Advice from Doctors: What Makes a Great Medical Device or Pharmaceutical Sales Representative

By Jeffrey Ball

What does it take to make a great medical sales professional? That is the question that many marketing and sales organizations have contemplated. Yet, to many sales representatives and companies, it is still a challenge. Judge MED surveyed doctors to find out what makes a great sales representative from their point of view. This is what we found.

Education: The 3 “knows”

First and foremost, being educated is the most important part of being a great representative. An educated representative is respected by the doctors. Listed below are the three “knows” needed to gain respect from a doctor

  1. Know the Product
  2. This is a given! The sales representative needs to be completely knowledgeable about his or her product. This entails not only the mechanism of action but also the limitations of the product. To our knowledge, there is no perfect drug or device out there.

  3. Know the Competition
  4. The sales representative needs to be well versed in the competition-what are the advantages and limitations of competing products? This allows the representative to be in the conversation with the health care provider.

  5. Know the Medicine
  6. The sales representative needs to be well-versed in anatomy and physiology, the disease state and the therapeutic options. The representative will have more credibility if they can speak intelligently with the doctor about the treatment plan and the history of treating the disease including any new advances on the horizon.


Interpersonal skills and charm can be important, but they are no substitute for a solid knowledge base. The sales representative needs to combine professional demeanor with value added information. They need to be clinical to the doctor who wants clinical. Be charming and entertaining when the situation calls for personality. The representative needs to be thick skinned and not be offended by rejection or failure; the ideal sales person views setbacks as opportunities to grow.

Respect, Listen and Honesty

There are some universal truths in sales. Follow the Golden Rule; treat others as you want to be treated. But even better, follow the platinum rule which is treat others the way they want to be treated. Some of the universal aspects of these truths are respect, honesty and the ability to listen.

  • Respect
  • Respect the doctor’s time and intelligence. This can be done by scheduling time or asking for a few minutes to share relevant information. Relevance is the key word. The doctor wants new information and the results of new studies. Some providers want to hear how other medical professionals have used the particular product or device successfully. They want to know which thought leaders are advocates for the device or product.

  • Honesty
  • This seems like a fairly easy concept to grasp, yet it eludes so many. Healthcare providers expect to be told the truth. Sales people work hard at establishing credibility and lose it by guessing incorrectly when asked something they do not know. If you don’t know something, say so. Tell the person asking that you will find out the answer then get back to them promptly. Do not apply pressure to your customers; this is a big turn off. And most importantly, don’t over commit. It is far better to under commit and over deliver. Your reputation is a huge variable; don’t gamble with it.

  • Listen
  • Most doctors recognize the importance of a true sales professional and respect the sales person for trying to do a good job. Listening is crucial. Ask pertinent questions and give the doctor the time to respond. You get a lot more by listening than by talking. Remember the old adage, “You have two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you speak.” Find out what matters most to the provider. Do not ask questions and answer them. Let the person you are talking to actually do the answering. Occasionally allow for silence. Do not fill silence with needless chatter. Some people need a minute to think of a response.

Being hard working and doing what you say you are going to do are important. If the representative proves him or herself, they will be able to earn the right to ask for the business. The idea is to be yourself, do your homework, know your product and the competition and strive to excel by being the best sales representative possible!

About Judge MED

Judge MED offers focused Interventional Cardiovascular virtual training covering areas such as acute MI, complex coronary disease, carotid, peripheral vascular & structural heart disease. Developed and taught by world renowned cardiovascular physicians, Judge MED’s goal is to teach and enhance procedural knowledge of therapies in interventional medicine. Cardiovascular Sales Representatives, Clinical Specialists, Medical Liaisons and Scientists, seeking advanced practical knowledge of the diagnoses and interventional treatment of heart & vascular disease will benefit from the Certified Cardiovascular Industry Representative (CCIR) course. Find out more at