The next time you go to the drugstore, know that the products you see on
the shelf have a lot to do with someone called a pharmaceutical sales representative.
These sales reps sell drugs and other pharmaceutical products to physicians,
dentists, veterinarians, hospitals and drugstores.
They introduce new products to medical professionals. They acquaint these
professionals with the characteristics of a product, related clinical studies
and recommendations on the dosage and usage.
At the center of a pharmaceutical sales representative's job is the sales
call. That's when the sales representative meets with prospective or established
First, the sales rep must understand the needs of the client. Then they
introduce a product, emphasize the unique characteristics of that product,
and explain how that product will meet the needs of the client.
To be successful, the sales rep must possess enough background knowledge
to communicate with medical professionals about specific pharmacological issues.
They must be able to understand the problems facing the client and how their
product will solve those problems.
An important part of the job is informing the pharmaceutical companies
of any problems. By law, any adverse reactions, side effects, comments, or
concerns must be relayed back to the manufacturer.
Sales representatives can specialize in many areas. They may sell medical
equipment such as blood glucose monitors and blood pressure monitors. Or they
may sell different types of medication.
A veterinarian, an orthopedic surgeon, a radiologist, a hospital administrator
and a psychiatrist all require varied approaches and knowledge from the sales
Insiders say that the job is changing rapidly.
"It will probably change from being in direct sales to being more of a
consultant," says Scott Berghoff. He is president of the Alaska branch of
the Pharmaceutical Service Representative Association.
"We'll probably be working as a team with HMOs [health maintenance organizations],
doctors and other large groups in health care. We'll be in more of a partnership."
Sales reps are already acting more as go-betweens than as salespeople.
Although they may still work on commission, with sales goals and incentives,
they are involved far beyond the initial sale.
For the client, the sales rep is their contact in the pharmaceutical company.
The rep is the person the client will call when they have questions or concerns.
"A desire to help others is important," says Vivian Mario Gunter, a pharmaceutical
"I think if anyone wanted to sell something, they should consider medicines
of value that save lives and improve the living quality of some people. This
gives you the opportunity to directly or indirectly help people other than
Pharmaceutical sales representatives are employed by pharmaceutical manufacturing
and wholesale companies. The companies are usually large, with their base
of operations in major urban centers.
Travel is a requirement for anyone starting out in the business. The sales
rep often travels for extended periods of time, visiting clients within a
As a result, long and irregular hours are the norm. Workweeks often extend
way beyond 40 hours. One perk to this is that sales reps are usually allowed
to pick and choose their vacation time and days off.
Mike Klaric is a pharmaceutical sales representative in northwestern Pennsylvania.
He logs at least 50 hours each week.
"Some days start early. Some days start later and go late, so I don't have
any average day or week. Besides the selling and contact with doctors, I have
new materials to read and information to gather."
This job can be high stress. Organizational and time management skills
are high priorities.
Any physical requirements for this job are tied to travel. Today, the travel
industry has found ways around almost every physical barrier. If a sales rep
can get to the client, then they can do the job.