So you want to be a pharmaceutical sales rep?

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Pharmaceutical sales is a popular career choice for professionals because it offers excellent salary levels, benefits and frequently - fast-tracked career growth.

We spoke to a senior sales representative at an international pharmaceutical company to learn more about the job and ways to succeed in the industry.


How did you start working in pharmaceutical sales?

“I always worked jobs where relationship-building was important. After university I worked as an account executive for a large FMCG company and from there transitioned into pharmaceutical sales. It took a few years to get a foot in the door, I needed to prove my sales ability and show I could learn all about the products inside and out, but it was worth the career change.

Is previous sales experience important?

“I found it really helped open the door for me with the companies I knew I wanted to work for. Pharmaceutical sales can be very technical so hiring managers were looking for people with experience with the sales side, who felt comfortable meeting clients, so they could focus on training us on the product knowledge.

"I am sure there are ways to get into pharmaceuticals sales without experience though. I would suggest looking for entry level positions or many companies now offer grad programmes which are a great foot in the door.

"Another important trait I am seeing in the market now is the need for foreign-language speaking sales representatives. Because many big pharmaceutical companies work globally, foreign language skills can help you stand out against competition and then help you break into new clients once you have the job.”

What does your typical week look like?

Pharmaceutical sales is a popular career choice for professionals because it offers excellent salary levels, benefits and frequently - fast-tracked career growth. 

“I am on the road the majority of the week. Because we are trying to being the most medically advanced products to market I am always travelling to introduce the product to new clients and to explain and inform my current clients. I try and meet with at least three new practices in my region a week. Although it can be tiring I find the travel exciting. It lets me see new places and grow my personal network across the UK.”

Do you normally work with generic practices, or do you sell directly to hospitals?

“This can vary from representative to representative. The way my company works, I sell to local practices, private practices, NHS and big hospitals all within my region. Some businesses may separate their representative by type of practice. I find it easy to sell by region because then I get to know all levels of medical professionals in the region and if people move from working in a hospital to a private practice or in a NHS clinic I still have that relationship and can manage their account”

What advice would you give someone looking to move into pharmaceutical sales?

“Technical knowledge is so important in this field, if you are interviewing for a position make sure you already know the products you’ll be selling as well as you can. Do research on the company's website and online forums to see what people are saying about the product. If you can show that you already understand the company and products you will impress the hiring managers and stand out against competition.

"Along with research, make sure to really sell yourself. As I mentioned before, many companies dont want to train you on sales techniques because they offer intensive product-training. Your interview is a chance to show your sales skills and convince them that you'll fit in their team. 

"Finally, if you know anyone in pharmaceutical sales ask if you can shadow them for a day. The work can be very fast-paced and you will need to work long hours – make sure its the right fit for you before you just jump in.”

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