way to Sell Your Skills

Do you have a very important interview?  Make sure you have a brag book.  Brag books can be an absolutely critical way to tip the scales in your favor in an interview.  Not only do they highlight all your wonderful qualities, they allow you to demonstrate those intangible skills that make a great impression.  In this economy, you’re going to need all the help you can get for just about any job in medical sales, laboratory sales, medical device sales, imaging sales, biotech sales, or especially pharmaceutical sales.  So,  BREAK THE GLASS! You can listen to this podcast over and over. 

What do you get for your $17?

  • What a brag book is
  • Why it definitely helps you shine in the interview and stand out over other candidates
  • How to make one–with specific examples, in great detail
  • When to introduce it in the interview–what to say, and how to say it, even if you’re not directly asked to show it

How important is your job interview?  BREAK THE GLASS!


Polish Up Your Brag Book

Once you purchase the podcast, a link to it will be sent to your email.


See you at the top.


How Can Career Coaching from the Medical Sales Recruiter Help You Land a Job in Health Care Sales?

career coaching for medical sales, sales, sales management, and marketing

career coaching for medical sales, sales, sales management, and marketing

As a medical sales recruiter, I spend a lot of time on the phone fielding inquiries from job seekers.  Not only about specific jobs in medical sales, laboratory sales, imaging sales, biotech sales, clinical diagnostics sales, pathology sales, medical device sales, hospital equipment sales, pharmaceutical sales, or other areas of healthcare sales, but also about career coaching:  How does it work?  How can it help me?  Can you help me?  Here are some recent questions (pretty typical ones) I have gotten from people interested in career coaching:

  • “I want to get into medical sales in the Florida market area.  My background is _______________.  I have heard that this is a slow time for recruiters, but I am anxious to transition.  I would like input, direction, and assistance.”
  • “I’ve been downsized.  What do I do?”
  • “I am currently in pharma sales, but used to work for XYZ Company selling radiology equipment.  I would like to get back into medical sales or medical device sales, but nobody wants to hire someone from pharma.  How can I make the transition?”
  • “I would like a professional to review my resume and cover letter.  I enjoy your videos and will use your tip on job shadowing.”

The customized career coaching offered through PHC Consulting can help.  Most people only need about an hour, so it’s not a big commitment.

How can it help you?  Basically, I have years of experience in sales, building successful sales territories from the bottom up, sales managment, and medical sales recruiting, and I use all that experience to offer you an objective, informed opinion on your personal situation. It’s effective, and it’s efficient.  You can learn:

  • What you need to know to transition into the medical sales industry, even if you have no previous medical sales experience
  • How to write your resume so that it highlights YOUR best qualifications
  • How to ace your interview–I can ask you questions and give you immediate feedback on your answers and style
  • What you should include on your brag book and 30/60/90-day plan–with specific ideas for your own situation
  • Which job offer you should take–discuss pros and cons with someone who knows the industry and has no agenda
  • How to negotiate salary–everyone is afraid of this one, but it’s not that hard
  • Which follow-up techniques to use to make a great impression
  • How to build your personal brand so that you get farther faster
  • Figure out why you’re not getting offers even though you’re qualified
  • How to get an interview if you’re having trouble–how can you contact that sales manager?
  • Anything you need to know about sales career success!

If you’re already in sales, or are a sales manager, you can also get coaching advice on:

  • building your sales team
  • making hiring decisions
  • getting that promotion that has been eluding you.

Want to know what others say about how I’ve helped them?  See my LinkedIn page.

It’s tough in the job market right now, and you need every advantage you can get.  I would love to help you.  Click here to find out more about what career coaching can do for you.


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