What Keeps Medical Device Sales Executives Up At Night?


One of the great things about working in the medical sales community is contributing to medical awareness while enjoying a rising income, as well as opportunities for growth.

According to the Medical Device Sales Salary Report, medical sales representatives earned an average of $154,130 in total compensation in 2016, with an average base of $95,257—not including car allowance or mileage reimbursements!

As one of the most thriving careers in the US, medical sales can also be very competitive. This is because a growing number of candidates are turning to the medical device sales industry in search of a lucrative career.

As in any case where there is a combination of high compensation and an extremely competitive market, executives within the industry are faced with tremendous pressures and unique issues that often result in high levels of stress.

We recently conducted an informal survey of 1000 Medical Sales Executives, investigating the primary sources of stress in their role, and came up with some interesting responses.

Causes for Concern

1.     Pressure to Get Your New Hires Up to Speed in a Limited Timeframe

Multiple executives shared this common cause for worry. Often, what happens is that you need to backfill or fill an expansion role and need them contributing yesterday. As a result, there is a big urgency to throw them in there, so they can help you reach your numbers.

Not a good plan.

Corporate needs to respect the time it will take someone to go through training, and be productive. This may take a minimum of 6-8 weeks—some would argue 3-6 months. If this time is not protected, you may experience three unfortunate outcomes:

  • Training will be less effective.
  • The individual will feel immediate pressure to perform, without being equipped with the right skill-set.
  • You will open up the very real risk of losing an otherwise good employee who had a poor on-boarding experience, combined with unrealistic expectations.

2. Losing Your Star Performers to Competitors

Another commonly cited issue was worrying about losing a top performer to a competitor. Even worse is knowing that the rep is making a bad decision for themselves, and after falling for a siren song, knowing that while they may gain in territory or financial rewards in the short term,  they will not be in a better place in terms of total earnings  or responsibilities within a relatively short amount of time.

Research has consistently shown that the best way to keep competitors from wooing your top performers away is to focus on offering a viable career path. When you do this, you are safeguarding your talent.


Employees with a clear-cut career path feel that they are heavily invested in their future, and will not leave so quickly for what may be perceived to be a better immediate opportunity.

In addition, studies show that if an employee has at least one person within the company that they are comfortable with going to for advice, and to openly share their concerns, this dramatically reduces employee turnover. Ideally that mentor is their direct supervisor, but often times it can be another manager. The key is having someone one level above them, being open to being a sounding board.

Top management would be wise to actively encourage their management teams to express an interest in employees’ one level below them. This can most easily be accomplished in social events and team building activities.

Missed Opportunities

You discover that a top-performing candidate left their job at a competitor firm and switched to another, and you missed out on the opportunity to negotiate an offer.

This can be incredibly frustrating—especially if they end up in the exact same position that you need to fill. The medical sales arena is one of the most competitive out there, with managers vying for top performers at every opportunity.

It is wise to consistently employ social media to highlight your company’s benefits, President Club rewards, sharing company culture, etc. We have recently seen some very well done videos that are the perfect venue to share a company’s culture and atmosphere.

One way to alleviate these missed opportunities is by developing relationships with executive recruiters that make a point of building relationships with key players within the industry. These rainmakers may be passive, but are typically open to hearing about different opportunities. This is important as it can make the difference between having the opportunity to meet with a star performer that is open to hearing about different opportunities and simply hearing about their move.

1.     Tight Deadlines

You’re under immense pressure to fill a critical position within a short deadline. Unfortunately, you have not been able to find a suitable candidate and time is running out. What do you do? Where do you go? How do you find the perfect fit on such short notice?

Once again, having an existing relationship with a recruiter that specializes within the industry can be a life saver in this scenario.

2.     Hesitation to Replace Poor Performers

Whether you run a medical, pharmaceutical or dental sales team, a considerable part of your success lies in holding your team accountable for hitting their numbers, and making the hard decisions of letting an underperforming rep go when necessary. Having the ability to top-grade your team, with a readily available source of viable candidates, makes those decisions immensely easier.

We see scenarios played out across the country where managers are reluctant to terminate an under-performing rep because he or she does not have any viable replacements.

There are immeasurable costs associated with keeping an underperforming employee in place—including lowering team moral, as well as potential liability issues—depending on where your poor performer is lacking, loss of market share, etc.

By keeping your options open and knowing that you can indeed identify strong candidates (when the time comes to top-grade someone on your team), you can summon the courage to terminate someone that is clearly not up to the tasks required, instead of passively keeping them on the team.

Since 1999,  International Search Consultants    has been providing exceptional candidates to our Clients within the Medical Device Recruitment .

ISC currently fills an extensive line of medical sales positions in Dental, Medical Equipment, Ophthalmology, Cardiology, Implants, Orthopedics, Surgical Instruments and more, on a nationwide basis.

Don’t let recruiting nightmares keep you up at night.

Call ISC Medical Device Recruiters at 888-866-7276 today!

 Ann Zaslow-Rethaber is President of International Search Consultants, a leader in Medical Sales Executive Search since 1999. You can reach Ann directly at or via phone at 888-866-7276.