Working as a pharmaceutical sales representative is a great career but is not for everyone. I've seen individuals succeed and I've seen others fail in this environment. Having been a pharma sales representative for many years myself and also having been in the capacity to hire, train as well as managing reps, I know for sure what personal attributes are required to do well in this field. A certain aptitude is necessary for this line of work.
First of all, for the vast majority of pharmaceutical companies, a four year university or college degree will be required for candidates hiring to become sales reps. Having said this, academic requirements are not limited to science degrees only. Many pharmaceutical representatives have degrees in other fields including business and general arts. A background in science will be nice but candidates with other backgrounds can still be pharmaceutical sales reps if other personal qualities right for the job are there.
Pharmaceutical sales representatives must be highly organized individuals in planning their work days since booking appointments, visiting different medical offices, servicing pharmacies, answering enquiries, planning what to do for each sales call, recording results and analyzing sales data are all part of the job. Reps have the freedom to schedule and plan their days but they must do so on their own every single work day. Doing things in an efficient manner to make the most of the available working hours of the day takes good organizational skills.
Personality and Social Skills
A pharmaceutical sales job is not for the inserted since after all, it is sales work. Outgoing individuals with good social skills who are not shy in meeting new people on a continuous basis is among the personality characteristics required in this line of work. The selling process in pharmaceuticals builds business relationships with customers who can sometimes be tough individuals to deal with.
Self Motivated, Independent and a Team Player
Although not having a boss looking over your shoulder most of the time is something many people would want, a pharmaceutical sales person must be an extremely self motivated individual. There is a lot of freedom and independence in this type of job but the pharma rep must be self motivated and independent enough to get up in the morning to get out there to make the required sales calls even in bad weather without all the roads are completely shut down. Representatives must be able to not only work well when alone, but also as a team player when working with others in the company. Those who work well alone and with others will do very well.
Aptitude for Selling
One false impression that many people have is that all pharmaceutical reps do is drive around in nice cars and drop off drug samples to clinics. This is so far from the truth. Yes, reps drive nice cars and do distribute samples but the position is still a sales job. Pharmaceutical representatives still have to sell. For most therapeutic areas, there will be a number of different product options or treatments that doctors can choose from for their patients. It is up to the pharma rep to convince the doctor to prescribe the company's product whenever an appropriate patient shows up.
Able to Handle Rejection
Although most people that representates meet in the field are quite friendly, there will be some customers, even important top doctors, who will appear to be quite rude and antisocial. There will be some customers who will be completely indignant and even refuse to use your product. A sales rep must be able to take rejection from customers on a daily basis without being negatively or personally affected. It's all part of the job.
Good Driving Record
Since driving is required in this job, a good driving record and maintained decent driving habits will be necessary. A loss of a driving license will also mean a loss of a pharma sales job. On top of that, there must be the willingness on your part that you will have to get in and out of your car all day as well as deal with whatever weather patterns that exist in your local region.
Willingness to Travel
Depending on the sales territory, some reps have to travel overnight as part of their work. Reps working in very large urban centers probably will not have to travel much as their territories are usually dense and compact enough. But for many territories that include rural areas, many representatives will have to do some traveling either by driving or flying.
If you feel that you have what it takes to be a pharmaceutical sales rep, then that's great because it is one of the best careers out there. The big problem is that there are lots of people who want to get into the industry as hundreds of seats are sent in for every posted job opening. My book, "How To Get A Dream Job In Pharmaceutical Sales – Direct Inside Advice and Guidance from a Sales Manager" will give you the knowledge to conduct the most effective job hunting campaign and get an upper edge over your competition even if you have no prior health care or sales experience.