The fact is that not everybody chooses to become a nutritionist even after starting on the path to becoming one or have already been one. While there are plenty of career options to choose from, a pharmaceutical sales representative is one of them and can be extremely rewarding financially. If you’ve ever been in a doctor’s office or hospital waiting room for any length of time, chances are you’ve seen a well-dressed young professional walk in the door, walk up to the counter, and be immediately ushered behind the counter and in to see the doctor. When that happens, it’s quite possible you have just seen a pharmaceutical sales representative doing his or her job.
What Kind of Education Does it Take to be a Pharmaceutical Sales Rep?
Many pharmaceutical sales representatives are recent college graduates. They come from a variety of backgrounds and may have majored in one of the sciences, in health or nutrition, or in business. In fact, there are no hard and fast rules about the background required for pharmaceutical sales. One thing that is needed is the ability to learn about new products and share that information with others. You also need to be persistent and to have a passion for sales.
The job of a pharmaceutical sales representative is actually a lot more than just selling. In fact, many sales reps say they spend far more time teaching the doctors and nurses they work with about their products than actually selling them their products. The pharmaceutical sales rep job is an important promotional role. There are so many developments happening in medicine every year that it’s virtually impossible for busy doctors to keep up on all the new medications, therapies and vaccines that may be available. Pharmaceutical sales reps fill a crucial role in educating America’s doctors and their staffs.
While a general understanding about pharmacology, chemistry, and how drugs work is important, most sales reps have the support of training and marketing literature to assist them in educating their customers. Many experienced pharmaceutical sales representatives are more likely to be marketing majors or have backgrounds in commission sales or even finance than an in-depth medical background.
The Work Environment
Many pharmaceutical sales reps spend the majority of their time on the road visiting hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, and nursing homes. They may work from a home office or from a company office, but the work can be done using the basic tools of a computer, internet connection, telephone, and face-to-face communications.
Learning about new drugs and medicines will also require regular company meetings, where sales reps get together to learn about new medicines and the best way to teach doctors about them. Sales reps also may attend industry conferences, where they may represent their company in a trade show booth or meet with doctors or hospital purchasing agents in a networking environment.
While setting your own schedule might allow you to sleep in now and then, the job of pharmaceutical sales rep will also require plenty of evening and weekend work. Paperwork also may be required to be submitted on a regular basis, and quotas may be set that require a certain amount of product to be moved on a weekly or monthly basis. Scheduling meetings takes time too, and there may be entire days spent on the phone and in front of a database booking appointments. Since most pharmaceutical sales reps are paid on commission, appointment setting is a necessary chore that on its own does not pay.
Important Skills to Have
A pleasant demeanor and good communication skills are perhaps the most important skills for pharmaceutical sales reps to possess to be successful. Beyond that, understanding basic science, good listening skills, and the ability to answer questions, negotiate, and follow through with promises are key to any successful sales person.
Most pharmaceutical companies will provide customized on-the-job training programs to prepare their sales reps for field work. That training will typically include a combination of process training (how to go about setting appointments, ordering, and delivering product), sales training (finding leads, contacts, marketing, negotiation), and product training on the specific products being sold.