Have you ever introduced yourself as a medical device sales rep and found yourself identified as a pharmaceutical sales rep instead? It is not unusual for “medical sales” to be categorized in one big industry, regardless of its industry, niche, and product.
However, we will discuss the differences between medical device sales reps and pharmaceutical reps, both of which are potential careers in healthcare.
So, whether you are an aspiring healthcare graduate or someone looking forward to explaining the difference better, join us as we navigate the medical device vs. pharmaceutical industry difference.
Medical Device Sales vs. Pharmaceuticals – How are they Different?
Medical Device Sales and the Pharmaceutical Industry are integral to the healthcare sector. However, as similar as many people perceive them, the two are distinct in many ways.
Let’s start with the fundamental difference.
What is the difference between medical device sales and the pharmaceutical industry?
The answer is simple, and it lies in the name.
The medical device sales industry deals with the selling of various mechanical equipment and devices used in healthcare settings. Such devices include simple everyday products like thermometers and bandages to complex equipment like surgical instruments, machinery, and implants.
On the other hand, the pharmaceutical industry deals with synthesizing medications, drugs, and chemical compounds used to diagnose, cure, manage, and prevent diseases.
Difference in Prescription and Regulation
Your physician might not typically prescribe you a medical device, but they will prescribe you a medication. However, medical devices and pharmaceutical products are regulated for safety, effectiveness, and quality.
Learn more about regulatory affairs in the pharmaceutical industry here.
Difference in Sales
One might wonder how pharma sales are different from medical sales.
Before we discuss the difference in detail, here’s a quick overview. Medical device sales focus on demonstrating the device’s technical specifications, benefits, and utility. In such cases, the sales reps often provide technical support and training.
On the contrary, in the pharmaceutical industry, the sales approach involves educating the healthcare providers about the drug’s therapeutic benefits, dosage, and potential side effects.
Let’s move on to the detailed comparison of pharma and medical sales.
Medical device sales are technical and demonstrate the device’s technical specifications, advantages, and practical usage. Therefore, medical device sales reps often offer technical assistance and training to the staff and educate them about the product’s clinical value.
Furthermore, medical device sales have a tangible, evident end, as the deal closes once the medical facility purchases or signs a contract for the product. In such cases, the sales rep is crucial in negotiations and can improve the deal through various strategies.
On the other hand, pharmaceutical sales are primarily educational and target healthcare providers. It involves providing samples of prescription drugs and persuading healthcare providers to prescribe them.
For effective physician persuasion, pharma sales reps opt for a “detailing” approach, emphasizing the effectiveness and therapeutic benefits. The sales reps may support their claims with clinical evidence. However, they must complete their presentation quickly due to limited physician interaction.
In pharmaceutical sales, there is no immediate, tangible sale closure. In such cases, the sales rep must wait a couple of weeks for physicians to prescribe their drug. Therefore, their ability to influence the deal’s closure after meeting with the physician is restricted.
Comparision of 2 Sales Cycle:
In medical device sales, the sale cycle length is significantly longer. It varies with the specific product, ranging from several months to a few years. Medical sale contracts for most products typically span 3-5 years, and the opportunity to secure the deal arises once the contract is due for renewal or during hospital upgrades. However, physicians may make immediate decisions based on their clinical needs, product availability, or the sales rep’s presence.
Pharmaceutical sales cycles, on the other hand, are shorter. A conversation with physicians can lead to new prescriptions within weeks. Furthermore, pharma reps can maintain business and ensure a steady prescription flow through consistent education, clinical support, and sample delivery.
Medical Device Sales Reps vs. Pharmaceutical Sales Reps – Are They the Same?
Medical device and pharmaceutical reps are similar in their work and target audience, as they sell something to the healthcare industry. However, they are distinct on a broad scale, varying in their salary, approach, and presentation.
Let’s have a look at how the two careers differ in terms of:
1- Salary and Bonus
Pharmaceutical reps have a higher base salary followed by quarterly capped bonuses. According to Glassdoor, their pay ranges from $73K to $210K, whereas Reddit suggests a pay range from $60K to $135K.
Pharmaceutical reps do not make a commission until the pharmacist prescribes their drug. Hence, the income depends on the physician and the rep’s persistence and relationship skills.
On the other hand, medical device sales reps may have a lower base salary, but they earn monthly uncapped increments. Furthermore, Glassdoor estimates their pay to range between $74K and $217K, whereas Reddit suggests a pay range between $46 to $112K.
Medical device sales can secure a commission immediately after the initial contract with the physician or the medical facility. Therefore, they must remain steadfast during their presentation but don’t need to strive once an agreement is complete.
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Pharmaceutical reps are usually within a territory and in a team of 2-5 people. Each sales rep communicates with the same physician, and a successful sale occurs when everyone meets their goal.
On the contrary, medical device sales reps operate as individuals, and the other sales reps do not cross over each other’s territory.
You are most likely to find a pharmaceutical rep in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. However, you can find a medical device sales rep anywhere from a waiting room to the OR – explaining the potential of a device or equipment.
The Role of a Medical Device Sales Representative: How Can it Be Different Than a Pharma Sales Rep?
We have drawn a parallel between the pharma and the medical device industry and their crucial sales representatives. Now is the time to help medical device sales reps distinguish their game from pharma reps and establish their unparalleled identity.
1. Dedicate More Time to Sales
A key difference between medical device and pharmaceutical-style sales is the time needed to present a product.
Pharmaceutical reps usually have brief meetings of 20-30 minutes to present the drug’s benefits and correlate them with clinical studies. In contrast, medical device reps may require longer for a comprehensive presentation. In some cases, they might even provide a hands-on demonstration, and hence, it is crucial to schedule appointments accordingly.
2. Prefer Demonstrating the Device
Medical devices, ranging from thermometers to critical devices like pacemakers, are pivotal for patient well-being. Hence, successful product demonstrations are paramount for medical device sales representatives. They do so through live demonstrations or with a dummy model to showcase device functionality and setup.
Medical device sales reps must ensure a convincing demo through adequate preparation. Some imperative pre-presentations include gathering necessary supplies like leads, wires, and power supplies and dedicating time to cleaning up and packing up post-presentations.
3. Bring Samples with You
You might not know it, but for devices that are easier to use, the tactile sensation does more wonders than sales literature. Hence, it is better to carry samples of instruments such as tongue depressors and stethoscopes. For such devices, the customer prefers first-hand experience during the med device sales to feel the weight and see how the product works.
For instance, a tongue depressor may vary in thickness and sturdiness. Hence, you can prove it better by using it on paper, but it wouldn’t be the same as the customer trying it.
4. Know What Your Customers Want
Developing professional relationships with customers is crucial for successful medical device sales. Through fostering these relationships, salespeople can understand their customers’ wants, needs, and goals.
A viable strategy is to engage in a value-added conversation with open-ended questions to understand the consumer’s pain points. The medical sales rep can tailor their presentation to address their specific requirements. By the end of the session, demonstrate how the device fulfills all their needs.
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