The health-care industry requires a wide range of medical equipment, ranging from disposable syringes to large MRI units or X-ray machines. Durable medical equipment falls between those two extremes. It's a category including a variety of non-disposable items intended for ongoing use, such as crutches, wheelchairs, insulin pumps or neuromuscular electronic stimulation devices. Manufacturers and distributors in the field use sales and technical representatives to market the products to physicians, physical therapists and other caregivers.
Representatives for durable medical equipment are primarily salespeople, and sales skills are consistent between industries. Reps must be adept at networking, earning introductions and referrals from their existing clients and contacts in the industry. Their clients are orthopedists, physical therapists, neurologists, neurosurgeons and physiatrists. For sellers of durable medical equipment, finding opportunities to meet with these busy practitioners is an ongoing challenge. These reps must be also be adept at describing and positioning their products in relation to the needs of the practitioners and their patients.
Technical Skills and Knowledge
Crutches, prosthetics and wheelchairs aren't especially complicated products, but other forms of durable medical equipment -- such as pain pumps or bone growth units -- require a high level of technical expertise. Some companies hire technical representatives to explain and demonstrate products to practitioners, while others expect their sales staff to have the necessary knowledge. Often, both sales and technical representatives come from a background in the sciences, biomedical engineering, or health care. This gives them credibility with the clients, as well as the necessary technical knowledge.
Most representatives work an assigned territory on a regular schedule. They'll arrange appointments with existing clients and new prospects, visit client offices, and make sales or take orders. New orders must be recorded accurately, and reps must ensure that each order is shipped and received in a timely fashion. Often, they'll deliver the initial order to a new customer or any order of a new product. If there are errors in an order or problems with the product, the representative is expected to do whatever's necessary to fix it and keep the customer happy.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected 16 percent employment growth for wholesale and manufacturers' reps between 2010 and 2020, just slightly higher than the average for all occupations. For two reasons, durable medical equipment representatives should find their prospects brighter than that figure would indicate. First, the health-care industry is undergoing rapid growth. The Affordable Care Act is expected to add large numbers of patients who have insurance, and the bureau anticipates that health care will account for 28 percent of new jobs by 2020. Second, the aging baby boom generation will need increasing quantities of durable medical equipment for age-related infirmities. The net result should be strong demand for qualified representatives.