Rethink Recruiting

What Should You Be Looking for in a Medical Sales Rep?

Medical sales reps interact with doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and formulary managers. They may travel to doctors’ offices, clinics, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities, providing information about the products they represent, encouraging health professionals to use or prescribe them.

It’s not for everyone. A medical sales rep has to be willing to make cold calls, and increasingly must deal with hospital formulary managers rather than doctors themselves. It’s hard work, but, for the right person, it pays off both personally and for the company whose products he or she represents. Here are some thoughts on qualities you should expect when you hire a medical sales rep.

Medical and Scientific Knowledge

Selling pharmaceuticals or medical devices isn’t like selling other consumer goods. Not only are these products highly regulated, they require serious scientific and medical knowledge to understand thoroughly and to be able to communicate their properties with medical decision-makers. A medical sales rep should be able to tell his or her client how a product works, what clinical studies have shown, and who the products are well-suited for. Yet, just being able to rattle off a cascade of scientific facts and clinical trial results isn’t enough in this job.

Sales Skills

Medical sales reps must possess many of the same sales skills that other sales professionals have. In other words, they must be personable, outgoing, positive, and good listeners. The pharmaceutical or biotech rep must also have a thick skin at times, because target customers aren’t always happy about seeing a pharma rep on the doorstep. Reps must show outstanding courtesy to office staff members and be ready to pick up and move on to the next call if the current call isn’t productive.

Initiative and Self-Discipline

Medical sales representatives usually have quite a bit of autonomy. They may cover a particular sales territory, but how they cover it may be largely up to them. To succeed, reps must be self-starters and must have the initiative to tackle challenges on their own. Also required is the self-discipline to follow through and develop lasting relationships with those who make decisions about purchasing or prescribing their products. Strong organizational skills are necessary as well, to ensure accuracy in individual client interactions and to fulfill reporting and other regulatory requirements.

Awareness of their Role in Public


An outstanding medical sales rep understands how his or her role must adapt to different client settings.

Medical sales reps Must look neat and pulled-together while out on sales calls. They should know how to communicate and act professionally and how to adapt to differing situations. For example, speaking with an independent physician or speaking with a formulary manager for a hospital system require somewhat different approaches. The best sales reps are able to gauge situations and adapt appropriately. Reps should be aware that, whenever they’re out on calls, they are the “face” of your company and should take that responsibility seriously.

Strong Emotional Intelligence

Good emotional intelligence is essential for a successful medical sales rep. The naturally ebullient rep needs to know when to dial back, and the quieter rep needs to know when to be more assertive. Reps don’t have to adopt different personalities based on clientele, but they do need to understand their own tendencies and how they are perceived by others. This kind of self-awareness is indispensable in a field that not only requires outstanding technical knowledge, but also interaction based on sometimes serious medical conditions.

The role of the pharmaceutical sales recruiter or hiring manager is demanding. Being a medical sales rep is a potentially lucrative career for the right person, but no company has time for a lot of trial and error in putting together the best sales team. In many instances, hiring managers choose to work with specialty recruiters in the pharmaceutical sector to accelerate the hiring process and to find candidates that may not have shown up on the hiring manager’s radar otherwise.

The specialty recruiter with the longstanding, extensive network can make an enormous difference in how smoothly the hiring process goes. If you’re a pharmaceutical hiring manager or HR professional, we invite you to check out our recruiting options and get in touch if you’re committed to hiring only the best medical sales reps.

About Rethink Recruiting

The recruiting landscape is changing as a result of technology, culture, and the increasing demands for unique skills and experience in emerging fields. Rethink Recruiting provides insights about trends and strategies to maximize your talent potential.

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