Pharmaceutical sales is a great career. It is the first thing that comes to mind when the public thinks of medical sales. Everyone has seen a dressed up sales representative waiting to talk to the doctor at the local health clinic. Typically, the rep is waiting with lunch or coffee for the office staff. Today, we cover how to get into pharmaceutical sales in the modern era.
How To Get A Job In Pharmaceutical Sales
The heyday of pharmaceutical sales was in the 1990’s and the industry has changed substantially. Access to physicians has become more difficult and digital technology tools have provided novel ways to get drug information to clinicians. Also, industry regulations like the 2010 Sunshine Act have changed the way drug and equipment manufacturers interact with doctors. Even with all these changes it is still a coveted profession, with a lot of upside.
Related: How To Get Into Medical Device Sales
How To Become A Pharmaceutical Sales Rep
1. Get Business To Business (b2b) Sales Experience
Any job in medical sales starts with business to business sales experience. Pharmaceutical sales is no different. Hiring mangers want to see outside sales experience. This means jobs experience making cold calls at customer sites and engaging in face to face sales discussions.
Related: The Linda Hertz group emphasizes the importance of B2B sales experience in getting an entry level pharma sales job.
2. Get Formalized Sales Training
There is a level of formality to the pharmaceutical sales industry. From my experience, more so than the medical device space. When hiring for an entry level pharmaceutical sales position, the manger will want to see that a candidate has sales training based on a formal sales framework. This entails steps like prospecting, understanding the customer needs, negotiating, and closing. One of the best ways to get started is a sales or management trainee program. Some of the best reviewed programs include:
- Enterprise Rent-a-Car
- Konica Minolta
Related: Medical Sales Rep Qualifications
3. Develop The Right Sales Demeanor
Pharmaceutical sales is a very specific type of sale. There is no hard negotiation or closing involved. It is a job based on relationships and activity. Companies are looking for someone likeable. They want a rep who will put in the work consistently and build good relationships over time.
4. Dress The Part
Wear a suit and tie. I still crack up to this day reflecting back on some of my first pharmaceutical sales interviews. The manager wore one of the old school pinstripes suits. Yes, the industry craves formality. Because pharmaceutical sales is a “softer sale”, appearance is important. The companies want someone who looks and dresses professional on behalf of the company.
5. Work On Your Elevator Pitch
During my first pharmaceutical sales interview, the hiring manager asked for me to pitch the product. I was way over my head. I mean, I had the sales skills to do this. But I had never practiced this type of thing before. I was familiar with the consumable products I sold. How exactly did a drug pitch go? Plus, I still did not quite understand the medication. It was something for dry skin. I didn’t understand how it differed from the other medications in this space. My point is to understand what you are getting into. Study up on the medication and the pharmacology. Watch YouTube videos of how pharmaceutical sales discussions play out. Be ready to go!
6. Understand The Metrics
The pharmaceutical industry has things down to a science with their salesforces. There are less variables than medical device sales. Medical device sales involves a product. A product that changes over time. It involves a rep supporting cases and making sure the product works correctly. It involves negotiating over pricing and closing. While pharmaceutical sales is about making calls, and watching the data around prescriptions. It is crucial to understand that your effort and work will be heavily quantified. Demonstrate during the interview process how you will thrive in this type of environment.
7. Be Open Minded
As you start the interview process, stay open minded. Maybe you desire to call on a specific physician specialty or work for an industry leading company. This will take time. The pharmaceutical sales industry has changed over the last ten years and many of the entry level positions are based around short term contracts. It is very possible that your first job will be a 12-18 month contract. That is fine. Build experience first and then you will be able to call the shots later in your career.
How To Get Started In Pharmaceutical Sales
I will be posting more detailed content covering the most common questions we get here at Medical Sales Authority. But to get started, I have provided my insights to the most pressing questions:
1. Is Pharmaceutical Sales A Good Career?
Yes. Pharmaceutical sales is a great career. It involves selling an innovative product to a highly sophisticated customer group in a professional environment. As with any job in healthcare, pharma sales is rapidly changing. According to Bob Miglani the most signicantly factors are doctors lack of time, digital adoption, and the shifting attitude towards sales.
2. How Do I get Into Pharmaceutical Sales With No Experience?
The key to getting started is business to business (b2b) sales experience. After a couple years of grinding, it is time to start applying to entry level pharma sales roles. The interview process can take some time, but it will be worth it in the end. A question we get a lot is how to start building relevant LinkedIn connections and medical sales network. Believe it or not this starts with interviewing. Even if you do not get an offer for every job, interviewing is an effective way to build a network. I recommend making sure to apply to some of the smaller companies initially. Based on the experience of my industry contacts, it can be helpful to get some experience under your belt at a smaller organization and then transition into a role with one of the major pharma companies.
The core traits companies are looking for in an entry level candidates include:
- Business Competencies
- Self Starter
- Polished Communication Skills
- Strong Interpersonal Skills
- Financially Motivated
- Scientific Knowledge
3. What Is A Pharmaceutical Sales Rep Salary?
Based on numerous sources, the average compensation for a pharmaceutical sales rep is around $90,000. The entry level positions will be in the $70,000-$90,000 range. While the specialty drug positions given to the most experienced reps will be in the $120,000-$150,000 range.
4. What Does A Pharmaceutical Sales Rep Do?
A pharmaceutical sales reps meets with physicians to provide free product samples, deliver information about how the product is used, and answers any questions the doctor may have. The rep must have a basic understanding of the drug pharmacology and the disease state being treated. In addition, sales reps spend time prospecting for new customers, attending team meetings, and driving around within the territory.
Related: What Does A Medical Sales Rep Do