Career Growth On The Job

What the Top 20 Percent of Medical Sales Earners Do Differently


Like many medical sales reps, Sharon has been working hard to beat her competitors’, co-workers’, and even her own sales record. But after five years of hard work and determination, she still hasn’t reached her number one goal: being in the top 20 percent of medical sales earners.

This doesn’t mean Sharon isn’t excelling. As part of the lower 80 percent of earners, she’s still averaging an impressive $125,854. However, with the top 20 percent earning an average of $236,993, it’s no surprise Sharon is looking for ways to increase her salary.

But what’s stopping her from rising above the rest and climbing into the top 20 percent?

We gathered the information from our 2017 Medical Sales Salary Report and took a closer look to help medical sales reps understand the answer the this question.

Here’s what we found sets the top 20 percent of medical sales earners above the rest:

Type of employer

Not all medical sales jobs are created equal — and neither are employers.

In fact, the top 20 percent of earners are working for manufacturers (76 percent) while the lower 80 percent are working for distributors (12 percent), service providers (14 percent), and contractors/independent reps (6 percent).

If you’re hoping to join the majority of the top earners in a manufacturer setting, it’s best to start from the beginning. Look at what you’re selling or what you have interest in selling. Then, research manufacturers to see what products they offer. This will help you narrow down your options.

Once you have a list of those who sell products you’re passionate about, it’s time to dive deeper and find a company that matches your values, goals, and mission statements.

Job function

Climbing the medical sales ladder isn’t easy, but the top 20 percent of earners have found it well worth their effort. With most of the lower 80 percent working in the field in sales (80 percent), there are significantly more top earners in higher ranked positions like national accounts (5 percent), sales management (14 percent), and sales director/sales VP (16 percent) than those in the lower 80 percent.

While there are still many top earners in the sales field (59 percent), it’s important to know your opportunities for growth. Sit down with your manager and explain your long-term goals — for both salary and position duties. Ask them to explain how you can reach those goals with their company, and to also help you make a list of short-term goals to reach the top 20 percent of earners.

Primary market and category

You’ll find the majority of the top 20 percent of earners in both the medical/surgical device (53 percent) or capital equipment/durable medical equipment (12 percent) product categories. Most are selling these products to hospitals (28 percent) and surgery/OR (34 percent).

Meanwhile, there are significantly more lower 80 percent earners selling pharmaceuticals (17 percent) and specialty pharmaceuticals (12 percent) than those in the top 20 percent. Another major difference is that the lower earners are selling to physicians rather than hospitals and surgery/OR.

When considering a change in your category or market, first look within your current company to see if you can stay with them and simply move into the hospital and surgery/OR market. If this isn’t possible, it may be time to start looking at how your current experience would help you excel in that type of market and use it to apply for a new career.

Experience and travel

The top 20 percent aren’t jumping right into medical sales and earning big money. They’ve put in their time. In fact, most of them have been working in their field for 11-20 years (38 percent). However, most of the lower 80 percent have only been in the field for two to five years (23 percent).

Another major difference between the earners is the amount of time spent traveling. While the top 20 percent spend 20 percent of their time or more traveling, the lower 80 percent are not traveling overnight for work or only travel 10 percent of the time.

The most important thing to do when trying to grow your salary is to stay positive.

Remember, making strong relationships with clients and completely understanding your product takes time and patience. Try pursuing stronger relationships by ramping up your traveling time. Start by planning out your days at the beginning of each week to prevent yourself from wasting time or money on a disorganized route.