Attracting and retaining the best healthtech sector sales talent

Any organisation pursuing growth above the industry average knows that they need people who are also above the average in their field. The best proposition in the world will not sell itself, and certainly not in the health sector where to a large extent public sector spending is king. What I hope to provide here is a guide to working with a partner to secure a higher class of candidate, as well as some general tips about getting those people through the door and over the line.

The best relationships between recruiters and employers are based on mutual trust and respect. In the age of database agencies and one-man bedroom recruitment companies sometimes the “consultant” piece is left to fall by the wayside. A genuine partnership requires both parties to be competent experts in their respective fields and willing to listen to each other, a great recruitment partner is not a “yes man” – what sets apart the leaders in the industry is a willingness to provide constructive feedback, backed up with data.

Amongst the feedback I have provided to many clients throughout my career in commercial medical and health-tech recruitment there are a few that I keep coming back to, which I would like to share:

  1. You get what you are willing to pay for.
    If you want the best, you have to pay for it. The most talented head hunter in the world could get you five top performers but if you aren’t willing to incentivise them – they won’t join your organisation. “This is what we traditionally pay” doesn’t cut it with the best of the best, if you want the top 5 – 10% in your industry you have to pay for it. A top class sales person will ALWAYS pay for themselves if given the tools to do their job.
  2. Don’t make people jump through hoops.
    A hiring process is a two-way process with very clear objectives to establish two things: Can this person do the job and will this person do the job (ie. Will they fit in and be motivated)? Anything that does not meet these objectives is a waste of everyone’s time and will put people off. Especially with a headhunted candidate maintaining engagement is key. Do not ask people to fill in extensive forms, sit laborious tests or go through complex HR processes – certainly do not do so before even starting to sell the opportunity. If you want someone to work for you, you need to sell to them as much as they sell to you and a part of that is having a process that demonstrates efficiency and respect for candidates’ time.
  3. Offer recognition, progression and rewards.
    Successful sales people are ambitious. Ambition in this setting generally comes down to three things: money, prestige and progression. If you pay sales people for the results they deliver, give them credit for their hard work and offer them structured progression into more senior roles in theory they should join you and be easy to retain. In three words: bonus, awards and promotion make an attractive sales environment.

This magic formula is deceptively difficult to get right so I’ll provide two real examples, which I will call company A and company B:

  1. Industry leading US based manufacturer.
    A highly prestigious company, the sort that ambitious young reps all want to work for. They paid the second best entry level salaries in the industry and had the best commission scheme. Top performers were given awards and internal promotions were frequent and structured. This company got a lot of interest from talented people but struggled to actually hire any of them – the reason was cultural and process related. They had an overly complex hiring process that took months. The best people were put off and eventually this organisation got a negative reputation not about the company but about their hiring process. Culturally they did not accept that it was vital to treat people with respect and to move promptly and enthusiastically when they had someone in front of them they wanted to hire, and ultimately they failed to fill key positions.
  2. Family owned UK manufacturer.
    A small player in the market which was rapidly growing. Their starting salaries were near enough average for the industry so they targeted entry level or out of sector talent – this deprived them of the true masters of sales in their field and was a limiting factor in attracting talent. However, top performers were given leadership roles and recognition and more importantly, they were given pay rises for top performance that always outweighed the incentives of moving to a competitor which made retention rates impressive. On paper this company should have been an average player in terms of talent attraction, sparking only passing interest and rarely securing the people they really wanted. Yet somehow this company did not have a single job offer rejected in the time I worked with them and the reason, I think, is that they treated people with respect and moved quickly. Their process was exceptional and treated people with respect. They use one recruiter exclusively (me) and allowed hiring managers to use common sense in deciding process. They weren’t perfect, but people wanted to work for them.

My advice to companies pursuing rapid growth is to take the best from company A and company B – offer financial incentives and progression to interest candidates like company A did but have the process of company B and treat people with respect and move quickly when you find somebody you like.

If you’ve found this guide useful I’m always happy to discuss hiring processes and talent acquisition strategies and can be reached on

All opinions are my own, do not represent those of my employer and should not be used as a substitute for professional one-to-one consultancy services.

About the author: James Moloney is the health tech business manager at TJ Peel – specialist recruitment based in York, UK. His background is in retained and contingent headhunt within healthcare and medical devices.


James Moloney

Health Tech Business Manager

James Moloney is the health tech business manager at TJ Peel – specialist recruitment based in York, UK. His background is in retained and contingent headhunt within healthcare and medical devices.

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