As recruiters in the medical sales arena, we are asked a lot of the same questions over and over: “How do I get into Medical Sales?“, “How do I know if I am asking for the right salary?”, or “How much can I expect to make as a Pharmaceutical Sales Rep?”
Salary research can be an especially complicated question to answer. As many of you may already know, it’s tough to get a grasp on a definite number since there are so many variables that come into play–like location, experience, and differing pay structures of various companies. To help you get a better idea of what you can expect, we decided to reach into our database and take a strong look at the candidates we have worked with in the past year.
We chose five of the largest or most well-known pharmaceutical companies, and listed a specific pay structure for several different regions of the country. Then we reviewed the overall ranges of what the majority of Pharma Reps earned, by company.
Here is what we found:
The majority of sales reps were in the 60K- 70K Range – variable consistent at 20-25K.
The majority of Sales reps were in the 65-75K range (unless specialized) – Variable open.
The majority of sales reps were in the 60K-70K range (unless specialized) variable consistent at 20K – 30K unless specialized.
The majority of sales reps were in the 50K-70K range – Variable consistent at 20K – 30K.
The majority of sales reps were in the 55K-65K range – Variable consistent at 23K.
Please keep in mind these numbers were generated from PHC Consulting‘s database and candidates that we have worked with in the last year. (These figures are meant to give you a general idea of what pharma sales reps earn, and are not a guarantee of what you’ll earn if hired.)
I recently posted this question on LinkedIn:
Sales Managers: What do you do when your HR group isn’t able to identify the hunters you need?
With the incredible costs due to unfilled positions (customers going with the competition, RFPs not completed and generally missed sales opportunities), what do you (the sales manager) do to help HR see the need to use an outside source? I have 2 managers right now with open jobs, no real candidates in the pipeline and HR says that they want to fill the job internally.
I got some really great answers from sales managers, business owners, recruiters, and HR people from around the country, and I thought the gist of the discussion was worth posting here for you.
The general consensus seems to be that HR departments are difficult to work with on a candidate search because (1) there are often corporate politics coming into play, (2) HR doesn’t have the expertise to handle finding specialized sales professionals, and (3) HR doesn’t understand the true cost of a vacant position (and might not be all that interested). Especially if HR is working with a limited budget, they’re not going to be interested in using an outside recruiting source–because they don’t grasp the true cost of a vacant position to the company as a whole. So, they should stick to the onboarding portion of bringing in a new candidate.
More than a few say that sales managers should just bypass HR entirely–because sales and marketing departments are much more equipped to recruit than HR departments, much more versed in what it is that they need in a new sales rep, and should already have an extensive network of sales reps to mine for their needs. (In some cases, these were also their arguments for not using a third-party recruiter.) Most importantly, if the sales manager is going to be held responsible for making the numbers, he or she shouldn’t have to rely on another department to that extent for their team’s success.
My position is, of course, that sales managers make much more productive use of their time by working with the team they have in place to make the sales, and leaving the candidate search to a recruiter. The more money a manager generates in a normal cycle, the more it costs to use that time finding a new sales rep. And if recruiting isn’t your business, you’re almost never going to have access to the kind of candidate pool a recruiter has, no matter how extensive your professional network is–which means you’ll be missing out on some very high-caliber talent. If the sales manager (or the HR department) has to run ads to find talent, that becomes a costly gamble which can easily bring you no results from your efforts. A good recruiting team saves time and money, while increasing productivity and sales force effectiveness.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.
Job seekers can mistakenly think that the big job title they’ve had is always impressive on a resume. Some sales reps have the title of VP, or Sales Director, even though they were actually in a one-to-one sales role. This can cause a problem for you in your job search if you’re looking for another sales role.
Especially if you’re transitioning into medical sales, you’re not going to get a VP role, or a Director role, or even an Account Executive role with that title on your resume, because every recruiter and hiring manager will assume that you won’t be happy as a sales rep.
You need to downplay the big titles, and maybe think about a competency-based resume. Emphasize your skills, point out your technological or science background, and highlight your sales numbers to get hired in medical sales.
How Does a Nurse Transition into Pharma Sales? Medical Device Sales? Lab Sales? Here’s a Job Search Strategy for You
Nurses have a few natural advantages when it comes to breaking into medical sales. They have the solid science background, and they have on-the-job technical experience with the products that medical sales reps sell. (That’s a lot. If you were the customer, wouldn’t you rather buy a product from someone who’s used it? It wouldn’t be your entire reason, but it would be a definite point in favor.)
The weak spot for the nurse who wants to transition into a medical sales career then, would be the “sales” part. But, where there’s a will, there’s a way. A nurse who has good communication and interpersonal skills and is willing to work for it has an excellent opportunity to transition into an exciting, rewarding new career in any area of medical sales, like medical device, biotech, laboratory, research products, imaging, hospital equipment, surgical supplies, clinical diagnostics, or pharmaceutical sales.
Here’s a career-transition strategy:
- Set up some informational interviews with medical sales reps or managers who work in the areas you’re interested in. Keep it simple, maybe take them out for a coffee or lunch (no more than a 15-30 minute meeting, please), and ask your questions. If they can’t meet with you but offer to answer your questions by email, then by all means ask them. Research before you ask so you don’t waste valuable time, and be sure to send them a thank you note.
- Bridge your sales gap by reading books on sales to increase your knowledge of the sales process. Think “sales techniques,” “sales strategies,” or things like that. I personally love SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham. Or take a sales course. If you want to go all out, you could consider an MBA degree (education is always helpful), but it’s not essential.
- Set up a professional profile on LinkedIn. You can learn a tremendous amount by joining sales groups and checking out their discussions, and most people are very willing to answer questions and help you out. And an attractive, professional profile is your first step to gaining the attention of medical sales recruiters or hiring managers.
- Find a medical sales rep or two who will let you ride along with them for a day. Job shadowing will (1) give you hands-on experience of what the job is like, (2) arm you with critical keywords for your resume, and (3) impress hiring managers with your willingness to invest the extra time and effort before you even get the job.
- Polish your resume and interview skills. Research how to write a good resume for sales jobs. Sales job interviews are tough, so practice, practice, practice. You have to be smooth, confident, and able to answer objections (just like in a sales call).
- Create a 30/60/90-day sales plan for your interview. A 30/60/90-day sales plan is just an outline for what you will do in your first 3 months on the job–broken up into your first 30 days (like training and introductions), your first 60 days (like more field time), and the first 90 days (starting to pull in new business). I can’t emphasize enough how well this works. It helps the hiring manager to see you in the job, and lets him know that you do understand how to be successful in this new career area. That takes away a lot of the risk (in his mind) from hiring you.
- Consider personalized career coaching. Everyone’s situation is different, and what one candidate really needs to work on is not the same as the next one. A good career coach will quickly see the best way for you to market yourself as a medical sales job candidate, find the most efficient way for you to fix your weak spots, help you practice the best answers to interview questions, tweak your resume for maximum effect, and give you a map for the process.
I can’t guarantee you that doing these things will land you a medical sales job, but I will guarantee you that they will make the most of what you have to offer, and give you your best possible opportunity to transition into medical sales by setting you up as a very attractive candidate who stands out from the competition. Best of luck to you.
Learn more about how to transition into medical sales in my free training webinar, How to Get Into Medical Sales.
There is one thing that hiring managers are really looking for when scanning resumes of sales reps for medical device, laboratory sales, biotech sales, imaging sales, or any other health care sales position: revenue. That means they want to see the numbers (or percentages) of revenue generated, revenue saved, or labor saved.
The only way to show a hiring manager what he wants in a sales rep (and why he should hire you) is to include those numbers on your resume. You’re not going to be hired based on what you were “responsible for.” You’re going to be hired based on what you’ve done, and what you can do for them.
What kinds of numbers should you include on your sales resume?
- Gross revenue
- Growth (in # of customers, increased units sold, etc.)
- Budget numbers (over, under, higher than others?)
- Sales rankings
So, your resume should say things like:
“I closed X accounts, which resulted in Y dollars.”
“increased my revenue numbers by $ ____ or _____%”
“increased my ranking from #10 to #1″”
As a sales recruiter, I’m looking for sales numbers, dollar amounts, percentages, etc.–anything that’s going to help me see that person in the job. If I can’t see a salesperson generating dollars, then I don’t see a very good salesperson.
Job shadowing is just what it sounds like: you be someone’s “shadow” for the day, to learn what a typical day is like in their job. It’s also known as a field preceptorship, or a ride-along (especially accurate for going with sales reps on their routes). It’s a “tryout” for you with no pressure. It gives you a chance to see if you like that work environment, and see what it takes to be successful in it. If you work it right, you can ask questions throughout the day that will give you better insight into the work.
A big benefit of job shadowing for you is that you can gather keywords for your resume you might not otherwise have, especially if you’re just learning how to get into medical sales. You put the job shadowing experience on your resume and you write about which doctors you called on, what the products involved were, and what kind of medical sales accounts they are. The words you’ll use are the kinds of keywords that will get your resume noticed by computerized tracking systems, and then read by recruiters and hiring managers.
So now that you know why job shadowing can be so important to someone transitioning into medical sales, how do you go about getting that experience?
First, find a sales rep. If you’re interested in pharma sales or medical device sales, you can ask your doctor or medical specialist for the names of people who sell to them and their offices. If you’re interested in lab sales, find a small lab and ask for the names of the sales reps who call on them. Then, ask the sales rep if you can ride along for a day or half a day, to see what that job is like. It will be a nice touch if you offer to buy lunch, or maybe give them a small gift afterwards (maybe a LinkedIn Profile Tutorial or new sales book). Add that experience to your resume, and you’ve made a huge positive step toward landing a medical sales job.
If you need help with this, contact a career coach who can guide you through the process of how to break into medical sales.
Want to learn more about CRM systems (and hear a former sales manager from Ventana Medical Systems talk about how they applied the system)? Listen to Chuck Overbeck (owner of Sales Sigma Consulting), a former hiring manager client of mine talk about the CRM system (this can help you understand the systems and what you need to be able to communicate in the interview about CRM systems).
You can see Chuck’s LinkedIn profile here.
I hope that you enjoy the audio interview. If you have a topic you would like to see covered here, please tell me in the comments section!
Just a quick heads-up:
When you send your resume to a recruiter by email, don’t send a cover letter as an attachment. For the most part, it’s a waste of time. A busy medical sales recruiter doesn’t have time to open extra attachments, and expects that you’ll say what you need to say in the body of the email. Do what you can to make life easy for the person reading your documents.
BTW: A resume objective is a great way to summarize who you are and what you want, too.
A field preceptorship a fantastic way to boost your chances of landing a medical sales job. Also known as a ride-along or job shadowing, it’s usually something we associate with students, but a field preceptorship offers multiple benefits for the jobseeker:
- It gives you on-the-job experience without having to get the job. You can explore it to see if it’s right for you before you make the commitment to change careers.
- You can use the experience on your resume, giving you keywords that will flag your resume in Applicant Tracking Systems–especially helpful for those with no prior experience in medical sales.
- It gives you material for your 30/60/90-day plan, an impressive document to have in a job interview.
- It sets you apart as a “go-getter.” Not everyone will go to this length before they even have the job.
- It shows that you know how to make contacts, which is essential in a sales role.
- It’s impressive to hiring managers, and helps them to see you in the job.
How do you find someone to ride with? Ask your doctor or lab for the names of sales reps. When you contact them, ask if you can ride along for the day, or even part of the day. Reassure them that you’re not after their job, but are just looking for information. Try to stay quiet during the actual sales part, but in between, ask questions about a typical day, the pros and cons of their job, what it takes to be successful, and so on.
When you get to the interview, the prep work you did will show, giving you the edge over other candidates and help you land the job.