What does it take to be a pharmaceutical sales representative? Few people realize the work that goes into it or how competitive jobs in this industry are.
Henry Newkirk is a pharmaceutical salesperson from Valparaiso, Indiana. Newkirk has worked with several different pharmaceutical companies as a sales representative and been promoted to training roles including national sales trainer at Shionogi Pharmaceuticals. During his tenure as a sales representative, he has won multiple awards. Throughout his illustrious career, Henry has consistently grown sales quickly and effectively. He provides his top five tips for getting a job in pharmaceutical sales.
Hone Your Sales Skills
First and foremost, pharmaceutical companies are looking for natural-born salespeople. As long as you have a college degree in something (and in some cases, even if you don’t), strong sales skills are the biggest asset you can offer. Many people that get into pharmaceutical sales do not have a medical background of any kind. That is acceptable, as companies have extensive training programs to teach you the specifics once you are hired.
So, before you actually get a job in the industry, make sure to do whatever you can to hone your sales skills. Take courses in sales, emphasize any sales or customer service experience you have on your CV, and generally, show that you have the personality to succeed in sales, shares Henry Newkirk.
Do Your Research
With any job, if you get an interview at a company you should always read up on that company in advance. Henry Newkirk claims that doing your research is even more important when it comes to the pharmaceutical industry. As mentioned previously, pharmaceutical companies are hiring salespeople from all backgrounds, some with law degrees, others with business or even arts degrees. Thus, where you can really shine is by demonstrating that you know your stuff. It is important to show your interviewer that even if you don’t come from a medical background, you’ve done the necessary research and have at least a base level understanding of the different medications the company makes and what each does. Be prepared to answer why you want to work at this specific pharmaceutical company versus another, as well as discuss the company’s research and development goals and what they currently have in the works.
Understand that Pharmaceutical Sales is Constantly Changing
Another tip is to understand the nature of pharmaceutical sales, which is that it’s always changing. Like all industries, the rise of technology has majorly changed the game. In the past, sales reps would go door to door, dropping off samples and pamphlets. Today, however, the role has almost completely become digital with iPads and webinars being the norm, shares Henry “Hank” Newkirk. In addition to the tools used in pharmaceutical sales, representatives need to constantly be learning about the new medications they are selling. New drugs are coming onto the market every day, so keeping up to date with these trends is key. That is why pharmaceutical sales representatives are often required to attend trade shows, conferences, and conventions, as not only are they networking opportunities, but they allow you to learn about new product developments.
Be Knowledgeable About the Current Healthcare System
According to Henry Newkirk, too often pharmaceutical sales representatives learn everything there is to know about the different medications but know very little about the existing healthcare system. In order to be successful, sales reps need to be aware of how the medication fits into the current healthcare scheme. For example, when President Obama introduced the Affordable Care Act, this influenced hospitals, patients, and beyond. As a result, pharmaceutical companies had to shift their sales messaging to reflect this change. This meant focusing more on the clinical and economic value of the medicine, the science behind it, and most importantly, how it fits into the reimbursement scheme. As healthcare policies change, pharmaceutical sales representatives need to be able to adapt and change with them.
Be Patient and Realistic
Henry Newkirk tells anyone who is thinking about pharmaceutical sales to be patient. It takes time to break into this lucrative industry, but according to Newkirk, it will be worth it. It is totally normal when hiring a pharmaceutical sales representative for companies to have a multi-step interview process. Typically, candidates can expect a phone interview and then at least one face to face interview. In addition to a basic background check, prospective candidates can also look forward to a personality assessment (as having the right personality for sales is key), a physical exam, and a look into your driving record. In addition to the interview process at each company, you also have to be patient when it comes to even getting an interview. Pharmaceutical sales positions are highly sought after, which means the competition is fierce. Especially if you’re new to the field, it can take some time to receive an invitation for a job interview, but the key is not to give up.
It’s also important to be realistic about the jobs you are applying to. If you have no prior experience in pharmaceuticals, you will likely need to start at the bottom with an entry-level position. In addition, don’t start by applying to some of the biggest, most successful companies out there. Smaller companies are often more willing to take chances on candidates that have a strong sales ability but who lack experience in the pharmaceutical industry. Luckily, there is so much opportunity for growth in the industry, says Henry “Hank” Newkirk. Even if you don’t start in the role or at the company you want, promotions are commonplace among successful sales representatives and once you have some experience in the industry, it will also be easier to find a job at a different, perhaps larger pharmaceutical company.