Breaking into Medical Sales Featured

Finding the Sales Salary Sweet Spot

When looking for a job, one of the main concerns is pay. Companies generally compensate sales reps through base salary, commission, or a combination of both. There’s no denying that salary and benefits are two of the most crucial aspects of the job search. 

However, there’s more to consider than just numbers. The competition of the sales market in your area could play a significant role in what you’ll take home. You also need to consider how benefits the company offers factor into total compensation packages when making a job decision. 

To determine what medical sales rep salary fits your lifestyle needs, there are several aspects to consider. 

Compensation compared to cost of living

When scoping out medical sales rep salary potential, it’s important to distinguish the difference between base pay and commission. Base salary is a guaranteed payment for your sales service, while commission is based on performance and completion of sales goals. 

Each company structures their pay differently, so it’s vital to find out how the companies you’re interviewing with determine pay structure.

One of the most important factors to consider when determining what compensation you’re looking for is cost of living. When calculating costs you should consider expenses like utilities, vehicle/travel costs, child care, and general bills. The living wage calculator created by MIT can be a helpful tool to determine what kind of income is needed to maintain your lifestyle based on your living location.

Take, for instance, the New England region of the United States has the highest base salary in the country for medical sales, averaging at $112,420, according to our 2021 Medical Sales Salary Report. However, the cost of living in this region is also one of the highest in the country. 

If a company is offering both salary and commission, you should determine your living expenses based solely on the base salary compensation, since commission will vary depending on goals achieved and percentage structures. 

If a company pays mostly through commission you should consider your confidence in your knowledge, ability, and personal drive to earn the total compensation needed to fit your lifestyle. 

Competition of sales area

It’s not only important to know the difference in pay structure, but also the competition of the sales area. Depending on the type of medical sales you’re doing, competition will vary. 

For example, dental sales reps focus mainly on selling to private practices, while medical device sales reps work more with hospitals and public health systems. Different types of medical sales markets will have more competition over others.

Since many medical sales jobs use some form of a commission structure, it’s also important to consider the population of an area and what kind of competition you’re up against. In smaller regions with higher population, you’re likely to have more competition than a lower population in a larger region. 

Let’s talk numbers for perspective:

New England

As mentioned, New England has the highest total average earning for medical sales reps coming in around $186,219. The average home in Massachusetts costs $497,986 and the population is around 6.83 million people. 

What this means: This region may have the highest income for medical sales reps, but cost of living is higher than average and there’s likely to be more competition among sales reps due to the small geographical vicinity and vast amount of medical centers in the region.

Midwest
The Midwest region looks very different. According to our 2021 Medical Sales Salary Report, the total average earning in this region is $177,803, but cost of living is much lower. The average home cost in the state of Minnesota is $291,925. The population is 5.64 million people, covering a much larger geographical location. 

What this means: Total average earnings for sales reps may not be as high as other regions, but cost of living is much lower and it’s likely to have less competition in sales. 

Pacific
Meanwhile, the Pacific region has the highest commission earnings in the country, rounding out around $83,150 a year ($178,402 total average compensation). The average home price in the state of California is $654,629 in a state with 39.5 million people. 

What this means: The Pacific region is one of the most expensive to live in and has one of the largest populations. Competition is going to be high, so companies are willing to pay more in commission for you to work harder to bring in sales. 

The takeaway is, if your pay is mostly based on commission and you’re in an area with higher competition, you may have to work much harder to earn the highest possible pay. Keeping this in mind, understanding your work ethic and what drives you to be successful is important when making sales job decisions. 

Salary based on sales market

When entering the world of medical sales, the type of sales market you work in will affect your total compensation as well. For example, pharmaceutical sales reps as an industry take home a different salary than biotech sales reps, which differs from what can be expected as a medical equipment sales rep. 

Surprisingly, your education and sales experience will impact the base salary you’re offered, possibly more than the market you choose to go into as many medical sales skills are transferable. 

You need to consider what sales jobs are available in your location unless you’re willing to relocate. Biotech sales jobs may appeal to you and fit your background, however, if you live in an area with limited roles open in that market, you may be able to find an equally satisfying sales role in pharma sales. 

As you consider different medical sales rep jobs, you should keep in mind what type of role fits your personality best and what will bring you the most satisfaction. Some markets will lead you to working side-by-side with doctors walking them through the use of your product — something you might want to avoid if you’re squeamish. 

Others will compensate you more for traveling roles, but if you don’t want to be on the road more than 50% of the time, you may want to look for a position that doesn’t require travel to meet high commission goals.

What do these markets look like?

  • – Pharmaceutical sales reps focus on distribution of pharmaceutical drugs, devices, and treatments. They try to convince medical professionals that their products are the best on the market over their competitors.The average salary for pharmaceutical reps in 2021 is $158,013, according to the Pharmaceutical Sales Salary Report.
  • – Biotech sales reps positions are similar to pharmaceutical sales, but they typically focus more on cutting-edge biotechnology and, often, breakthroughs like vaccinations. In 2021, the average salary for biotech sales was $198,523 according to the Biotech Sales Salary Report.
  • – Medical Equipment sales reps are responsible for the sale and distribution of medical devices to hospitals, health systems, doctors offices, and clinics. While they do sell “big-ticket” items, they also are responsible for the smaller, day-to-day items used in these settings. According to the most recent Medical Equipment Sales Salary Report, sales reps in this industry average approximately $188,351 a year. 
  • – Surgical sales reps specialize in surgical materials and devices. They often are in the room during surgeries to talk doctors through the benefits and effectiveness of their product, while it’s in use. These reps report taking home an average of $176,056 in a year according to our 2021 Surgical Sales Salary Report.

Benefits that matter

Finally, when exploring medical sales rep positions, it’s also important to look at what benefits each position provides outside of direct compensation. Depending on your lifestyle, some benefits might be more relevant to you than others. 

One major benefit to consider is paid time off (vacation days) and sick leave. Often as your tenure at a company increases you will gain more of these to use per year. Along with sick time, check out what insurance benefits they provide and whether the coverage is sufficient for your needs. 

If you’re planning on having children during your time at the company, ask about paternity/maternity leave. Since the United States does not have a required paid parental leave policy, this is essential information to find out if your lifestyle trends towards needing this benefit. The good news is, family benefits like paternity leave are on the rise in medical sales jobs!

Another common benefit that accompanies medical sales rep salary, is allowances. Due to the nature of the job, many companies offer allowances towards travel (car maintenance, gas, parking, tolls), phone use, and sometimes even internet. This is usually a set number per month that is given to employees based on need, or can be expensable. Depending on your role with the company you will want to find out what your options are.

Lastly, consider the company’s retirement options. Most companies offer at least a 401K option, but some may even offer stock to their employees. It’s easy to think about the immediate benefits a company offers, but you should also think about what your future holds and how your new role can lead you to the lifestyle you desire. 


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