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How does a rookie break into Pharmaceutical Sales?

If you’ve been fancying the idea of a medical sales role but have zero experience, then you might be wondering how on earth you could possibly land that dream role and break into pharmaceutical sales either as a GP rep or a hospital/specialist rep? If that sounds like you then read on, because this blog could be the first step in your exciting new journey!


First though, let’s talk about what you’re going to offer in terms of your qualifications and/or experience. As you may have already found, most employers would prefer that you do have a degree before they’ll consider you for such roles. It’s not an absolute deal-breaker if you don’t have one, but then you’ll need to show some strong and successful sales experience in a professional selling role, before they’ll give you any serious consideration. Your degree doesn’t have to be in the sciences or medical field either, as you’ll be taught everything that you need to know, but it will demonstrate your ability to learn, and persist, at something that many people consider difficult.


In addition, you’ll need to demonstrate success in a ‘people-facing’ role (i.e., customer service or sales), supporting your ability to build relationships; deal with difficult situations and interact with others in a positive way. Basically, the more you can offer in terms of your qualifications and experience, the stronger your application is likely to be.


Next, you’ll need to do some research! It may surprise you, but you’ll find that prospective employers and recruitment agencies will expect you to talk about this role as if you’re already doing it. They will be asking you lots of questions that are all geared towards pulling out your understanding of the role and how to do it well, so it’s a little different to other job interviews where you might expect to front up and be told what’s involved. If you’re not prepared to do the research, then your prospective employer won’t be willing to take any risks on you, no matter how great you think you are or how good you might look on paper.


Research begins with understanding the industry and the role, much of which you can learn right here, but you can also push the envelope to do a few other things too. For example, you should try to negotiate shadowing a real-life pharmaceutical rep for a day on their territory, giving you a birds-eye view of what’s typically involved and learning about it first-hand. Since this is quite hard to achieve then it’s also one step that can speak volumes for your potential with prospective employers, so it’s well worth doing. You need to educate yourself in what it means to run a sales territory; how to analyse your sales data and plan strategies for sales growth; what tools and marketing resources you’re likely to have at your disposal and of course, how to use them. This will include using highly technical clinical papers and being able to dissect out the relevant, useful information for your sales calls.


Yes, prospective employers will expect a great deal from you during the interview and selection process, so failure to prepare thoroughly before you even start to apply, is certain death. Launch yourself into that education right here and build on this to improve your success.


Next, get yourself a professional resume!


You never get a second chance to create a first impression and, amid possibly hundreds of applicants for the same role, you really do need to stand out. A strong resume can ‘sell you in’ long before you have the chance to speak, or interview, for any role. As with anything worth doing, it takes a small investment and some time, but will pay for itself rapidly in terms of results. Please don’t underestimate the importance of this one small piece in the puzzle.


Once you’re all set you can start to apply for the roles that you see advertised, but you should also align yourself with the major recruitment agencies too – they will have roles that are not advertised; roles that are coming up in the months ahead, and relationships with your prospective employer that far outweigh anything you could achieve in the short-term. They will also assist and coach you to improve your chances when they put you forward for any role, so treat them with the respect they deserve.


The pharmaceutical sales industry is enormous and is probably your most obvious start as a rookie – it’s also an incredible training ground for your career in medical sales too. Take the time and effort to do the groundwork and you’ll never look back!


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