How to get experience when you have no experience
If you are looking for your first opportunity to break into medical sales, you have likely encountered the proverbial chicken and egg scenario…how do I get experience if every position requires prior experience?
This is the top frustration for job candidates seeking their first opportunity. In fact, “how to get a medical sales job without experience” is one of the top searches on Google relating to medical sales.
Most of the advice given on this topic center around networking, getting an internship, job shadowing, getting the right academic credentials, etc. While none of these strategies are bad, there is a more direct approach that will yield much greater results in a much shorter time period.
Before I delve into the details, it is important to note that if you are actively trying to land a position in medical sales, then you already have your first sales job! Your job is to sell yourself on why you are the best candidate for the job.
To sell effectively, you must connect your customer’s pain points to the value of what you are bringing to the table.
What are employers looking for in a candidate?
There is a plethora of qualities that employers look for in a candidate for a medical sales position, but at the fundamental level they are generally seeking an individual who can hit the ground running!
The hiring manager has a job to fill that position with a candidate who has the best chance to accomplish this, so hiring someone with a proven track record makes it a less risky proposition.
The qualities that employers generally look for in candidates that prove they can make an instant impact:
Networking – Does the candidate have any relationships with any of the customers they will be calling on?
Aptitude – Medical sales can be highly technical. Does the candidate have the ability to understand complex ideas and communicate those to highly educated buyers?
Interpersonal Skills – Is the candidate an active listener who can connect value with pain points?
Resourcefulness – Has the candidate exemplified the ability to think outside the box to solve problems?
Self-motivated – Does the candidate set personal goals? A 30-60-90 day plan?
Organization – How does the candidate organize themselves? How do they set up their days/weeks? Do they use a CRM?
Quota – Has the candidate demonstrated the ability to meet and exceed their quotas?
Passion – What is the “why” that motivates the candidate? Are they truly passionate about healthcare?
When you consider the criteria for what employers want in a candidate, it is easy to see that the standard advice on how to break into medical sales is trite and will not do much more than give you a marginal boost in your chances to land a position.
An effective strategy
There is one effective strategy that can help you check all the boxes for addressing the pain points for hiring managers:
Start as an Independent!
If you are coming from outside of the medical industry, you might not be aware that may sales reps work as independent contractors.
Many small to mid-sized companies in healthcare do not have budgets to hire a full-time, salaried sales force, so they contract with sales agents who work on a commission basis.
This is a great way to get your feet wet as many of these companies are willing to take a chance on candidates without experience. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to see if medical sales is the right industry for you.
Best of all, if your long-term goal is to land that full-time position, this strategy helps you address all the pain points of the hiring managers:
Networking – The best way to demonstrate that you can hit the ground running is if you are already working with some of the healthcare professionals that your prospective employer is targeting.
Aptitude – You now have experience learning technical concepts in medicine and demonstrated putting them into use.
Interpersonal Skills – You have an opportunity to make sales within a medical setting and prove that you know how to communicate with your target market.
Resourcefulness – You have taken a difficult problem (how to get experience without experience) and found an outside the box way to solve it.
Self-motivated – As an independent rep, you generally do not have a boss to crack the whip. Since you are in an “eat what you kill” environment, employers will easily be able to see that you are a person who is driven to succeed.
Organization – This gives you the opportunity to use all your tools (CRM, Calendar, Email Campaigns) in a medical sales environment and demonstrate how it helps you succeed.
Quota – While many companies hiring independent reps will not set a quota for you, if you write out a 30-60-90-day plan and can back it up with results, this will exemplify your ability to hit sales goals.
Passion – If you have taken the initiative to work independently, that shows that you are truly motivated to be in this industry whatever it takes.
In addition to eventually landing that full-time position, working as an independent sales rep has many other advantages over full-time, salaried positions:
Sell What You Love – There are hundreds of opportunities for independent reps. You can gravitate to sectors that you have the most interest in pursuing as a long-term career.
Flexibility – Working as an independent means you can set your own schedule. Some independent reps keep other full-time positions as they ramp up their business. It also allows you to dip your toe in the water while still working another job, before you make the big leap.
Sell What is Hot – The downside of full-time positions is that you have no control over what you are selling. As an independent, you can stay nimble and add the products and services and are trending.
Multiple Streams of Income – The average independent medical rep sells 6 products or services, usually through different vendors. This gives the reps a diversified portfolio of income streams.
Opportunity to Network – It is exceedingly difficult to network when you are on the outside looking in. By starting as an independent rep, you get the opportunity to establish relationships with healthcare professionals and sales reps from other companies, which may open doors for you for future employment opportunities.
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