The State of the Pharmaceutical Sales Job Market

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A job in pharmaceutical sales is an excellent job to have these days. Not only are commission sales and marketing jobs essentially recession-proof, the pharmaceutical industry is booming and the job of pharmacist is listed as one of the top 30 US careers by authorities. As people live longer and the Baby Boomers begin going gray, pharmaceuticals are coming ever more into demand. So as a pharmaceutical salesman you would be marketing something in high demand.

A job in the pharmaceutical field would give you the potential to make a six-figure income, flexibility in your work schedule, probably paid medical benefits, perhaps the use of a company vehicle, and the satisfaction of knowing that you are supplying something that a lot of people want or need. Pharmaceutical sales recruiter Pat Riley has written, "A pharmaceutical sales representative sells a technologically advanced product to highly intelligent physicians in a very professional environment."

If you want to get into this business, however, there are certain qualities you'll need to possess. The good news is that a lot of pharmaceutical companies generally don't care all that much about experience or even related education, although both of those things can give you an edge over the competition and a lot of companies do look for at least two years of some kind of sales experience. It must also be said that different companies have different hiring standards — some will indeed want you to have a bachelor's degree (though rarely does it have to be in the sciences), and others will even want to see an MBA. But what the companies care about most of all are inherent intelligence and aptitude. You'll need to pass a screening in which their human resources department — which a lot of times is the same as the managerial department for sales — determines whether or not you have the drive, the attitude, the probable stamina, and the requisite scientific knowledge or interest in science to be trained to be a successful pharmaceutical sales rep.

Also, there is little of the gender war in pharmaceutical sales. The majority of reps are male, but only by a very small percentage.

The traits that will be looked for by potential employers are many, and there will probably be some kind of written test in addition to their interview process to see how many of these traits you possess and how strong they are. These include being: organized; goal-driven; creative; a problem-solver; a team player but independent; able to manage time and set priorities exceptionally well; personable; naturally able to talk to people; a clear communicator; someone with top listening skills, negotiation skills, and presentation skills; a person of integrity; polished; persuasive; self-motivated; highly energetic; trustworthy and loyal; willing to learn; aggressive but ethical; intelligent; confident; ambitious; positive-minded; patient; and persistent.

You should also have a desire to make a lot of money. While you may get a decent base salary, your real income potential will lay with bonuses or commissions, and if you are money-motivated you will be able to make more money for yourself and the company. Of course, to be motivated by money you must first be assured that the products you are going to sell are needed and important, so that your greed can be for the good of all people involved.

Roz Usheroff, a coach and communications specialist who is very familiar with pharmaceutical sales reps, says that the traits companies look for in a potential rep are "proactivity, receptivity, stability, ability, motivation, goal orientation, and honesty." He further adds that pharmaceutical companies "invest more in research and development than any other industry... [and] spend millions of dollars to develop and market new products," and therefore they only want to hire the brightest and those with the most potential for success.

You will need to shamelessly promote yourself and show forth your mettle right from the start (and that definitely includes being on time for your interviews), because the competition is fierce. Corey Nahman, a former pharmacist who has more than 25 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry and maintains a website for pharmaceutical sales reps, says, "For every opening, we get a minimum of 150 applicants... An aptitude in science is a prerequisite. If you don't like science, this job will be a living hell... The most important qualifications are people skills, such as tact and diplomacy. Science can be learned, but people skills can't be learned... The biggest challenge is to be psyched up every day. If you're excited, that translates visually, and the doctors feed off that excitement. You have to have mental stamina to be just as fresh for that last call at 6 p.m. as you were for the first call at 8 a.m."

One myth that you shouldn't believe, though, is that pharmaceutical companies really try to hire gorgeous, young females to influence all the male doctors and chemists they'll try to sell to. Sorry, babes, but looks actually get you nowhere in this line of work.

Astrazeneca, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, SmithKline Beecham, and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Company are considered among the very best companies for whom to sell pharmaceuticals.
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