Pharmaceutical sales remains a popular and intriguing career that not only attracts people with sales and/or healthcare experience, but even people with no experience in either area. People are drawn to pharmaceutical sales for a variety of reasons – a good pay scale, opportunity for travel and promotion. Pharmaceutical sales roles attract folks from all walks of life. Thousands of people apply for pharmaceutical sales positions each week; at the same time, there are only limited jobs available. This means competition is tough – very tough! – for these roles, and companies are looking to hire only those applicants with the best possible credentials.
With this in mind, I have put together a list of 8 things to be aware of if you’re looking to obtain a position in pharmaceutical sales.
1. Keep Your Nose Clean.
Companies today regularly do background checks, and pharmaceutical firms are no exception. You can expect not only a review of your employment background, but also your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts, your references, and even your driver’s license. Remember, things you do today can stick around in the Internet for years. Think ahead!
2. Sales Cycle Management. Pharmaceutical sales is very different than traditional product sales, because in many instances you are more focused on marketing products and educating physicians about products than you are on selling the actual product. You will often be required to bring the product to someone’s attention, set up conferences and seminars for doctors and their staff, and then convince the person to switch from whatever competitor product they are using to the one you are selling. This could take weeks or even months. In pharmaceutical sales, patience is a virtue, and the ability to build relationships, make friends, and put people at ease is as important as negotiation skills.
3. High Energy and Self-Motivation. Long hours, evening and weekend appointments, travel, meetings – it isn’t easy being a pharmaceutical rep. Companies are looking for individuals who can motivate themselves, especially in positions where nine-to-five is a schedule reserved for office staff only. Companies will expect you to hustle for new business while increasing prescriptions from existing accounts. If you’re the type of person who struggles to get to work on time, enjoys having a regular schedule, and does their best work when it is assigned rather than creating your own projects, pharmaceutical sales probably isn’t the best career path for you.
4. Education Is Essential. Pharmaceutical sales position consistently state that a Bachelor’s degree is required. Occasionally a company is willing to overlook a lack of degree when a person has years of experience in sales, but this is very rare. So if you are thinking of moving into the field of pharmaceutical or healthcare sales and you haven’t finished your undergraduate degree, it might make sense to complete the degree before you start applying for jobs.
5. Stable Employees Wanted. Pharmaceutical companies put a lot of effort and money into training their sales teams. The last thing they want is someone who works for a few months and then decides to switch companies or career paths, or decides it’s time to move again. So you can be sure that they’ll look at your previous work history to see if you are a ‘job hopper’ or if you have a history of staying with a company for several years.
6. Enjoy Being On The Move.
Many pharmaceutical positions require travel and/or relocation. A person who is readily available for travel or relocation definitely stands a better chance of being considered for positions.
7. Not All Sales Positions Are Created Equal. In pharmaceutical sales, there are different types of positions. Direct sales, where a person is promoting the products directly to a physician or group of physicians. This is often the entry level or basic position in the sales hierarchy, and frequently deals with popular, mass-market products. Then there are specialty sales, where a sales person is selling within a specific category, such as cardiac or antivirals, and will frequently target specialists within the healthcare sector, for example cardiac surgeons or internists. Finally, there are hospital sales, which is just what you might guess from the title. These representatives will often be targeting large medical departments and hospital pharmacies, promoting entire catalogs of products. On top of this, you have regional managers, district managers, trainers and training managers – with so many different levels of sales, it is important that a person applies for the correct position in order to be considered.
8. Understand The Bottom Line. Remember, when a company is looking to fill a position, they are not just looking to fill a position. They are looking for their next ‘Number One’ salesperson. Pharmaceutical companies want people who will consistently excel in their position; people with a drive to outdo the competition, build profitable relationships, and ideally break sales records. People who will do everything in their power to deliver sales. If you aren’t sure if you have that drive, then odds are you don’t, and pharmaceutical sales isn’t for you.
However, if you are a person who is focused on success and thrives in a position where stability, regular schedules, and low pressure situations are most definitely not the norm, then maybe it’s time to start getting your resume in order and start applying!
Teena Rose is the author of “Cracking the Code to Pharmaceutical Sales.”