How To Get Into Pharmaceutical Sales Without Experience

I’m a Pharmaceutical Sales Rep for Pfizer. How would you describe what you do? I would describe it as a sales person calling on doctors and my job is to get doctors to use the drugs that I’m selling. And I have four products, so I have to get them to write my four products for the patients. What does your work entail? You see anywhere between 10 and 15 doctors a day for 5 days in a week. You call on those doctors who are the biggest prescribers, so I would look at a computer You’re offering a product that a lot of times, people don’t believe in and you have to make them believe in that product because if your product wasn’t superior to most other products, it wouldn’t be out here. and look at a doctor’s profile and if they have a lot of potential to write my products, I target those doctors and try to get those doctors to write my product.  During the work week, you travel a lot. Some territories are bigger than others, but mine’s about two hours long, so some days I’m two hours away from home in a small town calling on a small clinic or there’s other days when I’m in a bigger city and I call on the doctors there. In some work weeks you have speaker programs where you have doctors come in and you take a specialist, a well-known specialist from another state or city. And you take them into offices and let them talk about their experiences with your products and how they had success stories with your products. And what you’re trying to do is try to influence those doctors into writing your product. What do you like about what you do? Personally, I enjoy being out and moving around. I’ve had a desk job and I liked it as well, but I really like being out and being moving around all the time because you’re always running into all different kinds of people. You get to see different kinds of people every day. You have to have something to offer these companies. The pharmaceutical companies are the most applied to companies in the United States right now. More people want to work in pharmaceuticals than any other. My company actually gets more applications per day than Wal-Mart. That’s huge, so it’s very competitive to get into and if you’re going to try to get into it, don’t get discouraged if you get turned down for a while. It took me over a year to get hired. And just meeting all the different people and interacting with those people is probably one of the top things that I like about it, and also, it’s just like your territory is your business. It’s just like having your own business and that’s your territory to work and try to maximize your profits and everything in that territory. What do you dislike? There’s a lot of pressure with this job. The company increases your quotas every year, so you have a lot of pressure to outdo what you’ve already done. So with most drug companies 100 percent isn’t good enough. 100 percent is the bare minimum, so you’re trying to outdo 100 percent. You want to have a 160 percent quota and there’s a lot of pressure. And with this job as well, there is a lag time as far as getting your reports. So, if I go into an office and make a sale, I don’t hand over a prescription for You have to be like a chameleon. You have to blend in to every situation. You have doctors who are big sports fans; you have doctors who could care less about any sport…You have to blend yourself to be able to have conversations and communicate with all kinds of different people. the doctor to give to a patient. I have to count on them to write it after I’m gone. So you don’t get the satisfaction of making that sale every day like you would if you was a regular salesperson, if you were selling a product that you carried with you. You have to monitor that data later on. You don’t reap your crop right there, you have to wait until later to see how it turned out. How do you make money/or how are you compensated? With most pharmaceutical companies you get a salary and you also get paid commission on your drugs that you sell. So, if you sell 160 percent of one product, you get paid on 60 percent over that quota. The more you sell the more you make, so the harder you work, the more money you make. You also get a company car, you get free gas, you get to provide a lot of meals for offices and doctors and you also get to eat with them for free. You get free car insurance, great benefits, stock options. I would say there’s $20,000 added onto your salary that you don’t see that you get in just perks, that come with the job. How much money do you make? In a given year, as a pharmaceutical rep, you can’t really say how much you make because you could make anywhere between $70,000 and $100,000 or you could make less. If you don’t make your sales, you don’t make as much. But usually a base salary for a pharmaceutical sales rep with minimal experience, you’ll start out I don’t have a boss walking down a hallway every hour to check on me and make sure I’m doing my work. They trust you with millions of dollars worth of samples. They give you a car. They trust you with a car and they trust you with a company expense account. ‘Freedom’, is probably the one word to say what I like the best about it. about $50,000 a year base salary. If you have a base salary of $50,000, you could make $20,000 in bonuses if you did real well. And that’s not counting the $20,000 worth of stuff that you get as far as your cell phone paid, your car’s paid for, your car insurance is paid for and your gas is paid for. You can count that as about $20,000 more as well a year. [Cannot display search widget: You must configure the search widget from the admin screen before you can add a widget to your page.] What education or skills are needed to do this? You have to have a good personality. You have to be able to deal with all different kinds of people. You have to have a four-year Bachelor’s Degree, so you must go to college. You must get a degree. And most of these companies are looking for people who are leaders and people who are very competitive. So, you have to be able to show that, and you have to be able to…You have to be like a chameleon. You have to blend in to every situation. You have doctors who are big sports fans; you have doctors who could care less about any sport. They’ve never played a sport, they’re more into science and more into research and stuff. You have to blend yourself to be able to have conversations and communicate with all kinds of different kinds of people. What is most challenging about what you do? A lot of times, the most challenging is just getting access to doctors. You’ll go in some clinics where they see 15 or 20 reps a day. You have to stand out. You have to do something different and a lot of times all they want to do is come up and sign your piece of paper to get your samples and then they’re out. They’re very busy. So, getting time with those doctors, I would say, would be one of the hardest things and most challenging. And the other thing is a lot of times your product is very expensive and you have to get them to buy it and show your product is worth it. What is most rewarding? I would say the most rewarding to me is just being able to be out on my own. I don’t have a boss walking down a hallway every hour to check on me and make sure I’m doing my work. They trust you with millions of dollars worth of samples. They give you a car. They trust you with a company expense account. I really like that.  ‘Freedom’, is probably the one word to say what I like the best about it. What advice would you offer someone considering this career? I would say if you’re a college student, you need to be very involved. You need to be involved in every club that you can and hold positions in that club to where you can show that you have improved something or you have accomplished something because that’s what this company’s about. I mean, most pharmaceutical companies, they want you to improve your territory, so if one year you sold 110 percent, the next year, they’re going to expect you to sell more. So you have to be able to prove that you’re competitive and that you want to win and that you want to do better. Any leadership stuff that you’ve been involved with or if you’ve had success in another sales job, you need to be able to prove that, and show it you did it and how you’re going to do it with any other company. What is a common misconception people have about what you do? I think a lot of people, as far as when you walk into an office, whether it’s a patient or it’s a secretary or if it’s a doctor, they just think you’re there to deliver samples. A lot of times pharmaceutical reps are dressed very nice, we drive nice vehicles and they think that you just make a bundle of money and you don’t do any work, when it is really extremely hard. It’s an extremely hard job and a lot of pressure on you and what you do is work. You’re offering a product and a lot of times, people don’t believe in it and you have to make them believe in that product because if your product wasn’t superior to most other products, it wouldn’t be out here. It wouldn’t be being used. I would say just learning the science background and then just the misconception is that you don’t do anything when you really do work very hard. What else would you like people to know about what you do? I think that they should just know that it’s not an easy job. It’s not easy like a lot of people think. It is hard and like I said before, there’s a lot of pressure. And it’s very, very hard to get into. Very seldom does a person come out of college and get a pharmaceutical sales job. You have to have something to offer because these companies, the pharmaceutical companies are the most applied to companies in the United States right now. More people want to work in pharmaceuticals than any other, you know. I mean, my company actually gets more applications per day than Wal-Mart. That’s huge, so it’s very competitive to get into and if you’re going to try to get into it, don’t get discouraged if you get turned down for a while. It took me over a year to get hired. 14

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