If You Think You Have to be a Cheerleader to Get a Pharmaceutical Sales Job, You Don’t Stand a Chance
I’ve had enough.
I’m tired of hearing everyone talk about how all drug companies do is hire beautiful women implying that their “powers of seduction” will result in a few more prescriptions. I’m not tired of the claims because they’re completely false, I’m tired of hearing about them because of the hyperbole that accompanies every-single-story. “Why now” you ask? I’m not really sure. All I know is that there was one post that put me over the edge. It wasn’t particularly demeaning or harmful to the industry (the industry tends to do that to itself), but the two posts it referred to were certainly filled with the afformentioned exaggeration that stories like these are overflowing with.
The article that sent me over the edge was titled and it starts like this…
The eDrugSearch blog has that Mia Heaston, the current Miss Illinois and one of the 2007 Miss USA hopefuls, is also a pharmaceutical industry representative.
If this link seems a bit too tenuous to be newsworthy, the blog also identifies two of last year’s Miss USA contestants who were drug reps and no less than 16 professional cheerleaders who also work as reps for the pharmaceutical industry.
Sixteen. Seriously. Sixteen. Okay, before I make this point, I’ll concede to the fact that they did say…
One caveat to our list: the All-Pharma Cheerleading Squad likely includes only a minority of those pro cheerleaders who also cheer for pharma, as many team Web sites do not include occupational info on their cheerleaders.
Let’s say that half of the 32 teams in the NFL posted the occupations of their cheerleaders. This simple doubling would also result in an additional 16 NFL cheerleaders who are also pharmaceutical sales reps. Thirty-two. Seriously. Thirty-two.
There are about 100,000 pharmaceutical sales representatives in the U.S. Stop the presses! Thirty-two of 100,000 pharma reps are also NFL cheerleaders (0.032%). Big freaking deal. From a different angle, each NFL team has a cheerleading squad of around 40 women (32 x 40 = 1,280).
Is it not reasonable to assume that some of what it takes to be a successful cheerleader is congruent with what it takes to be a successful salesperson? Things like self-confidence, hard work, energy, persistence, and the ability to get someone excited come to mind off hand.
It also annoys me to no end that the articles do nothing to combat the stereotypes that stick to cheerleaders by default. Maybe Allison was hired because the territory needed someone with a strong technical background. After all, she did graduate from N.C. State with degrees in Chemistry and Biology. And guess what else, Tara has two degrees (not just two majors) – one in Biology and another in Nursing. Is she qualified to be a drug rep. You bet. More qualified than you? Probably.
Want another example of exaggeration from the articles cited above? Natalie isn’t even a pharma rep. She just wants to be.
What’s my point? Everyone in the pharma industry is not a supermodel or a cheerleader. I would even go so far as to say that most are normal looking folks who do a damn good job of taking care of themselves and pay close attention to their image – because they understand that image plays a role in sales. It’s my opinion that 99.9% of sales managers don’t make hiring decisions based on beauty and even fewer encourage reps to use their attractiveness to increase sales.
The bottom line is, if you’re using the “I’m not good looking enough” excuse as a reason that you can’t get into pharma sales, you should either…
- Look for a position that requires lower self esteem because if you ever get hired as a pharmaceutical representative with that mindset (unlikely), your fragile ego will not be able to take the beating that will ensue in your first 12 months in the field.
- OR, change your thoughts. If you meet the minimum requirements and you want to be a drug rep, don’t let your poor self-esteem get in the way. Fix it. Even if you decide you don’t want to be a pharma rep in the process, you’ll move into whatever role you choose a better person.
If you want to read a bit more on the subject, take a look at these two articles – and feel free to post related links in the comments.
Gimme an Rx! Cheerleaders Pep Up Drug Sales from the New York Times
The secret life of salesgirls by Penelope Trunk
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