Linda Hertz Group

My Medical Device Sales Career

No Sales Background, Mid-Career, but want Medical Sales...so How?

I received a question from one of our Members this past week:

" have been considering a move to the Medical Sales world. While researching this possibility, I have noticed that most companies require a minimum of 2 years sales experience. I have solid clinical experience, primarily in sports medicine. My question is, does anyone have any recommendations or avenues that you would recommend I pursue to get my foot in the door?"

As I started to write a reply I realize that in life we start out on a career path directly out of college and usually one can change or transition easily during that first 5 years into other occupations or even go back to school and learn something else that may be more fulfilling. We have time, we are in our early to mid 20's and usually less financial responsibilities too! Easy! But what happens after 10 years out of college and we realize, "man, I need to do something different with my life". Well it can be done, but mid-life career changing is going to take a great strategy, a willingness to sometimes step back and fortitude!

It is easier when one decides at age 32 to become a doctor, not easy trying to get into medical school or investing the time and energy for sure! When I say "easier", I mean there is a pretty clear strategy of what one needs to do: study, take the tests required to get into school, if one get's in...they start on the path of hard work that will result in hopefully an MD.

How about those that want to change careers where the path is not so clear cut because "others" determine if you can be let into their industry and you are competing against those other mid-life career people who have the exact background they are looking for? There is no entrance test for an Accountant or even an Inside Sales Person to pass to be granted the right to begin a professional level sales career; this is where strategy, persistance, hard work and yes, some luck (especially in this economy) are going to come into play.

Fortunately for me, and the Group Member who presented the above question, he is in the medical industry but does not have a SALES background. My reply was:

"Thank you for asking this question. Really the question becomes if I am reading this correctly; How does one transition their career from a non sales position into Medical Sales. That really is difficult because almost all firms (and certainly all of my medical sales hiring clients) want someone who has a previous sales background selling the tough stuff (copiers, Paychex, ADP and maybe on the outside a Gallo Wine background). Those people have been put through the fire and have a corporate sales training and understand what it is like to get their heads bashed in making cold calls, taking rejection and landing sales. They want the people who have handled that AND have also succeeded in a BIG WAY like performed at the top of the forced Sales Ranking List (ideally won the Presidents Award). I wrote an article all about that way of getting solid Sales Training first in this article here . That said, this approach is great for people under 3 to 8 years out from college graduation.

I believe your question may center upon people who have made their bed early in their career without sales as part of their background and are now approaching or are currently in mid-career stage (age range of 30 to 40) and want to get into sales. Now that is a tough one, because who wants to go back at age 31 and take an entry level Sales Job hawking Copiers door to door....right? So there still may be a way to get into Medical Sales, but this is really going to be for those who have a background in some segment of the medical industry and a company may want to pick up on your technical background and be willing to be put in a support role or some junior sales position.

For instance, if you are in Sports Training and really know your stuff about training equipment or gyms, maybe you can see if there are companies in that arena who manufacture training equipment and would love to have someone with your background and would gamble that you can pick up the sales piece because you could sell from the strength as a user of the product(s). Not exactly Medical Sales, but it would give you the sales background AND put you in a better position for perhaps the next step of interviewing for a Medical Durable Equipment Sales Position. ......"

I often have Hospital Staff Nurses or Physical Therapists ask me how they could get into the industry side of medical sales. I often tell them to go to the Job Boards and first see what Clinical Support Jobs are out there and what specialty backgrounds companies are looking for to support their sales force; I know Advanced Wound Care, Critical Care, Diabetes and Cardiovascular are key areas for my hiring companies. You can easily scout down every Clinical Support Job out there through the my previous articles (absolutely free) to give you an idea of where the need is in the Industry.

Many companies will hire clinical people for a sales suppot role and after a year to 2 will give that clinician a "shot at the sales job" if they are showing a strength for sales. Some of my best sales people were my Nurse Support people who ended up have the drive to bring in the sales numbers! Many Medical Sales Managers will tell you it is a dynamite combination; a clinician who can sell.

For those of you not in the Medical Industry at all with no sales background (like an Accountant) and want to get into Medical Sales, you first MUST get a sales background. Try to do that within your own industry, there must be Business to Business Sales People calling with services to Accountants and/or Accounting Firms. Start talking to the sales people that call on you and ask them how you can get a job like theirs. The same theme, go with your current expertise (the one you have built upon over the last 10 years plus of your career) and transition it into selling to people like you! After successfully selling in that arena for a few years, then try your hand at getting into Medical Sales....not a cake walk, but I didn't say it would be easy.

Mid-career and even late career changes can be very rewarding, but you must be willing to take a "calculated" risk with a firm strategy and action plan, especially if your end goal is to transition into the world of Medical Sales. If you are a Linda Hertz Group Member, please feel free to enter your comments at the end of this article or within the "Ask Linda" Forum.

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Tags: career advice, over 50

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