Are you looking for the opportunity to become a sales representative in a healthcare job? Much has been said about the need for well-developed personal selling skills, but it takes more than personal selling and a medical background to contribute as a major player in the challenges pharmaceutical companies face. A sales professional, no matter what his or her area of expertise, can find a place in pharmaceutical leadership based on many different sales and marketing skills.
If you are considering healthcare jobs, here are some areas where you can distinguish yourself as an effective sales representative:
Branding and Rebranding: It’s true that not every market allows for direct advertisement of medical products to potential consumer, but those that do play host to an increasingly contentious segment of sales, marketing, and advertising. Even if a team member is seen as a sales representative first and foremost, he or she should be able to pitch in with new ideas for outmaneuvering competitors and addressing public relations issues.
Social Media Marketing: Likewise, areas where direct advertising to consumers may be possible suffer from a serious problem — traditional sales and marketing channels are saturated with similar messages. Social media strategy is quickly becoming a way that pharmaceutical companies can cut through the clutter and motivate patients to work with their healthcare providers and physicians for a wider range of branded treatment options.
Provider Relationship Management: Those who are used to working directly with senior executives from major accounts are at an advantage when turning to healthcare jobs. Provider relationship management is key to maintaining a competitive foothold when regulatory or competitive changes force a sudden, medium-term shift in a firm’s priorities. This happens frequently when a formerly patented medicine becomes available for competitors to develop and re-define as generic at a lower price point.
Of course, it is also true that a background in the health sciences can be invaluable for a healthcare job sales representative. However, training in this area is rapidly becoming more modular and targeted — there are vast training resources available from reputable sources online that were inaccessible before. You have one other advantage: It can be much more difficult for someone with a strong healthcare background to become an effective sales representative than the converse. Strong selling requires direct experience, but that experience can come from a variety of contexts outside the bounds of the healthcare industry.
Demographic changes in the United States mean pharma manager jobs will continue to grow in pay and prestige. More members of the “Baby Boomer” generation are retiring and finding themselves challenged by medical costs and expenses. The pharmaceutical industry must adapt to a growing market that is filled with increased competition from generic brands and smaller biotech firms. Professionals with a strong sales background will be well-positioned to transition into healthcare jobs, but must show they can adapt to the unique demands of the industry. Preparing for healthcare or biotechnology jobs from another field also means strengthening one’s healthcare credentials.
Although pharma manager jobs require a working knowledge of healthcare products — from one’s own firm, their competitors, and from cutting edge research labs — they often rely on core business management skills for the ability to get things done. Most senior pharmaceutical managers do not deal with direct, front line sales. While they may be the “responsibility owners” for certain major accounts, they spend much of their time working on top level market analysis and strategy. To leverage a sales or business administration background into a healthcare jobs transition, build and emphasize these skills:
Project Management: Project leadership is a huge part of pharmaceutical management roles and is an area traditionally associated with business. If you demonstrate the ability to lead and coordinate multiple teams, you can easily contribute to the kind of multi-faceted projects that are common in the pharmaceutical industry — such as new product launches, rebranding, and multinational strategic shifts in response to competitors.
International Leadership: Although we think of healthcare jobs as a domestic industry, pharma manager jobs are distinctly international. The legal status of any medical product is constantly in flux across dozens of emerging and developing markets. Likewise, consumers in different jurisdictions react differently to marketing and sales initiatives. Prior expertise juggling multinational expectations is enormously valuable.
Government and “B2B” Experience: Although face-to-face sales experience isn’t always necessary, business-to-business sales skills translate easily into the strategic planning and lobbying you’ll have to do when dealing with a variety of regulatory bodies and influential stakeholders. Fundraising experience can also help — since it involves a similar sort of relationship management.
Versatile business leaders can penetrate pharmaceutical management in a variety of ways. Neither direct sales experience nor a thorough medical background is indispensable. Core business skills are the backbone of a career switch.