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For over fifteen years, I have utilized Buckman Enochs Coss to hire over one hundred individuals for Sales and Sales Management positions for a variety of healthcare technology firms. Whether it’s been for Fortune 500 companies or early stage, VC backed start-ups, BEC has always done a terrific job in sourcing top-talent.

Scott Schlesner
Vice-President of Sales
Elsevier

Thinking about Medical Sales? Do You Know the Difference Between Medical Device and Pharma?

You’re settling on a career path, and you’re starting to learn a little bit about the world of medical sales. So far, you like what you see. And you should! This is a high-growth field, with exciting opportunities that will only expand over the next few years as medical innovations appear on the scene and new products make their way through the pipeline. Medical sales careers provide the perfect intersection between health and commerce; while you work to provide physicians and facilities with the tools they need to treat patients and save lives, you’ll also be working your way up a potentially lucrative career ladder.

But an important question remains: Which branch of this profession should you choose? There are several pathways available, including medical devices sales (which can include prosthetics and surgical implants), medical supply sales (like cotton swabs and sutures) and pharmaceuticals. Each of these branches delivers medical supplies to clinics and facilities through distinct, complex channels. 

Pharmaceutical Sales
In an earlier era, pharmaceutical sales were negotiated between a sales rep and an individual physician. If the sales rep could convince the doctor to prescribe the drug to a patient (or patients), the sale was made. These days, negotiations are more complex, since many private clinics are being absorbed by large hospital systems with strict rules about “formularies,” or the list of drugs that can be prescribed for certain conditions. A sale, in this case, can actually mean a large contract between a drug company and a hospital system that may service a wide metropolitan area. Depending on how strictly the hospital system controls the formulary, a given doctor may have wide or narrow freedom to prescribe the drug they choose. If the doctor has freedom, sales reps may meet with the doctor. If not, sales reps may meet with a medical decision maker or hospital administrator.

Medical Devices
When a surgeon needs to provide a patient with an artificial knee (or heart, or any other implanted body part), the knee isn’t usually taken off a shelf or ordered from a catalog. In fact, for each individual patient, a close dialogue needs to occur between the surgeon and the sales pro who provides a very specific part with very specific qualities and dimensions. Sometimes medical device sales pros actually participate in the surgery process, guiding the doctor while he or she assembles and implants the part in the OR. This role can be very intense can involve a high level of experience and training. Salaries in this field can be correspondingly high. 

Medical Supplies
Medical supply sales typically take place on a bulk order basis; for example, a clinic may order several crates of cotton swabs at a time. Often, these orders are ongoing and will involve a one-year or multi-year contract which will be renegotiated when the contract period ends. In this case, the sales pro will need to explain why this commodity product offers superior value or better cost than any similar product on the market.
 
For more on how to choose the medical sales path that meets your needs, reach out to the career planning experts at Buckman Enochs Coss and Associates.