Breaking into Medical Sales Job Search

How to Transition From Nursing to Medical Sales

Nursing, like medical sales, has always been an essential job in our society. Both professions take hard work, skill and dedication in order to be successful. If you’re a nurse who’s looking to transition into the field of medical sales, you might be surprised at how similar the skill set for both roles truly is. 

What is Medical Sales?

To understand how to break into medical sales, it’s important to understand the difference between selling medical devices and selling pharmaceutical products. At first glance, it’s easy to assume these two jobs are very similar, or even the same. 

In fact, these are two very different types of sales jobs. First, we will provide a short and overly simplified explanation on the differences, so you can determine which one really suits your personality. Then, we’ll focus on how to transition from nursing to either type of sales position.  

Here are the definitions of both medical and pharmaceutical sales: 

  • Medical device sales is the process of selling a device or disposable medical products and asking for a purchase order to get it billed and shipped. Thus, it is about asking for the order with many steps in-between.  
  • Pharmaceutical sales is about getting a physician to prescribe their company’s drug to his or her patient. Some pharma sales people call only on doctor offices, while others call upon the hospital.  Sometimes, a pharma rep is a combination of both call points.

A medical device sales representative does not make a sale until they gain approval from a clinical decision maker, gain a purchase order from the facility they represent (hospital, surgery center, clinic, physician office) and confirm shipment. A pharma rep. gets a sale after “detailing” a product to a doctor, hoping the doctor will prescribe their product to the patient and then ultimately get a sale as recorded by a pharmacy or hospital pharmacy within their territory.  

Both types of jobs, medical device and pharmaceutical sales, are about selling a product, but the point of purchase inherently makes the two jobs completely different.

Medical Device sales is usually seen as a much more aggressive sale, and Pharmaceutical sales is a more passive type of selling via educating or detailing products for gaining prescriptions. First, decide which one you are better suited for.

So how does a nurse jump into either medical sales role right from their nursing job? It can be a difficult maneuver, but it can be done with willpower and confidence. In fact, those are the two skills you will need in either sales position. 

Get to Know Your Medical Sales Reps

Do make sure you meet and greet the sales people as they enter your hospital. Introduce yourself and be friendly to them. This may seem self-serving, but they are there doing the same thing: meeting and being friendly to potential customers within your hospital to sell their products or service.  Here are the steps you can take to get to know them better: 

  1. Ask them for their business card and let them know your desire to be doing what they are doing for a living.  
  2. Ask them how they started their career. 
  3. Find out if they have associate sales roles at their company or if their company hires nurses as sales people.  
  4. Ask if you could connect with them on LinkedIn as you begin your quest to attain a medical sales job.
  5. After you have an established business relationship, ask if you could be introduced to their manager.
  6. Make sure you do not violate your employer’s guidelines during this process. Do not do anything to risk losing the job you have or create conflict for the sales representative.

Use Job Boards and LinkedIn

It only take one candidate to fill a job. Often, clients want five to seven candidates to interview for a position, but we know only one person gets the job. On the other side of the coin, it only takes one job for you to get a break into medical sales, so keep applying to jobs and looking for job postings that may be a good fit.

  1. Keep using job boards and keep looking for pharma or medical sales jobs that may allow a nurse the opportunity for an entry level sales position. Look for associate sales positions too.
  2. Utilize to set up job alerts sent directly to you with “Associate Sales Position” and “Medical Sales” as keywords.
  3. Be active on LinkedIn and use a professional profile picture that makes you look like a medical sales representative.
  4. Reach out to district managers and medical sales people employed by companies you are interested in.

Apply to Entry-Level Roles

Though one can make more money as a BSN in a hospital than in an entry level sales job, these positions have excellent sales training programs. If you stay with one company for two to three years with top sales, medical device and pharmaceutical sales companies will hop on your resume immediately when you apply to their job openings.

It is important you select the right B2B sales company. You may jump into this sales position and either love it or hate it, but in the end, you will know if you truly want to get into medical sales. As a nurse, you can always go back to your hospital job.

Ultimately, a job candidate must take on the burden of finding their next job opportunity and make sure they are using an approach that is strategic, given their current qualifications against those required of a position. In the situation of a nurse attempting to cross directly over into a medical sales position, utilizing the strategies mentioned above will increase the probability of a successful outcome.