Medical Device vs Pharmaceutical Sales Careers

Choosing a career path in the healthcare sales industry can be daunting, especially when weighing medical device sales against pharmaceutical sales. Both fields promise lucrative earnings and growth opportunities yet differ significantly in roles, responsibilities, and structure.

This informative blog will help to clarify these differences and aid you in making an informed decision about your future career. 

Key Takeaways of Medical Device Sales vs Pharmaceutical Sales

  • Medical sales is about selling health tools or drugs. The right one for you depends on what things interest you.
  • Selling medical devices needs tech skills and a lot of travel. Selling drugs focuses more on building ties with doctors in a small area.
  • Pay structures differ. Drug sellers have higher base pay, while device sellers can earn big commissions.
  • Both jobs require good customer service after the sale too!

Understanding Medical Device Sales and Pharmaceutical Sales

This section delves into the fundamental aspects of both medical device sales and pharmaceutical sales, examining the types of products sold, individual sales models, length of selling cycles, key decision-makers involved in purchases, as well as contract elements and formularies associated with each sector.

Types of products sold

Medical device sales and pharmaceutical sales involve different kinds of products. On one hand, medical device sales can include a range of goods:

  1. Healthcare supplies
  2. Diagnostic equipment
  3. Surgical instruments
  4. Rehabilitation devices
  5. Imaging technology
  1. Drug formulations
  2. Over-the-counter products
  3. Prescription medications
  4. Biomedical technology

Sales models

Selling medical devices and drugs use different sales models.

  • The model for selling medical devices focuses on technical know – how. Sales representatives need to understand the device well.
  • They must also explain how the device works to doctors and other healthcare workers.
  • Often, it involves hands – on demos of the device.
  • Relationship building is also important in this model but more focus is given to the product’s features and usage.
  • It uses a model where building relationships is key.
  • Instead of focusing on the product’s tech side, reps focus more on showing doctors why their drug is better than others.
  • Selling cycles are shorter and sales volumes are more predictable in this model.

Sales cycle

The sales cycle in medical device sales can be long. It may take months or even years to finish a sale. This is not like the quick sales in pharmaceutical work. The length of the sale means that good talking skills are key to success in medical device sales.

Good product knowledge and relationship building also matter a lot. Lastly, getting deals done needs smart closing techniques and a deep study of the market.

Decision makers and call points

In medical device sales, the decision makers can change. It depends on the product being sold and how many doctors are involved. But in pharmaceutical sales, the focus is more on relationships.

Sales reps target healthcare professionals to make their products known. This means knowing who to talk to is key in both fields for effective sales strategies. A hands-on technical approach is often used for selling medical devices due to its nature of usage at different levels within healthcare facilities.

Contracting and formularies

Contracting is key in both medical device and pharmaceutical sales. Medical device sellers often talk with healthcare providers and hospitals. They want these groups to buy their devices.

Pharmaceutical firms also form contracts. They talk with health groups about adding their goods on formularies, or approved lists of medicines and devices. Medical device sellers must keep tabs on these lists to make sure doctors can use their items.

Differences in Job Location and Territory Size

Medical device sales and pharmaceutical sales differ significantly in terms of job location and territory size.

Medical Device SalesPharmaceutical Sales Job Location Medical device sales representatives often work out of home offices. They typically travel extensively across larger territories to meet with medical professionals and hospitals. Pharmaceutical sales representatives are usually based in specific locations. They generally focus on a more localized area, visiting doctors’ offices, pharmacies, and healthcare facilities within a given region.

Territory SizeThe territories covered by medical device sales representatives are often broader. These larger territories offer greater opportunities for success but demand more extensive travel and more significant forecasting roles.Pharmaceutical sales representatives cover smaller, more localized territories. These smaller territories limit the amount of traveling involved but may also limit the potential for sales growth due to a smaller number of prospective clients.

Whether a sales representative prefers a larger territory with extensive travel or a smaller, localized area will depend on their personal preferences and career goals.

Daily Schedules and Training

Medical device sales reps often have a busy day. Their schedules are not the same each day. This is different from pharmaceutical sales reps who follow a set path each day. Sometimes, medical sales reps need to be in the operating room with doctors.

This can make their job stressful. They must know a lot about their products and how they work.

The selling cycles for these jobs are also different. Medical device sales can take more time than pharmaceutical sales. The reason is that medical devices are complex and require hands-on knowledge.

Building relationships is key in both fields but takes on different forms. For pharmaceutical reps, they focus more on building ties with healthcare providers over time through regular visits and talks.

But for medical device sellers, technical skills come first since doctors turn to them for advice on using the devices safely and effectively.

In short, training plays an important role in both of these careers paths but varies depending on the type of product being sold.

Performance Metrics

In the realm of medical device sales, performance metrics tend to focus more on revenue per unit, whereas in pharmaceutical sales, market share is the key determinant. Additionally, team selling plays a crucial part in pharmaceuticals while individual territory management dominates in medical device sales.

Revenue/unit driven in medical device sales

Money earned per unit sold is how you judge success in medical device sales. Your job is to sell a lot of devices and make a lot of money for your company. Selling more units brings more cash in.

A small uptick in units sold can mean big growth in revenue, especially with high-cost items like medical devices. This means the pressure is on to keep selling all the time.

Market share driven in pharmaceutical sales

Pharmaceutical sales need a focus on market share. Companies use key performance indicators (KPIs) to track this. It’s not just about how much they sell. They also look at the part of the total market that uses their medicines.

Building strong ties with healthcare workers is vital for success in pharmaceutical sales. These relationships can boost a firm’s market share. The future holds exciting changes as well.

More and more, companies mix different ways of selling to increase their reach and win more of the market.

Team selling in pharmaceutical sales

Team selling is key in pharmaceutical sales. It’s a way to sell drugs and boost customer happiness. Teams of sales reps bring together their skills to push product sales. This group work style is part of the performance metrics in the drug sale field.

It helps make selling methods better and more useful. By working as a team, they can get more done and reach bigger goals than by working alone.

Individual territory management in medical device sales

In medical device sales, each sales rep covers their own area. They usually sell the devices to a big area. This is different from selling pills where more reps may work in one small place.

Sometimes, the areas for device sales can be quite large. The rep must know all about their product and who might buy it in that area. This means they are very busy! While this takes hard work, good territory management often leads to success.

Compensation and Bonuses

In comparing medical device sales and pharmaceutical sales, it’s essential to examine salary structures; while pharmaceutical sales often offer a higher base salary, medical device sales tend to yield greater commission payouts.

Higher base salary in pharmaceutical sales

If you work in pharmaceutical sales, you can earn a high base salary. It is more than what medical device sales representatives get. This makes the job attractive to many people. But making big money needs hard work and good skills in building relationships.

The paycheck of a pharmaceutical sales rep includes not just their base pay but also bonuses and commissions. Still, they end up earning less overall compared to other medical sales professionals like biotech reps.

Higher commission payout in medical device sales

In the medical sales industry, medical device sales often lead to bigger commission payouts. The pay structure gives a base salary plus extra for each sale made. This means the more you sell, the more money in your pocket at the end of the month! There is no limit on how much can be earned.

It’s referred to as ‘uncapped earning potential‘. As well, benefits are usually part of this job too. In 2018, workers selling medical devices made more than most other jobs across America! This makes it a great career option if you want high rewards for hard work.

Post-Sale Service Scope

In medical device sales, after a sale is made the job is not done. The post-sale service scope is very big. There’s a lot of work with current customers while also looking for new ones.

This means keeping up strong customer support and relationship management.

On the other hand, pharmaceutical sales people have different tasks. After they make a sale, they maintain their relationships with customers and keep giving them good service. So, in this field too, ongoing customer service and managing relations are key to success.

To choose between these two paths think about one factor: how much you want to be involved in post-sale services. Both jobs need great communication skills and they both need you to build solid ties with healthcare professionals.

Advancement Opportunities and Career Growth

Exploring the potential for growth in both medical device and pharmaceutical sales, discussing areas such as skill set development and career mobility. Discover which field offers more chances for elevation as we delve into advancement opportunities within these two dynamic industries.

Skill set development

Building strong skills is very important in medical device sales and pharmaceutical sales. Both jobs need good salesmanship and communication abilities. They also need a deep understanding of the products they are selling.

Knowing the rules of the industry is also a must-have skill. Building relationships with healthcare professionals is another key skill. People who can do all these things have a better chance at success in both types of jobs.

You need to know about what you’re selling to doctors, pharmacies, or healthcare providers for them to trust you.

Career mobility

In medical device sales, career mobility is high. You can grow your skills and move up the ranks quickly. This path gives you both growth prospects and industry expertise. It also opens doors to various roles within the company or field.

The industry keeps changing, giving you new chances for job promotion and professional development. Plus, it’s not all work! There’s a bonus of travel opportunities too with many jobs in this field.

Pros and Cons of Medical Device Sales and Pharmaceutical Sales

In the process of choosing a career path between medical device sales and pharmaceutical sales, it is crucial to consider the pros and cons of each option. These can be influenced by factors like individual preferences and career goals.

AspectMedical Device SalesPharmaceutical SalesPros

  • Often includes a higher commission payout.
  • Requires technical knowledge and expertise.
  • Represents a broad range of products, from standard medical supplies to complex equipment.
  • Individuals have the flexibility of managing their schedules.
  • Pay scale is above the national average.
  • Focuses more on relationship-building and communication skills.
  • Typically offers a higher base salary.
  • Decisions to purchase products are influenced more by relationships.
  • Utilizes a team selling approach that can provide support and camaraderie.


  • The technical aspect can be challenging for those without a background in science or engineering.
  • The sales cycle can be lengthy due to the complexity of the devices.
  • Job location and territory size can vary greatly, causing potential inconsistencies in work-life balance.
  • May require more time spent on extensive product knowledge.
  • Can be more dependent on formulary acceptance of the drug.
  • Relationship management may require more networking and interaction, which may not suit everyone’s personality.

Key Differences Between Medical Device Sales and Pharmaceutical Sales

When deciding between medical device sales and pharmaceutical sales, it is important to understand the main differences between these two career paths in the healthcare industry.

Medical device sales reps are responsible for selling medical products like implants, capital equipment, and diagnostic tools to hospitals and physicians. They need strong technical knowledge about the medical devices they represent. Pharma sales reps, on the other hand, focus on selling prescription medications by building relationships with doctors and getting them to write prescriptions for their drugs.

The sales process also differs. Medical device sales involves a longer, complex sales cycle while pharma sales relies on frequent visits and ongoing rapport building with physicians in their smaller territories. Medical device reps cover broader regions and travel more extensively.

Pharmaceutical companies put greater emphasis on clinical research and evidence to back their products. Medical device sales reps promote their products based on quality, technology features and relevant case studies or examples of successful use.

When it comes to pay, pharma reps often have higher base salaries but medical device sales offer greater earning potential through commissions and quarterly bonuses. Both roles require relationship building and customer service but the focus of those relationships  doctors vs hospitals  is a key difference to factor into any career decision.

With an understanding of these main differences, those exploring sales jobs in the healthcare field can better decide which path aligns with their interests, skills and preferences. The biggest challenge lies in determining whether one wants to be part of an intimate, localized pharma team or lead broader sales independently repping cutting-edge medical devices.

Frequently Asked Questions about Medical Device Sales vs Pharmaceutical Sales

1. What is the Main Difference Between Medical Device Sales and Pharmaceutical Sales?

Medical device sales focus on selling healthcare devices, while pharmaceutical sales deal with selling medicines.

2. Which Career Earns More Money: Medical Device Sales or Pharmaceutical Sales?

The salary varies based on your experience and skills, but generally, medical device sales often earn more than pharmaceutical sales.

3. Do I Need a Specific Degree to Work in Medical Device or Pharmaceutical Sales?

No, you don’t need a specific degree but a background in science or business can be helpful.

4. Is it Harder to Get into Medical Device Sales than into Pharmaceutical Sale?

Both require strong skills and knowledge, so neither is necessarily harder than the other.

5. Can I Switch from One Field (Medical Device/Pharmaceutical) to Another Later in My Career?

Yes, both fields require similar skill sets making it possible to switch between them throughout your career.

Conclusion and Summary of Medical Device vs Pharmaceutical Sales Careers

In summary, the medical sales field offers two main career paths – medical device sales and pharmaceutical sales. While both involve selling healthcare products, there are notable differences in day-to-day work.

Medical device sales reps focus on the technical features and clinical benefits of products like implants and diagnostic equipment. They manage individual large territories and travel extensively. Pharmaceutical reps emphasize relationship-building within smaller localized regions to influence doctor prescribing habits.

Medical device sales may appeal to those with technical aptitudes who enjoy autonomy and uncapped earning potential. Pharma sales provides higher base pay but leaner bonuses, and values interpersonal skills.

No matter the path chosen, success requires understanding your target healthcare customers, continuous learning, and a passion for improving patient outcomes through access to cutting-edge technologies and treatments. Whether selling capital medical devices or prescription pharmaceuticals, both careers allow driven professionals to prosper while making a difference in healthcare.

Marty Stewart
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