Role of Sales in Healthcare


At first glance, healthcare and sales might not have much in common. Doctors diagnose you and prescribe you a medicine, and you buy it from your pharmacist and take it. Simple, right?

But even if the active ingredients between different drug brands might be the same, each pharmaceutical company has its own special production process and secret recipe that makes each brand’s product different from the others. In other words, pharmaceutical companies have to fight for customers’ attention and distinguish themselves from competitors, just like any other sales-oriented business.

The same logic applies to nearly every facet of healthcare: prescription medicines, medical devices, and insurance, just to name a few.

If you’re a skilled salesperson looking for a new job, a position as a healthcare sales representative could broaden your horizons and net you a solid income while letting you help those in need.

What Does a Healthcare Sales Representative Do?

A healthcare sales representative, or medical sales representative, is hired by a pharmaceutical company to sell prescription drugs, medicines, medical equipment, and other medical products. Their target audience may be general practitioners, hospital doctors, pharmacists, or even patients, depending on their company’s product.

Just like normal sales representatives, healthcare sales representatives perform standard sales activities such as prospecting, lead qualification, and networking in order to find and convert customers. They usually sell within a certain territory and earn commissions on the sales they make from their employer.

However, due to the highly technical nature of the product they sell, healthcare sales representatives usually must have some level of medical knowledge and keep up with the latest medical innovations in order to aptly persuade their potential customers who are healthcare professionals. Because of this, healthcare sales representatives usually specialize in selling for one particular branch of medicine.

What Are Some Types of Healthcare Sales Positions?

Let’s take a closer look at some specific positions where you would use sales skills in the healthcare industry.

  • Healthcare Sales Representative

A healthcare, medical, or pharmaceutical sales rep sells pharmaceutical products and medical supplies to doctors, clinics, pharmacies, hospitals, and other medical facilities. They meet with medical professionals to explain the benefits of their product and answer questions about it, in hopes that the medical professional or medical facility will buy their product in bulk and prescribe it to patients.

According to Indeed, a medical sales representative makes an average base salary of $84,951 per year.

  • Medical Device Sales Representative

A medical device sales representative sells durable medical equipment (DME) such as defibrillators, wheelchairs, pacemakers, oxygen tanks, ultrasound machines, and MRI machines to medical facilities.

As medical companies constantly create new innovative technologies to make patients’ lives easier, that also means that they must constantly educate medical facilities on their latest products and maintain strong sales relationships with their clients. As such, medical device salespeople are usually in high demand.

Medical device sales reps usually spend their time on the road, traveling to potential client facilities to give technical demonstrations and explanations on the benefits of their device.

According to Med Reps, a DME sales representative can make an average salary of $165,716 per year. This average salary is much higher than that of a simple healthcare sales rep due to the highly technical nature of the product a DME sales rep sells, meaning that the rep must have considerable knowledge of the product.

  • Insurance Sales Agent

In healthcare, an insurance sales agent sells health, dental, vision, or life insurance policies, explaining their company’s different policies and helping customers choose the best policy for their needs. Depending on their company, an insurance sales agent could either sell company plans to other businesses, or individual plans to consumers.

Because there’s no physical product to demonstrate, insurance sales agents usually work in an office and sell through email or phone, though they might also go door-to-door.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, an insurance sales agent makes a median salary of $49,840 per year.

How to Become a Healthcare Sales Representative

Unlike most other industries, the healthcare industry and the medical products within are strictly regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration. Starting a business as a wholesale drug or medical device distributor will require extensive licensing in every state you do business in.

Because of that, we’d recommend becoming a healthcare sales representative by joining a reputable pharmaceutical company instead. While some companies may prefer candidates with a degree in healthcare or life science, other companies may be willing to hire a candidate with no medical knowledge if they show considerable skill or have years of experience in sales. If you’re lacking in sales acumen, check out this sales blog to help you build your knowledge base.

Employers may require candidates to pass a training program and take a test from the National Association of Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives to become a Certified National Pharmaceutical Representative (CNPR). It also wouldn’t hurt to have sales certifications, such as becoming a Certified Sales Development Representative (CSDR) with the American Association of Inside Sales.

Once you get hired at a pharmaceutical or medical company, all that’s left is to build a strong network and online presence, deliver compelling sales pitches to potential clients, and stay up-to-date with the latest innovations in your niche.


With a privatized healthcare industry, healthcare companies need to competitively market and sell their products in order to gain a share of the market and turn a profit. To that end, an enterprising sales professional could consider a career in healthcare sales, ensuring that medical professionals and facilities have the best medicines and tools needed to provide patients with top-notch care.

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