|How to Become a Pharmaceutical Sales Rep|
Part 1: Breaking into the Industry
1. Earn a Bachelors degree. A four-year degree from an accredited university or college is required to become a pharmaceutical sales representative. You can improve your chances by gaining a degree in a related field like Life Science.
- Earning your degree in the science field will not only provide you with valuable tools to understand new breakthroughs, but help you communicate with other medical professionals.
- Coursework in Business is also a valuable way to gain sales skills.
- Generally, most pharmaceutical companies will consider a four year degree in any subject, as it represents your ability to master new information and your discipline to follow through.
2. Get licensed/certified. Voluntary certification as a Certified National Pharmaceutical Representative (CNPR) is available through the National Association of Pharmaceutical Representatives. This type of certification will give you the pharmaceutical product knowledge required by pharmaceutical sales companies, and educate you on the rules and regulations for selling products. You will also learn skills to help you hone your selling techniques.
- All CNPR® Certified graduates also get access to a job search tool called NAPRx® Career Center, a government website, where pharmaceutical companies look to fill job openings.
3. Connect with College Resources. While you are in school, you can begin networking and feeling out the industry by taking advantage of a variety of resources your campus provides.
- Attend job fairs. Some major pharmaceutical companies recruit directly from college campuses. Dress professionally and prepare for an interview on the spot. Do what it takes to sign up early, as some of these events have rosters that fill up quickly.
- Use your Career Resource Center. This valuable resource will connect you to useful information about the job market and a career councilor who can provide assistance in working on your resume or career prospects.
4. Get some sales experience. As a pharmaceutical sales rep, your career revolves around sales. This will require you to be comfortable and professional when speaking one-on-one or talking in front of large groups while presenting information to close the sale. Having previous experience working in sales is a huge advantage for your resume.
- Employers are looking for candidates who can be persuasive and have excellent communication skills. The more practice you have in sales, the more prepared you will be for your interview.
5. Network. Keep in contact with professionals at your university. Tell everyone that you know about your career goals. Getting into pharmaceuticals sales can be challenging because some firms only advertise openings when they cannot fill them by word of mouth.
- Talk to doctors and other medical professionals and ask them for the names of their sales reps. If you have a chance, talk to the sales reps and district managers directly. A good referral from a rep is a better tool than your resume.
- Seek out recruiters who work in the pharmaceutical field.
- Look for pharmaceutical job fairs where you can make connections in the industry.
6. Keep up to date on industry news. Read annual reports, news releases, and stock-market reports. Find out everything you can about competing products and companies. Some good resources for news include:
- FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research
- Lexi Comp New Information and Products
Part 2: Getting the Job
1. Create a strong resume. Drug companies get hundreds of resumes daily, so yours needs to stand out from the rest. Your resume should be directly targeted to the company you are applying for. This means that you will need to adjust your resume for each company.
- Your resume should be driven by a list of your accomplishments. Remember, this is a sales job. Ultimately, you need to sell yourself to each prospective employer.
- Professional resume writers offer a service to assist you in strengthening your resume. If you feel like you are struggling, you can enlist their help for a price.
2. Create a Brag Book. A Brag Book is essentially a portfolio for pharmaceutical reps. Make copies of everything you want to include and scan the originals into your computer. Use the scanned documents to create a single file of your complete Brag Book. You don’t need to send your Brag Book with every application. Once you get a hiring managers attention, let them know that you have a digital copy available. Create a hard copy and organize it professionally. Your brag book should contain relevant documents and letters that represent your professional achievements. Include:
- Table of contents
- Company ranking reports
- Performance reviews
- College transcripts
- Letters of recommendation
- Positive emails
- Marketing materials
- Continuing education certificates
- Photos of trophies, copies of plaques, award certificates
3. Land an interview. You can apply at a companies website, but your best shot is to contact your networking connections and gain the names of professionals in the industry who you can send your resume to directly.
4. Use your Brag Book at your interview. Bring a hard copy with you and expect the hiring manager to keep it. Focus on bringing attention to your Brag Book by referring to specific items inside it throughout your interview. Make sure you know your own book very well.
- Highlight your Brag Book and let it back up your verbal answers. For example, your interviewer may asks you about your sales targets, you can point to a ranking report or a performance review in your Brag Book.
- The way you use your Brag Book during the interview can set you apart from the competition by providing the hiring manager with a demonstration of your salesmanship.
5. Ace your interview. Use your knowledge and understanding of the industry to back up your verbal answers. Some questions will test your knowledge of the job itself while others will be sales or product related.
- Demonstrate your enthusiasm for the job. Share personal stories related to the medical field that might make an impression.
6. Ask for the job. Demonstrate your star sales ability by asking for the job at the end of the interview. At the end of the interview, say something like, “Is there anything about my qualifications that may keep you from moving forward with me in the application process?”
- Ask when you can expect to hear back if they don’t tell you.
- Write Thank You Notes to every hiring manager who sees you. If they couldn’t hired you, they may know someone else in the industry who can. Keeping a professional relationship with everyone you meet, is key.
Part 3: Working as a Pharmaceutical Sales Rep
1. Understand your salary and benefits. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of pharmaceutical sales representatives is $88,200, and most earn between $51,710 and $145,730.
- Sales reps who work for established companies receive benefits packages often including a company car, business trips, expense accounts, stock options, bonuses, medical and life insurance, and tuition reimbursement and retirement plans.
- Be sure to inquire with your company about the benefit options that are available to you.
2. Excel in your training. Most pharmaceutical companies will provide on-the-job training to new sales reps. Some companies even provide tuition reimbursement for ongoing coursework in pharmacology and related fields.
- As a Pharmaceutical rep, you will be expected to enroll in continuing education throughout your career.
3. Know your responsibilities. Most Pharmaceutical sales reps work on commission in a region. You will be responsible for scheduling and attending sales meetings with medical professionals and health care providers, following leads, and cultivating new customers for your company. You will also be responsible for attending industry conferences, speaking at provider events, and continuing your education as a medical professional.
- In addition to your sales duties, you may also need to conduct field research on behalf of your company. This involves surveying prescription patters and monitoring reactions to new treatments..
- This is a job filled with advancing technology in a fast paced environment. Strive to excel at the intellectual challenges you will face and take pride in communicating exciting medical advances with consumers. Here you will have the opportunity to share new and sometimes life-saving treatments with your community.
- You will likely be responsible for setting your own schedule and working independently. Since you work on commission, you may spend weekends and evenings on developing contacts and networking future sales.
4. Advance in the Industry. With time and experience, you will have the opportunity to advance into administrative positions in which you would supervise the work of new salespeople. Work hard, meet your goals and continue your education to climb the ranks of the pharmaceutical industry ladder.