how to become a medical sales rep and build a successful career as one

Are you looking for a job that offers flexibility while earning an impressive income? If so, a career as a medical sales rep is a very good option!

Medical sales can be an incredibly lucrative field. According to a study by MedReps, the leading industry website for medical sales professionals, the average yearly total compensation in 2021 for medical sales reps was $172.5k. (This is base salary plus commission.)


Two men in suits receiving an envelope of money
A job in medical sales can compensate well due to the amount of medical/engineering expertise required and customer service support that clients need.

Working as a medical sales rep can also be a great way to support your personal goals. An ironman contestant profiled by Outside magazine credits his flexible schedule in medical sales as a part of his success.

But, if you are looking into how to get into medical sales, you may be wondering where to start.  It’s important to look deeper than just how to become a medical sales rep and really dive into how to be a successful one.

That’s exactly what you’ll find in this article. We’ve broken down what a medical sales rep does, how to break into the field, and how to start building a successful career in medical sales.


What Does a Medical Sales Rep Do?


First, it’s important to make sure you understand exactly what a medical sales rep does. Whether for healthcare device or equipment manufacturers or pharmaceutical companies, medical sales reps sell the company’s products to healthcare professionals. The reps serve as the trusted liaison between the manufacturer and the customers.

For the sales rep, in general, this role means promoting the features and benefits of the product(s), providing consultations on their use, answering questions, and introducing new products when they launch.

Some of the daily duties of a typical medical sales rep include:

  • Providing product education and demonstrations
  • Cold calls and visits to doctors’ offices, hospitals, and other medical facilities.
  • Answering staff concerns about the product(s).
  • Forming relationships with doctors, staff, hospital administration, etc.
  • Replenishing orders on current accounts.
  • Collecting, analyzing, and reporting sales data.
  • Identifying upsell and cross-sell opportunities on current accounts.

But, not all medical sales jobs are exactly the same. There are several different types/specializations when it comes to medical sales reps. These include:

  • Medical Device Sales - In this role, medical device sales reps have a designated territory for selling medical devices for a manufacturer. This is often just for one or two specific devices, which can sometimes be high-ticket items.
  • Medical Equipment Sales - A medical equipment sales rep will often sell a large variety of volume-based medical equipment and supplies as opposed to just specializing in/selling one specific device.
  • Surgical Equipment Sales - This type of rep will be selling specialized surgery equipment that often comes with a high price tag. This medical sales role will not often be for entry-level reps and will require several years of sales experience.
  • Pharmaceutical Sales - As the face of a drug and treatment manufacturer, this role involves frequent meetings and communications with doctors and other medical professionals to provide one or more specific medications.
  • Dental Sales - Depending on the company you are selling for, this role involves selling one or a variety of dental products (from large to small) to dentists and orthodontists.

How to Become a Medical Sales Rep


Having the right sales and interpersonal skills is a very important part of breaking into a new sales role. But when it comes to learning how to become a medical sales rep, it is important to understand that it is going to take a very strategic approach. Your strategy should include these key steps:


Decide on a Specialization/Focus


The first thing to do is to decide what type of medical sales rep you want to be. As mentioned above, there are several different specializations/types. Finding the right fit for you will be critical to the success of your career. Explore your personal and professional interests to determine what specific aspect of medical sales appeals to you most and would best suit your skills. You must be certain that you have a genuine passion for the field.

Once you hone in on the specialization you want to focus on, it will help guide the rest of your specific career path in becoming a successful medical sales rep.


Network as Much as Possible


When you are trying to break into a career as a medical sales rep, knowing the right people will be very valuable. Professional networking is always important, but in medical sales, it is absolutely essential. Even as large as the industry is, chances are you will start to encounter many of the same faces as you progress in your career. Showing that you can not only build but maintain lasting professional relationships will significantly help you.

Your chances of good job placement will also go up when you have industry contacts. Recruiters will value the fact that other people in medical sales know and trust you. So, mastering the art of professional networking will help set you apart from other job seekers. It will show that you're focused on truly building a successful long-term career.

In this digital age, one free and extremely effective tool to start networking is LinkedIn. This professional network is a very effective platform to use to start getting your name out there, connect and communicate with others in the field (use the “Groups” function for medical sales groups), and research medical companies.

You should also pursue in-person opportunities to network and meet people who are currently in sales in the medical industry. Trade associations, seminars, and conferences (sales and/or medical) are three more great ways to create connections and grow your network.


Continue To Do Your Research


You’re reading this article, so you’ve definitely already started doing your research. But, it’s important to keep going and gain as much knowledge as you can about this process. This will help you streamline your efforts and make them as effective as possible.

Some of the job-search sites (see more on this below) also offer blogs or news pages where you can dive into advice specific to the industry or the latest industry updates.

Another thing to keep an eye on is the subreddit r/MedicalSales and other similar forums for topics like “how to get into medical sales”. These boards will give you more of the latest valuable and useful information straight from those already deep into their medical sales careers. They’ve already lived through this process and they’re sharing their knowledge about it. Take advantage of that!


Utilize the Best Job Finding Sites for Medical Sales Rep Opportunities


Job search sites provide a centralized location for hundreds of current medical sales opportunities that may be available. What better place to start looking for a position? Plus, several of these are also valuable resources to find advice and news specific to medical sales.

There are several job boards specific to the medical sales world, but the most well-known is MedReps.com. This site has been around the longest of any of the medical sales job boards on the Internet. Thus, it is one of the most trusted and heavily-utilized job-search sites. It does feature both direct and recruiter-posted openings for entry-level and experienced medical sales reps.

Besides being a valuable tool for networking, LinkedIn is also a job-search destination with active listings that can be filtered down specifically for medical sales.

Your best bet is to take a look at as many different job-search boards as you can and zero in on a couple of them to utilize consistently.


Salary Range for a Medical Sales Rep


A job in medical sales often compensates very well. This is largely because it requires a certain amount of medical or engineering expertise while also providing the close customer service support that your clients need. It is a tough balance but can be extremely rewarding for those who master it.

Of course, the specific salary will vary depending on the type of medical sales rep (ie. medical device sales versus pharmaceutical sales). But, generally speaking, the salary range for those working in medical sales will be between $45,000 and $150,000. This is largely dependent on the level of experience (entry-level sales rep versus experienced sales rep shifting into medical sales), the specific company, etc.

Those numbers are also just referring to the base salary. In most cases, there will also be a commission structure, bonuses, and add-ons in addition to the salary.

For more in-depth information on base salaries for medical sales reps, broken down by category, take a look at our full article on medical sales rep salaries for 2022.


Building a Successful Medical Sales Team


One successful medical sales rep is a huge asset for a company. But, a whole team of them is an extremely valuable, revenue-generating powerhouse. To build a successful medical device sales team, there are some effective steps/measures that can be taken, including:

  • Making sure your reps are certified - Having your reps complete a sales certification will help optimize their sales skills, strategies, and knowledge within the medical sales industry itself.
  • Making team collaboration easy - When your reps can easily share information and resources, they can maximize sales effectiveness and further ensure a good customer experience.
  • Optimizing territory planning & management - The state of your sales territory planning and long-term management will directly affect the success of your medical sales team. Your reps need to have evenly separated territories, keeping them busy without stretching them too thin. Doing so will ensure that your medical sales reps can consistently have meaningful and productive interactions.  

For more information on these steps, as well as more ways to ensure the success of your medical sales team, check out our in-depth article on how to create a first-class team of medical device sales reps.


How to Crush It and Become a High-Performing Medical Sales Rep


So how do you master it? With a demanding schedule and fierce competition, a solid foundation is critical for becoming a successful medical sales rep. Here are some ways that you can make the most of your efforts to become a top-performing medical sales rep:


Tip #1: Never Stop Learning


Working in the medical field means that you will need to become a lifelong learner. If you want to become successful in sales, you need to dedicate yourself to learning about sales strategies and the continuous innovations in the medical world.

To get a good head start on this, you need practical advice and solutions to become a top seller in a short amount of time. One way to do this is through medical sales courses, like the masterclass offered by the Medical Sales Academy, for example. They not only provide an in-depth course, but also a forum, continued training, and support content. It identifies the changes in the medical field and enables you to develop and maintain a solid game plan for success.

Getting a sales certification, specifically, a medical sales certification, is another way to expand your career education efforts. For example, if you are looking to become a pharmaceutical sales rep, the Certified National Pharmaceutical Representative (CNPR) from the National Association of Pharmaceutical Sales Reps would be a good option. A sales certification like this will not only help you strengthen your sales skills but will also boost your credibility and reputation with your customers.

There are also quite a few podcasts out there that specifically talk about the medical sales rep industry. For example, “The Medical Sales Podcast”, was created for people who are trying to get into medical sales and those who want to advance their careers. Making these types of podcasts a part of your daily routine can further help strengthen your expertise.


Tip #2: Become an Expert in Your Product/Medical Specialization


3 people in scrubs in an operating room
Surgeons and medical personnel view their sales reps as partners in understanding and obtaining the highest quality products for their patients. 

Unless you got your undergrad degree in medicine or science, you might be missing out on crucial context that could be costing you bigger deals.

Remember, more and more surgeons and medical personnel view their sales reps as their partners in understanding and obtaining the highest quality products for their patients. Gain their trust by being fluent in the language of your specialty.

Doctors and surgeons use the types of things you sell every day, making them the most knowledgeable customers you could sell to. Therefore, it's imperative that you are a total expert on your product. The more valuable information you can provide them and the more questions you can answer, the higher the likelihood of them becoming your customer.

Take a deep dive into your product at every opportunity. For example, it's not unusual for a medical device sales rep to get training in the operating room. There’s nothing like experiencing your product in action to really understand it and what else your client needs when using it. So, make the effort to try and capitalize on this opportunity when it is available.

If you are a pharmaceutical sales rep, do your research on the background of the medications, stay up-to-date on the newest clinical trials, etc.

It’s also incredibly important to keep up with trends in your specific industry that could affect your company/product. Set up Google Alerts to send tailored content hits straight to your inbox based on specific keywords. This can help you get ahead of breaking news or industry opportunities before they hit the mainstream. Make sure to include not only your product but emerging healthcare tech trends like wearable devices and Augmented Reality (AR).


Tip #3: Effectively Plan Out Your Day for the Best Results


Along with having a solid overall plan to keep you focused on your long-term goals, you should get in the habit of having a strategic plan for each workday. Taking some time to plan out your sales activities for a week at a time can significantly help optimize your success as a medical device sales rep.

Aside from having a clear picture of what is in store for the upcoming week, pre-planning will enable you to maximize effective time management, laser-focus your attention where it matters most, and empower you to be as effective as possible.

Of course, you can take time to manually plan out your week on your calendar. But, an even more efficient option is to utilize powerful sales planning software that will help you streamline your planning efforts and save valuable time. For example, the Smart Planner function from Map My Customers helps make sure all of your most important activities are on your calendar and can be instantly turned into an optimized route at the tap of a button.


Map My Customers Smart Planner screen
The Smart Planner function from Map My Customers makes sure your most important activities are on your calendar and can be instantly turned into an optimized route.

See a Hands-On Product Tour of Map My Customers


Tip #4: Focus Your Attention Where the Opportunities Lie


Another plus to planning out your days and improving your time management is that it gives you more time to focus on your best opportunities. Of course, all of your customers deserve your attention, but it’s important to ensure you pinpoint customers and prospects that will be the most beneficial and profitable.

Your high-value relationships will not only help drive revenue but can also lead to referrals to other hospitals, surgeons, and physicians. Once you’ve established good long-term relationships and continue to ensure they are happy, it is much easier to maintain those for the duration.

On the flip side of that, it’s also important to make sure you are not wasting your time on prospects that, after a few follow-ups, still do not seem to really be interested in closing a deal.


Tip #5: Don’t Be Afraid to Hear “No”



Thumbs down next to the word "no" written on a chalkboard.
The word "no" isn't personal, and successful reps aren't afraid to hear it.

Successful sales reps aren’t afraid of the word “no.” They know not to take it personally and that it is rarely a permanent thing. This is especially true in medical sales.

Doctors and hospitals have fluctuating budgets, staff and leadership changes, and expanding needs. What decision-makers may have determined was not a priority at one point may become a great asset in the near future. (Especially in device and equipment sales.)

Persistence is critical to becoming successful as a medical sales rep. Keep the lines of communication open with all of your prospects. Make sure to periodically follow up with those that don’t currently seem interested in what you have to sell. There could still be an opportunity for you and your products to become indispensable to them.


Tip #6: Consistently Schedule Follow-Ups


To piggyback off of being persistent, it is important to understand that even for those who don’t immediately tell you “no”, not all deals are going to close on the first contact. This is often even more true when it comes to the busy professionals you deal with in medical sales. To ensure that you are staying on top of your touches with current customers and prospects, part of your weekly planning should involve scheduling consistent follow-ups. This will keep the lines of communication open and prevent any valuable opportunities from falling through the cracks.

This is another instance where utilizing mobile-friendly sales software will streamline your efforts. You will then be able to easily schedule and manage all of your follow-ups in one central location, allowing you to stay consistent and effective even on the go.


Tip #7: Automate Your Admin Work as Much as Possible


If you haven’t already gathered, as a medical sales rep, you will only be as effective as the amount of time you can really focus on selling. So, to be as successful as possible, you need to reduce the amount of time you are spending on administrative work by utilizing automation.

Automating as many of your daily time-consuming tasks as possible will help keep you organized, improve your time management, optimize customer service, and help increase sales revenue. To be successful in today’s fast-moving healthcare world, you can’t afford not to take advantage of sales automation technology as much as possible.


Tip #8: Find a CRM that Matches Your Specific Needs as a Medical Sales Rep


Medical sales reps have to keep track of a ton of very intricate notes, must work around the complicated schedules of medical professionals, and must physically travel to clients.

One way to automate many aspects of your daily routine is by using a dynamic, intuitive, and easy-to-use CRM platform. As mentioned above, doing so can be profoundly impactful in staying organized, efficient, and successful. Selecting the right CRM can save you boatloads of time that is better spent developing leads and closing sales.

Although there are a variety of healthcare CRMs available, many of them are not built around the specific challenges that come when physical travel is a part of your daily routine. And in the tech-savvy world of medicine, you’ll want something that works smoothly on mobile devices.

Map My Customers fills these needs with route optimization and map-based territory organization tools, as well as super simple data entry, smart planning, and robust reporting capabilities.


Plug Map My Customers into your existing tech stack to seamlessly connect with your CRM, sync with your calendar, or automate workflows and notifications.

You Can Have a Successful Career as a Medical Sales Rep


According to a survey by MedReps.com of over 1400 medical sales reps, the things they value most about their job are autonomy, flexibility, and the ability to make an impact. The money came in sixth.

So becoming a “top” sales rep depends on what you value most. But, if you are wondering how to become a medical sales rep, the information and tips that we’ve highlighted in this article will not only help you become one but more importantly help build a successful career, whichever way you define that.