How to Become
a Pharmaceutical Rep?
First Consider This...
A Day in the Life.
Pharmaceutical Rep training, routing schedules, territory management, selling and detailing to physicians - learn all details and essential duties of pharmaceutical sales rep jobs!
Determine if pharma sales is a good fit for you by reading our "day in the life of a pharmaceutical sales rep", before you worry about how to become a pharma rep!
Our detailed explanation of the training, goals, expectations, and duties of a pharmaceutical rep will give you a "real world" view of pharm sales jobs.
In addition, these pages prepare you to answer numerous pharmaceutical sales interview questions that traditionally stump many candidates.
One of the biggest challenges you face as a career seeker is getting the interviewer to understand you know what pharmaceutical sales is all about. Managers realize that many want "in" just because of the money and status associated with pharmaceutical sales jobs… without really having a clue of what the job entails.
By learning the intricate details of pharmaceutical sales jobs, as well as learning the
skills required to become a pharmaceutical rep,
you'll be able to convince the hiring manager that you are knowledgeable about what a pharmaceutical rep does on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis! Utilize this information to your benefit in your pharmaceutical sales rep interviews!
Pharmaceutical Rep Training
Within about 2 weeks of your offer, you should receive your home-study materials. Every new pharmaceutical rep feels overwhelmed just by looking at the massive pile of materials. However, take an hour or so to look through the materials…and then you’ll feel much better. You'll discover that this is actually attainable! Home-study with most pharmaceutical sales companies lasts about a month.
This is a literal 8-10 hrs/day of studying and test-taking online.It's not easy, but it is very interesting and rewarding to master.
If you need help understanding the information, feel free to contact others reps in your district for assistance and/or advice. Why reinvent the wheel?
For most pharmaceutical sales jobs, on-site training typically lasts a month, maybe longer depending upon the specific pharmaceutical sales company. You may be allowed to go home for the weekend at least once during this time period. This is a pretty stressful time, as you will taking many product-knowledge and disease-state tests. It is true that if a pharmaceutical rep does not pass with a high score, the company can send him/her without a pharmaceutical sales job! YIKES! (Note to self: this happens very infrequently)
Also, your “detail” skills will be practiced and evaluated many times over until you are sent home as a lean, mean, pharmaceutical selling machine!
Pharmaceutical Sales Rep!
After Training, but Before You’re On Your Own:
Remember: A good pharmaceutical rep is a prepared pharmaceutical sales rep!
Once home, you will begin to set up your home office and routing schedule, based upon the target physician lists you will obtain from your company. Next,you will need to work with your partner to set up the routing schedule.
The routing schedule is usually a 2-3 week cycle that details what days you will call on each targeted prescriber. The idea behind the routing schedule is to insure that you are maximizing your team’s time with the prescriber. For example…without a routing schedule, every pharmaceutical rep within a team could call on Dr. Smith on Tuesday. In larger pharmaceutical sales companies that could mean as many as 6 team members calling on Dr. Smith - all in the same day! Not only would this be an annoyance to Dr. Smith and his staff, but it’s not a good use of a pharmaceutical sales company's time or resources.
Within the routing schedule, you will note that each doctor is assigned a call frequency number. High targeted physicians might be assigned a 6 – which means a pharmaceutical rep should call on the prescriber 6 times within that quarter. Conversely, low targeted physicians may be assigned a number as low as a 1 or 2.
Next, you will need to meet with your partner to discuss the nuances of each of your high prescribers and the specific requirements for a pharmaceutical rep at each medical office (such as physician schedules, how/where to set up lunch and learn programs, etc.)
Finally, you will ride with each pharmaceutical rep on your team, so that you may be personally introduced to the Prescribers and office staff (including the "gatekeeper" at each office.
Of course, every pharmaceutical rep will have several days of ride-alongs with the manager during those first 2 weeks of work in the field. The ride-alongs will include role-playing, feedback, and insuring correct sampling procedures. Your pharmaceutical sales manager will also make sure that you are properly communicating with your teammates through your post-call notes.
Typical Day for a Pharma Rep
Finally, YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN!
You're Officially a Pharmaceutical Rep!
The night before usually involves quite a bit of preparation.
- First, you will look at your routing schedule to determine which offices and physicians you will be calling on. Based on what you know about each physician’s schedule, you will then geographically plan out the order in which you will be calling on those physicians.
- Next, you will look at the post-call notes (from either your last visit or one of your teammate’s last visits) and each physician’s prescribing data (crucial for monitoring any changes in prescribing habits) and utilize this information to plan your next call objective for each physician.
- Finally, nearly every pharmaceutical rep prepares his/her vehicle the night before by loading necessary samples for the next day, as well as leave-behinds(pens, notepads, and company approved marketing materials such as reprints).
Your day should begin at a time that will allow you to be at your first physician's office between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m. When you reach the parking lot of your first office, review your next call objective. This will help you feel confident about what you want to say to your prescribers. You will also want to make sure you have all “visual-aid” marketing pieces and reprints that you will need in order to detail your products.
It is now time to enter the office. Usually you will present your business card (your products should be written on the back of your card) to the front desk person responsible for sampling. Typically a nurse checks the sample closet to see if they need any of your samples. Occasionally, they may allow a pharmaceutical rep to walk to the back and check the sample closet without supervision. If they need samples, you will enter the product code and lot numbers into your signature pad.
GAME TIME! Now you are ready to meet with the physician.
Most offices will allow a pharmaceutical rep to conduct a short detail while the prescriber is signing the pad...but don’t let that stop you.
If you can open your dialog with a great question or comment that grabs the prescriber’s attention, keep talking as long as they will let you. The more you get to know your doctors, the better questions you will be able to ask; therefore, the longer your detail sessions will become.
Once a pharmaceutical rep finishes detailing the product, asking the prescriber to take some action is essential. This is called "asking for the business" or closing.
Please Note: The number one hot button of the managers interviewing you is “asking for the business”. A great point to emphasize during your interview is that you will always close the physician for a specific action or business. For example, a pharmaceutical rep may ask for something as little as a commitment for a 5-minute conversation the next time you see him/her, or a big commitment such as asking the physician to write your product for the next 5 patients that walk through the door! (Whoa, now you're getting bold!)
The rest of the day you will continue to do whatever it takes to get in front of prescribers. We always recommend trying to see at least 6 prescribers in the morning. Most companies will expect you to make an average of 8-10 calls per day. The fact is...many prescribers leave early in the day, so getting 6 calls completed in the morning will take the pressure off in the afternoon. Make sure you inform the hiring manager that you plan to work the whole day, no matter how many calls you've completed.
Documentation – Entering Call Notes:
Depending on the pharmaceutical sales company you work for, you will probably be asked to enter your post-call notes right after each call. The reasoning behind this is to ensure you remember as much detail as possible for the next team member to utilize in the planning of his/her next call. Post call documentation is entered into your company-provided computer (yes, another bonus!) via the company's proprietary software. Even a rep with modest computer skills has little difficulties with this part of the job!
Important...In your pharmaceutical sales interview, it would impress the hiring manager to demonstrate your understanding of pre-call planning/objectives and post-call notes.
The more you can show the interviewer your understanding of what is involved in this pharmaceutical sales position, the more comfortable they will feel in hiring you. As stated earlier...one of the biggest concerns a manager has is that you don’t know exactly what you are getting yourself into and what will be asked of you on a daily basis. Communicating to the manager that you know, in detail, what this pharmaceutical sales job entails will take away a reason not to hire you (if it comes down to you and one other good candidate). It’s all about separating yourself from the pack.
Lunch and Learn Programs:
At least once a week, you will schedule a lunch for a specific office. The industry refers to this as a “lunch and learn”. This is probably the best opportunity to get quality face to face time with the physicians. Most feel somewhat obligated to give you quality time in exchange for feeding the office staff. This is a great time to really dive into what makes your physicians tick.
Again, ask for them to take action at the end of your detail presentation.
Pharmaceutical Rep Lunch and Learns are also a great opportunity to build relationships with the office staff – they are usually more then happy to answer your questions about the doctors. In addition, they may provide information/reasoning about their physicians’ prescribing habits that you may not have had the opportunity to ask the doctor yourself. Pick the office staff’s brains every time you get the chance; it will help build those relationships…and we all know that selling is primarily about relationships!
Demonstrate in your pharmaceutical sales interview your understanding of the great opportunity to detail and influence prescribers during office lunches.
Take the opportunity within the interview setting to show what you know! Boldly state the importance of working with your teammates to make the best use of the company’s lunch and learn budget. Also, you will want to note in your interview that you are aware of co-promotion products with other companies, if that applies to your situation. This shows the interviewer your knowledge of working with other companies to promote a shared drug, and how sharing lunches and resources will maximize your efforts to gain more business from physicians. REMEMBER: SHOW WHAT YOU KNOW!
Now you have completed a busy morning of calling on 4-6 docs, and you've just finished a productive lunch where you might have successfully delivered 2-4 details. For most every pharmaceutical rep, this scenario may happen several times a week (especially if you are in a territory that has a lot of rep-friendly offices). It is realistic for a pharmaceutical rep to schedule a lunch each quarter with a given office. In high-volume offices, you many only get 1-2 lunches per year.
However, lunch and learns are not the only method utilized by pharma reps. Dinner programs play an integral part in establishing relationships with the physicians, as well.
Another opportunity that pharmaceutical sales reps utilize to meet with physicians is through “dinner” or “speaker” programs. Pharmaceutical sales companies allocate specific dollars to bring in trained speakers. This physician has actually been trained by your pharmaceutical company. The speaker program usually occurs at a restaurant, while the trained speaker delivers a presentation about your specific drug.
The speaker programs are not only a great opportunity for your physicians to get important clinical data on your drug, but it sets up a great opportunity for dialogue between you and your physicians.
Several weeks before the dinner program, you will begin inviting your “key” prescribers to this informational dinner program. In the pre-pharma code days, a pharmaceutical sales company may offer the prescribers you invited an “honorarium”. This just means pharmaceutical sales companies could pay your physicians a few hundred dollars to attend your program. Today, most companies are complying by the pharma code standard of ethics and are not offering this type of payment to attend your program.
With this “no pay to attend" situation, it is crucial that you build close relationships with your doctors as soon as possible. The more they like and trust you, the better chance you have of them actually walking through the door of your speaker programs.
SUMMARY of YOUR DAY: Let’s re-cap your busy day.
You actually started the night before by planning out your day and setting your call objectives for each prescriber you planned to detail.
You tried to call on 4-6 prescribers in the morning to help ensure you completed your 8-10 calls by the end of the day. You also entered post-call notes after each visit. (You're so good!)
Next, you attended a lunch and learn program with one of the offices on your target list.
In the afternoon, you competed seeing your scheduled offices based on the routing schedule developed by your team.
Finally, you ended your busy day by attending a dinner program that you or your team planned several months in advance. The information the attending prescribers were presented by the speaker is information you will be able to get feedback on the next time you call on them.
Whew, what a great day, Pharmaceutical Rep! Although pharmaceutical sales jobs aren't action-packed like this every single day, you will experience days like this several times per month. In the following paragraphs, you will learn about other local and national meetings that pharmaceutical sales companies plan each year in order to further educate their pharmaceutical sales reps.
Mr./Ms. Pharmaceutical Rep:
Your Attendance is Required....
On a local basis, your pharmaceutical sales manager will probably schedule at least 1 meeting per month with your entire team or district. These meetings will include the latest corporate news such as product messaging or upcoming launches. Your manager will also ask each pharmaceutical rep to update the group on lunches or speaker programs that have been scheduled. Additionally, you may be asked to discuss sales numbers for your pod (team) and what recent trends you have noticed. There are also usually many opportunities for you and your teammates to discuss the specific strategies you wish to implement for targeted or key doctors (doctors that have the propensity to grow large market share).
The other meetings or events a pharmaceutical rep attends are on a national basis. Typically, ever six months there is a national meeting. The purpose of these national meetings is simply to motivate and educate. You will find out about new products being launched, as well as new sales contests. In most companies, the top 2-5% pharmaceutical reps can win an all expenses paid trip, usually out of the country. Companies will, in most cases, pay an additional bonus if you are an elite pharmaceutical rep (top 1-5%).
All in all, these are great meetings and most always in a luxurious location. For nearly every pharmaceutical rep, this is a time to have fun; however, there will also be much expected of you in terms of time, training and energy.
AHHH, and then there is the money.
Pharmaceutical Sales Rep Jobs are the most highly compensated sales jobs out there. And, at any given moment a pharmaceutical rep is striving to earn or win more money.
Want to know more about pharmaceutical rep salaries and compensation? Click here!
There is always an incentive bonus on the table for the pharmaceutical rep that goes above and beyond in terms of sales performance. You will have the opportunity to earn great money just by having a pharmaceutical sales job, but you can earn excellent money by doing a lot more then is expected.
Hey Future Pharmaceutical Rep...Check Out More Information About This Fantastic Career...
If you wish to know the essential skills and abilities (including degrees) required by pharmaceutical sales managers, get all the insightful details right here!
Want to Know How To Create a Compelling Resume? Learn how to craft a pharma sales resume, complete with a powerful objective and generous supply of pharmaceutical sales keywords. Go, Now!
Ok, maybe you simply don't have time to compose a resume, and you're smart enough to know that a professional resume is important. In that case, contact our team of Professional Pharmaceutical Sales Resume Writers.
Have YOU been asked to send a resume to a pharmaceutical sales recruiter, rep, or manager? Don't even think about leaving out the cover letter! Learn why and how to create an enticing Cover Letter, here!
Fretting that you have pharmaceutical sales interviews coming up and you have NO IDEA what will be asked...or how to answer? Relax...we provide you with a "plan of attack" in our Interview Coaching Blog and Pharmaceutical Sales Interview Questions page.
Wondering how a pharmaceutical rep can "move up" the ladder and obtain career advancement? Great opportunities exist for those who work hard and work smart! Visit our Careers Page for all the glorious details.