Qu: What is medical sales all about?

That’s a great question! Most people would be aware that the role exists, and that it involves ‘selling stuff’ to doctors but beyond that, and unless you’ve had an in-depth discussion with numerous medical sales reps, then you’re probably unsure.

Medical sales is a highly sought after, prestigious and professional sales role. It may surprise you to learn that the industry is growing at a rate of around 5.6% per year1,2 mainly because of our growing population (thank goodness for those ageing baby-boomers!) and hence the need for increased medical services, which in turn requires more medical reps – it’s a ‘knock-on’ effect. The industry covers quite a range of roles and opportunities including (but not limited to), these key areas:

  • Pharmaceutical

  • Pharmacy

  • Medical consumables

  • Medical devices

  • Life sciences & Biotechnology

Let’s take a quick look at each of them so that you better understand what they’re about because, like anything in life, not all people are suited to all roles! Each role is quite unique in its own way and requires a particular skill set, although it’s fair to say that many of the core competencies are transferable across the range, so most reps tend to start with one area and eventually branch out into others.


Probably the largest and most profitable player in the market, this tends to be where most medical sales reps begin their sales journey; trying to influence the prescribing habits of doctors. It doesn’t require that you take a bunch of prescription drugs into a doctors surgery and try to sell them for a fee, but rather your focus is on building a strong argument, over and over again, as to why your prescription drug is better, or perhaps more suitable for patients, than the competitors in the market. Meanwhile, your competitors are doing exactly the same thing, and trying to switch doctors away from your product to start favoring theirs! Your sales calls will typically involve the use of highly detailed clinical research papers, so in this role you need to know how to use them properly, what to look for, and then what to say.


Usually working with a large pharmaceutical company once again, but in a very different role to the pharmaceutical reps, because here you’d be responsible for selling non-prescription drugs, and perhaps other products, directly into store. As you might imagine, it takes strong negotiating skills because you’re quite often dealing with the owner of the business (pharmacist), and also competing heavily with lots of other companies to win a share of their shelf-space or recommendation to customers. There’s also a large component of this job that revolves around in-store merchandising too, i.e. creating successful product displays and ensuring that they’re well stocked for the duration of any campaign.

Medical consumables: