Excerpt from PharmRepSelect® – Your Complete Guide to getting a Job in Pharmaceutical Sales by Lisa Alexander
The optimal job experience to secure a pharmaceutical sales job is at least two years prior “outside sales” experience. The definition of outside sales means not retail sales. This means selling to a customer base outside the office. Selling products to customers that you initiate yourself is called “cold calling” Jobs such as office equipment, healthcare related products, uniforms, bandages and telephone sales are good examples of jobs where you cold call for customers. Generally, your employer will give you a listing of established customers and a list of potential customers. You may have to find your own leads. Your job is to increase sales.
Often these jobs pay you a commission on your sales, or a draw versus commission. If you don’t sell, you won’t make money. This type of experience is optimal because it proves you have been able to find a customer, present a proposal and close the sale. If your job involves repeat business, you will be demonstrating rapport building. These are the same ingredients that make up pharmaceutical sales. Keep records of your sales with commission receipts, sales quotas and achievement letters, etc.
Don’t worry if your only sales experience is in retail sales. You are not automatically eliminated from the candidate pool.
Ordinarily, as a recruiter, you provide the customer with what they want. A few years ago, I was in a position to supply candidates for a direct job with Abbott Laboratories. I was not the hiring Manager this time, but the recruiter supplying qualified candidates. Abbott wanted candidates with outside selling experience.
I made the decision to forward Sue, a candidate with no outside sales experience, for the job. Why did I recommend her and why did she win the job? Sue had a degree in Sports Medicine, which was a plus, and the conviction energy and motivation for this position. But, her professional experience was all retail. At least that was what her resume told me. She sold clinique makeup at Macy’s department store.
As it turned out her job was not merely standing behind a counter taking orders, but also involved actual selling, some even outside the store. As I questioned Sue about the responsibilities of her job, she described her activities. Sue developed sales outside the store. On her own time she gave makeup classes at health spas to meet customers. Sales increased by her initiative. She did have experience in selling to customers! She had experience cold calling. She arranged for the sales clinics, secured the appointments and sold products. She retained these customers for repeat business. This experience is analogous to pharmaceutical sales and outside sales.
If Sue had not been a friend of a friend, I would not have met with her for an initial interview. Her resume indicated no outside sales. After our meeting, we reworded her resume, emphasized her sales experience and accomplishments. Sue got the job!
The moral of the story is that your retail experience can be as valuable as outside experience. But outside sales experience is more similar to pharmaceutical selling. Just use examples of your selling experience (retail or outside) that are as similar to pharmaceutical sales as possible.
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