Home 5 Lab Industry Advisor 5 Essential 5 When Hiring Laboratory Sales Reps, Managers May Want to Consider Non-Sales Backgrounds

When Hiring Laboratory Sales Reps, Managers May Want to Consider Non-Sales Backgrounds

by | Jun 5, 2024 | Essential, Jobs-lir, Lab Industry Advisor

Clinical laboratory sales training expert Peter Francis shares qualities to look for when hiring laboratory sales reps

Clinical laboratory sales staff play a key role in bringing in new business, as well as retaining current clients. Hiring the right people for these positions is therefore essential. However, according to Peter Francis of Clinical Laboratory Sales Training, selling lab services involves some unique challenges that not everyone is suited to meet.

During a recent G2 Intelligence webinar, Francis offered the following three steps for lab sales managers, particularly those in the reference lab industry, to identify and hire the right people for the job:1

1. Go beyond work experience

Francis pointed out that sales managers may be tempted to simply hire sales reps away from a competing lab. However, this doesn’t always ensure a good fit.

“There’s no doubt that hiring the superstar from a competitor can be a terrific decision,” Francis said. “But be vigilant here. Why is a top producing salesperson even looking for a new job?” He added that, though there can be legitimate reasons, sales managers need to perform due diligence and not be blinded by previous work experience.

Another mistake to avoid is hiring someone just based on previous experience selling healthcare products, such as test kits or pharmaceuticals. Francis said these candidates, though experienced salespeople, may not necessarily have what it takes to sell laboratory services. Because clinical labs in general must meet such high standards, most offer the same key services and high quality. This means that lab reps may face even more rejection than the average sales rep, Francis explained.

“My observation has shown that around 95 percent of clients in any given territory claim that they’re happy with their lab,” Francis said. “As a result, there’s a great deal of rejection.” He added that, depending on hospital or corporate ownership, physicians may be encouraged to support a certain lab, removing those providers as prospects. The hiring manager needs to ensure candidates understand the unique challenges of selling lab services and evaluate their ability to handle these issues, Francis said.

He mentioned that previous sales experience may not even be necessary if the candidate has the right instincts and the sales manager has the time and resources to provide adequate training, coaching, and management. In particular, candidates who previously held clinical jobs in a lab offer the benefit of experience performing tests, as well as familiarity with test names and proper sample submission.

“I have witnessed over many years some med techs or those from other lab positions who developed into excellent sales or service field reps because they hold the appropriate internal instincts and they’ve had good training and coaching,” Francis said.

2. Determine the candidate’s selling style

During the interview process, lab sales managers should perform a “behavioral assessment” to help determine the candidate’s selling style and how successful they are likely to be. According to Francis, key qualities to look for in a potential laboratory sales rep include:

  • Inquisitiveness: Look for candidates that hold an insatiable desire to learn. They will need to eventually know their own lab’s operations inside and out, their clients’ backgrounds and needs, and the competition. The ideal candidate “wants to be a detective and [is] someone who lives by the mantra, ‘questions are the answer.’”

  • Dominance: What is the person’s desire to control situations? How well do they assert themselves? “High dominance people can’t stand inaction, and they live for challenges.”

  • Creativity: “What have they done in their previous jobs that was imaginative to win new business?”

  • Strategic thinking: “Many salespeople intuitively think selling refers just to the face-to-face tactical encounter, but the strategist looks at every challenge as an opportunity to outthink competitive approaches. I’m highly galvanized by the candidate that explains [their] history of using interesting strategic actions when pursuing a new account, irrespective of any industry that they’ve come from.”

3. Evaluate personal values

Francis said that uncovering what candidates value is also important to determine their suitability. Exploring their attitudes and motivations and whether they are a self-starter will give sales managers a better idea of whether the candidate is prepared for the tough environment of lab sales. It’s also good to unearth how receptive they will be to constructive feedback and coaching.

He listed the following questions as just a few examples of the many that lab sales managers may want to ask during an interview to help reveal a candidate’s personal values:

    • Do you have an interest in medicine?

    • What is your history of setting and achieving goals?

  • What is the latest self-help/instructional book (or other media) you’ve read or listened to?

“High achievers always want to improve,” Francis explained.

Though offering the proper support for sales reps is also essential no matter who you hire, identifying the right candidates from the start can help avoid future headaches caused by choosing someone ill-suited to the role. The above steps can help lab leaders ensure they select candidates who will flourish, both in retaining current customers and bringing new business to the lab.

Want more information on how to support lab sales reps’ success? Stay tuned for future Lab Industry Advisor content on best practices for training, coaching, and managing sales staff.


    1. G2 Intelligence Webinars. Peter Francis. “A Primer for New Lab Sales Managers.” https://www.g2intelligence.com/a-primer-for-new-lab-sales-managers/

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