Pharmaceutical sales is a popular and intriguing sales career.
The pharmaceutical industry attracts career changers, experienced sales representatives, and even those with no selling experience.
Early on, pharmaceutical companies were strict when writing job descriptions that attracted pharmaceutical sales reps. They preferred professionals with some scientific background with sales experience.
Their reigns have loosened over the years.
People are drawn to pharmaceutical sales for various reasons – a good base salary (possible stock options for top-tier performers), opportunity for travel and promotion, and some flexibility over the work schedule.
Thousands of people apply to pharmaceutical sales positions each week.
Searching Indeed, I found 15,347 nationwide pharmaceutical sales jobs being advertised.
This may sound like a lot, but it’s not.
Doing another quick search, I found 201,265 jobs listed for general outside sales and another 109,203 jobs advertised for sales managers.
When you compare the 15,347 to either of these numbers, you realize that pharmaceutical sales positions are much less.
So, pharmaceutical sales jobs represent a fraction of the sales jobs being filled at present.
This means competition for these roles is tough – very tough.
And, companies are looking to hire only those applicants with the best relevant job skills and credentials.
If you want to identify how to get into pharmaceutical sales, and which of these requirements you have, keep reading …
1. Be Ready To Move And/Or Travel
Many pharmaceutical positions require travel and/or relocation.
As a sales rep, you may be no stranger to either of these requirements.
However, if you’re new to sales (or have limited experience), be prepared.
Of course, not all pharmaceutical jobs will require relocation. However, the likelihood of relocation will almost be a certainty.
With this said, an advanced strategy when writing your pharmaceutical sales resume is to put “Willing to Relocate to Florida” or “Willing to Travel up to 80%” in your resume.
Another tactic is to exclude your mailing address from the resume header. ATS systems “score” resumes, and the location of job candidates is considered during prescreening.
Lastly, do yourself a favor and write about any territorial sales experience you have. For example, a pharmaceutical company that’s looking for a rep in Ohio would be interested in any existing selling experience you have with Ohio companies and consumers.
2. Make Sure Your Nose is Clean
Your personal and professional reputation will be pertinent to pharmaceutical companies.
Most companies today do background checks ― and pharmaceutical companies and pharmaceutical employment agencies are no exception.
Outsourced reference checking services are busier than ever.
Reference checking services look for the basics, such as verification of employment dates, job titles, and reasons for leaving.
However, hiring companies can also look at credit history and driving records.
But, the background check doesn’t stop there.
Companies now want to know how professionals are conducting themselves online as well.
This means that your social media accounts, such as your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts, are also under scrutiny.
It’s worth reminding you that content published online can stick around on the Internet for years.
Think ahead before you throw around the F-bomb on your Facebook profile.
[Related Resource: 3 Tips to Avoid Issues With Your References]
3. There’s More to a Pharmaceutical Sales Job
Pharma sales is technical sales.
That’s why there are many online pharma sales rep training programs.
Pharmaceutical sales reps learn scientific details, such as drug safety, interactions/side effects, and the overall chemistry of the drugs they’re selling. Knowing these are important to consumers who buy pharmaceutical products, which they’ll discuss with their physician first.
Despite the scientific component, pharmaceutical sales reps do much the same as any other sales reps; e.g., developing leads, building relationships, marketing products, and educating prospects.
All the tasks you’d find in other sales careers.
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.
There are only so many physicians in the US.
As of November 2018, Statista.com stated there are nearly 1.1 million doctors nationwide. Competition to this size of group can be stiff.
In pharma sales, consistency and persistency is important, along with your ability to build relationships, make friends, and put people at ease.
4. High Energy And Self-Motivation
Long hours, evening and weekend appointments, travel, meetings – it isn’t easy being in pharmaceutical sales.
Companies are looking for individuals who are highly motivated, especially in positions when 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 someone who struggles getting to work on time, enjoys having a regular schedule, and does their best work when it is assigned, pharma sales isn’t the best career for you.
5. Education Is Essential to Pharmaceutical Employment
Amongst the 15,347 job descriptions, we didn’t find any that didn’t require at least a Bachelor’s degree.
If you’re thinking of transitioning into selling pharmaceuticals, finish those incomplete degrees.
Even if you have a degree, a low grade point average (GPA) could be an issue. Remember, pharmaceutical companies are seeking top performers who will meet and exceed their sales goals.
6. Stable Employees Wanted
Pharmaceutical companies put a lot of effort and money into training their business development teams.
Deloitte has stated there’s a cost of $4,000 for onboarding new hires, so as you could imagine, hiring companies will go the extra mile to avoid hiring a dud.
The last thing they want is someone who works for a few months or a year or two and then decides to switch companies or career paths.
So you can be sure that they’ll look at your previous work history to identify any job-hopping.
7. Not All Positions Are Created Equal
In pharma sales, there are different sales positions.
Direct sales, where a person is promoting the products directly to a physician or group of physicians. These, along with inside sales, are often the entry-level positions in the hierarchy and frequently deal with popular, mass-market products.
Then there are special sales, where a salesperson 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 often target large medical departments and hospital pharmacies, promoting entire catalogs of products.
On top of this, you have regional managers, district managers, sales trainers, and training managers – with so many different levels of business development, it is important that a person applies for the correct position in order to be considered.
Here are a few of job titles:
- Pharmaceutical Sales Rep
- Pharmaceutical Inside Sales
- Senior Territory Sales Manager
- Field Pharmaceutical Rep
- Specialty Pharma Sales
- Senior Sales Development Rep
- Respiratory Primary Care Pharma Sales Specialist
- Inside Sales/Marketing Rep
8. Understand The Bottom Line
Remember, a company isn’t all about filling positions.
Pharmaceutical companies want people who will excel in their position. People with a drive to outdo the competition and break growth records. People who will do everything in their power to sell well.
If you aren’t sure if you have that drive, then odds are you don’t, and a pharmaceutical sales job 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!