From Pharma to Medical Devices

A topic of ongoing discussion in medical device hiring circles continues to be pharmaceutical reps transitioning into medical devices. When I started in the device industry in 1998, I was told that most pharmaceutical reps. were not built for device sales. Since then, I’ve been a part of transitioning many pharmaceutical reps. into devices, and met amazing people along the way (who went on to win awards). 

However, a perception persists that is built from some or all of the following objections:  

  • pharmaceutical reps. don’t actually sell – they detail and aren’t good at asking for the business, 
  • they don’t want to (or can’t) work the hours that device reps put in, 
  • they aren’t trained in sales basics like business-to-business (B2B) reps are in terms of prospecting, qualifying targets, closing, 
  • they aren’t driven/motivated like device reps. are to succeed and 
  • their sales results have a three month lag so they aren’t used to making real time adjustments to their work. 

For those of you that have either hired a pharmaceutical rep. that became successful or made the transition yourself from pharmaceutical sales to device, what did it take and why do you believe you made a successful transition/hire? 

Passion vs. Experience

Sometimes a very experienced medical device sales rep. is up against a relatively inexperienced rep. for a job they both want.

 

In what scenario does the experienced sales rep. lose? 

 

The main one, in my experience, is when the seasoned rep. appears to be tire-kicking. A laid back, casual attitude, conveying an impression that they are just sniffing around the opportunity versus someone sitting there ready to run through walls can be the difference maker in the interview.

 

If you have done your research and decided you want the job, show the interviewer what it looks like when you really want something no matter how experienced or accomplished you are. Resting on past awards, relationships, experience creates vulnerability.

Reverse Engineering Your Medical Device Career

Medical professional sitting at desk

I was talking to a friend and hiring manager recently and he observed that more and more medical device jobs have become “hybrid” jobs wherein the physician’s office/clinic is extremely important, in some cases as important or even more important than the Operating Room (OR), depending on the specialty. That makes it very difficult for coverage reps. that have only sold in the OR-covered cases to compete for these new types of positions as they evolve. 

 

You know what? This tracks with a trend I’ve seen more and more where reps. that are strictly “case coverage” reps., highly clinical, very sound in orthopedic or spine surgery, but lacking essential sales skills are leaving medical, going to Business-to-Business (B2B) jobs, getting training, gaining those skills and coming back, ready to interview and take on different roles beyond what some entry level orthopedic and spine jobs may be able to teach them. Almost “reverse engineering” their medical careers. This used to be taboo. 

 

Years ago, leaving the medical device industry meant that it was nearly impossible to get back in. But with a tight labor market getting tighter all the time, exceptions are being made. And after rounding out their experience and skill set, these candidates are ready to go.