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Nice to Have vs. Must-Have Skills in Medical Sales

When it comes to working in medical sales, you need to have a certain set of skills. After all, you’ll be spending your days speaking with people, discussing their needs and how the products and company that you represent can fill them, and coordinating your schedule in order to make appointments with your clients.

These skills can be divided into two main groups: those that you “must-have” in order to be successful and those that are “nice to have.” The skills in the latter category aren’t necessary, but they will help you out quite a bit if you possess them. Wondering which skills fit into each category? Keep reading to find out.

Must-Have Skills

There are a number of skills that people who work in medical sales need to have. If you want to meet your sales goals and earn commissions, then these skills are a necessity. They should be emphasized on your resume, and your past experiences need to attest to them. Some of these skills will help you stay organized, while others will help you when interacting with your clients.

People Skills

Working in sales requires you to interact with a number of different people. You’ll encounter physicians, their assistants, surgeons, hospital department heads, and more, depending on the exact type of products that you’re selling. In order for these interactions to be positive, you need to be personable and be able to speak to just about everyone. If you’re someone who has never met a stranger, then you definitely have the right people skills for the job.

Time Management Skills

Since medical sales reps often end up making their own appointment schedules and having to do quite a bit of paperwork after they make a sale, they have a lot on their hands. In order to get everything done each day, you need to have very good time management skills to be a successful medical sales rep. You’ll end up balancing quite a few things at once, from answering phone calls and text messages to setting appointments and emailing reports to your bosses, so being able to multi-task is another huge part of this. The better you are at time management, the more likely you’ll be to get everything done.

Research Skills

Although you’ll receive plenty of information about the products you’re selling from the company you work for, you’ll still need to do different kinds of research in order to be good at your job. Having the skills to find the information that you need, as well as the ability to pay attention while looking up everything, is crucial.

What will you need to research? Well, not only will you have to read through medical journals in order to learn more about your employer’s medical niche, but you also have to stay on top of any trends in your area, as far as things like demographics and medical needs are concerned. This way, you can sell the right products to the right people in the right areas.

Communication Skills

Communication skills are often confused with people skills. However, they are two very different things. You can be a good communicator and not be a people person, or vice versa. For example, someone who is great at writing up reports, filling out paperwork, sending emails, and so on, is a good communicator.

If you have both the communication skills and the people skills, then you’ll have everything that you need to meet your sales goals. After all, there are many various methods of clearly communicating with your bosses, colleagues, and clients, and it’s important to master them all.

Nice to Have Skills

While some skills are absolute must-haves, others are simply nice to have. If you possess these skills and want to work in medical sales, then you’re definitely off to a great start. However, the good news is that if you don’t, then you can either learn these skills to become more well-rounded or simply focus on mastering your must-have skills. So, what are the skills that it’s nice to have? Let’s find out.


What is a showman? The word brings up visions of snake oil salespeople during the 19th century, or even made for TV product pitchmen. Depending on the type of sales that you’re in, showmanship may or may not be useful. Someone who does medical product demonstrations will need to be a bit of a showman, but sales reps hawking medications don’t necessarily need this skill.


It might seem strange to see “determination” on the nice to have list. After all, don’t you need to be determined to sell your products after hearing the word “no” every single day?

Well, medical sales are a little different than going door-to-door selling vacuums. You definitely must be determined for the latter, but for the former, you’re making informed sales calls to people who already know what your company is capable of. It’s an entirely different ballgame, so to speak.


This one can be difficult for many people. Think about it. How flexible are you? If a new medication passes the drug trials, how long does it take you to adjust to selling it to your clients? Some people are simply up for anything and go with the flow, while others need to do some research first, as change takes some getting used to.

Luckily, both types of people can be successful in medical sales, as you don’t really need to be up for anything at any time. You’ll have an appointment schedule to follow and will have plenty of warnings before new products are released. However, having the ability to be flexible is always a great trait, and is sure to be appreciated by your clients and managers.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are two different sets of skills that you need to possess in order to work in medical sales. One type, which consists of people and communication skills, time management, and research, are must-haves. The others are nice to have, but you can do the job without them. It’s entirely possible to meet your sales goals with just the must-haves. So, find your strengths, hone in on them, and do what you do best!