Medical sales representatives love their jobs, but they keep one foot out the door. Why?
This just in: New data suggests medical sales professionals really like their jobs. How much? Well, in the 2016 Best Places to Work in Medical Sales survey, 72% of employed medical sales professionals said they are either very satisfied (44%) or somewhat satisfied (28%) with their current job. This figure is up considerably from the 43% of medical sales professionals who said they were extremely or somewhat satisfied with their jobs back in 2013.
Despite the increase in satisfaction, the percentage of medical sales professionals contemplating a job change holds relatively steady – from 53% who said they were in an active job search in 2013 to 47% saying they are likely or somewhat likely to leave their current job this year.
So what gives? Why the love hate relationship with medical and pharmaceutical sales jobs? We took a deeper dive into the answers provided in the Best Places to Work survey to learn more about job satisfaction in medical sales.
About the survey:
More than 1,400 medical sales professionals took the 2016 Best Places to Work survey. Respondents not only voted for the company they would most like to work for, but they also answered questions about what they value most in an employer, how satisfied they are in their jobs, and what they like most and least about their jobs.
Their answers regarding the best medical sales companies to work for can be found in the 2016 Best Places to Work Report. An analysis of their responses related to job satisfaction follows.
Medical Sales Salaries & Job Satisfaction
There is certainly a lot to like about medical sales jobs – starting with medical sales salaries. According to the 2015 Medical Sales Salary Report, medical sales professionals earn an average total compensation of $141,464 and typically receive benefits such as health insurance, 401ks, and expense accounts. Due to extensive travel, many also receive a company car, mileage reimbursement, and/or a gas card.
While the compensation is impressive by most standards, is it driving the high job satisfaction in medical sales? The answer is complicated. In looking at the Medical Sales Salary Report, there is a clear correlation between income and job satisfaction. The average income for those who said they were “very satisfied” with their overall jobs is higher than those who said they were “somewhat satisfied.” This trend continues, with those who reported being “very unsatisfied” with their overall job also reporting the lowest average income. So, there is clearly a correlation, but we can’t say for certain that income was the cause of the decreased job satisfaction.
Money is certainly important to job satisfaction, but when we asked reps what they like most about their medical sales jobs, money was not the answer given most frequently. In fact, money didn’t even make it into the top five.
What Do Medical Sales Reps Love About Their Jobs?
As part of the Best Places to Work in Medical Sales survey, we asked respondents to tell us the thing they liked most about their current jobs. We then ranked their answers by the number of votes received to form a top 10 list (see full list on infographic below), and as it turns out, relationships with healthcare providers and patients topped the list. Medical sales professionals enjoy working side by side with healthcare providers to educate them and make their jobs easier. They also love the fact that what they do often has a direct impact on patient outcomes. In fact, 12% of survey respondents cited the “Ability to Make an Impact” as the best part of the job.
Medical sales reps also enjoy the autonomy and flexibility that the job affords. Because much of their time is spent in the field, they have the ability to structure their time, and in many cases, their call strategy. They are also entrusted to make decisions based on the needs of their clients. Many medical sales professionals say they feel like they are “running their own business” despite the fact that they are usually a small part of a much larger operation.
While sales reps spend a lot of time working independently, they enjoy and rely on the support of their colleagues – both virtually and at in-person sales meetings and team meetups. Despite the cutthroat reputation of salespeople, 8% of our respondents said their Colleagues are the best part of their jobs.
And rounding out the top 5 on the list, medical sales professionals value a strong product, and 7% said it is the best part of the job. Whether that’s because a great product makes for an easy sale or because it makes an impact, we can’t say, but “Product” was among the top 5 things mentioned when asked what medical sales reps enjoy most about their jobs. Other frequently mentioned answers were Money, Management, Culture, the “Hunt,” and Work-Life Balance.
The Worst Parts of Medical Sales Jobs
Of course every job has its pros and cons, so we also asked respondents to tell us what they like least about medical sales jobs. While 6% of survey respondents answered with an optimistic (if somewhat naïve) “Nothing!” most medical sales representatives had something to say on the topic.
The most commonly given answer to the question, “What do you like least about your job?” was “Management/Leadership.” From direct supervisors to leadership at the executive level, nothing has a more negative impact on job satisfaction than unqualified, unappreciative, or unethical leadership. Medical sales professionals work hard and they expect those above them to appreciate and respect what they do in the field. When they feel their efforts aren’t recognized or that they are being asked to do tasks that won’t help them achieve their goals, their job satisfaction declines rapidly.
And while money may not have made the top 5 things to love about medical sales jobs, it came in second on this list. Respondents giving this answer often expounded by describing a particularly limiting commission structure or a product/territory/management policy/etc. causing them to earn less than they feel they would be earning in another job. These added details suggest that money is usually a symptom of a bigger problem rather than the primary source of dissatisfaction.
Other sources of dissatisfaction include excessive travel and admin work. While both of these are inevitable with field sales jobs, some medical sales jobs require more than others, often causing lower than average job satisfaction levels. Too much travel can also lead to a feeling of having no Work-Life Balance, which came in 4th on the list. These respondents feel they have too much to do and not enough time to do it without sacrificing their personal lives.
Changing healthcare regulations were also cited as a negative of the job. Government policies can impact everything from a rep’s access to docs to how a product is reimbursed, so these changing regulations are a constant source of stress for many reps working in the field. Other job stressors include poor Corporate Culture, Instability, Lack of Support, and Product.
There are ups and downs to every job, and even the happiest medical sales representatives usually have something they don’t necessarily love about their medical sales jobs. Whether it’s the travel, the admin work or a bigger issue like bad management or poor compensation, these factors can diminish the power of the more positive aspects of the job, such as the relationships, the autonomy, and the ability to make an impact.
Job satisfaction in medical sales jobs is higher than it’s been since MedReps began measuring. However, there’s no denying that factors such as bad managers, poor compensation plans, instability in the market, and even things like excessive travel and admin, cause many medical sales professionals to keep one foot out the door – or, at least, one eye on the medical sales job market.