So, you want to work in pharmaceutical sales but you don’t have any sales experience. This might seem a daunting task – after all, pharmaceutical sales is a highly competitive job sector and each year there are thousands of more applicants than there are available positions. That alone is enough to take the wind out of any prospective applicant’s sails!
But don’t despair. There’s more to getting a pharmaceutical sales position than just having a previous record of success in sales (although we won’t lie – previous experience doesn’t hurt!). However, pharmaceutical companies look for more than just sales skills when they review resumes and interview applicants – there are plenty of people who get these coveted positions without ever working a day of sales in their lives! The trick is to have the other skills and qualities companies are looking for, and emphasize them in such a way that you attract attention.
Here are some tips that hopefully will help you reach your goal:
Have the right degree. Almost all pharmaceutical sales positions require a Bachelor’s degree. The preferences are something in the Life Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Anatomy, Biochemistry, etc.) or Business (Sales, Marketing, Business Administration, etc.). But other educational backgrounds can also be attractive: Psychology is a good example. It is a discipline that trains people to understand how the human mind works, and this is the basis for all sales strategies. Nursing is another subject area that provides the type of background companies appreciate.
Showcase transferable skills. Sales in general – and pharmaceutical sales in particular – is a professional where a wide variety of skill sets are constantly used in order to achieve success. Customer service, meeting planning, event management, campaign management (political and business), and marketing and promotions are some examples of important skills. So positions in one or more of these areas in your background can go a long way towards helping you get an interview for a pharmaceutical sales position. After all, this is an industry where you will be dealing with prospective customers on a daily basis, arranging meetings and educational seminars, delivering presentations, and promoting products. So always take a good look at your own employment history to find those transferable skills.
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Professional training. It’s no secret that pharmaceutical companies are always interested in prospects that have sales or life sciences experience. But if you don’t have that experience, there is still a way to gain a competitive advantage over other applicants: take training classes. Sales, marketing, pharmaceutical sales, medical terminology, general biology – these are all excellent places to start, whether you take classes from an educational company or from a college or university. All that matters is getting some training under your belt so that companies realize you have a good knowledge base from which to start if they decide to hire you and train you.
Networking groups. Alright, maybe you don’t have the professional background a company is looking for. But perhaps you have something else to offer. Do you belong to a community networking organization, such as a Rotary Club, or County Business Association, or Chamber of Commerce? These organizations frequently have physicians or other healthcare professionals as members, and those might very well be the customers a pharmaceutical company wants to target in your area. If you have a strong base of contacts in the healthcare sector, don’t hesitate to mention that in your resume and cover letter when applying for pharmaceutical sales rep jobs. It could make a difference.
Do your homework. Before sending out a resume, do some research on the company you’re applying to and be able to discuss some of their products in your cover letter, and in an interview, if you receive one. This not only shows self-motivation, something that’s critical for any sales position, but also that you’re capable of understanding the scientific aspects of the products, which you’ll need to do when you discuss them with clients if you get the job.
Brand yourself effectively. Before you ever send out a resume or cover letter, you should prepare a personal branding statement that in one or two sentences gives a succinct description of you and what you have to offer to a company. It should highlight your skills and also give an impression of you. Are you an assertive, hard-hitting business person? Then use action-packed adjectives. Are you more of a genial, humorous person? Don’t be afraid to adjust the tone of your statement to reflect this.
Know what you’re getting in to. Pharmaceutical sales frequently requires a lot of travel. If this is something you’re comfortable with, mention that in your resume or cover letter. The same goes for relocation, working long or odd hours, and being able to handle long sales cycles. Pharmaceutical sales frequently entails long, protracted negotiations because physicians are not always open to trying new products. It will be your job to gradually bring them around to breaking their long-held opinions and habits.
Recommendations. Even if you aren’t in the life sciences or sales professions right now, if you can find people in those industries to give you strong recommendations that could help your cause.
Dress for success. It shouldn’t have to be said, but if you do get an interview, dress appropriately. Pharmaceutical sales is an industry where in most cases a nice suit and excellent grooming is an essential part of the job. You will want to make a superior first impression when you go for your interview.
The most important thing to remember is that everyone has skills they can leverage; it’s just a matter of determining which ones are the most applicable and then effectively showcasing them on your resume.